“I say, Why Not?”

 

It’s a trope of more than the last half-century that the remark:

You see things; and you say, “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and “I say, Why Not?”

is–with minor variations–a quote from Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

Actually, it comes–as Kennedy himself acknowledged–from George Bernard Shaw.

Shaw himself was thoroughly untoward, utterly unconservative, and not-all-that-much, from a political perspective, worth remembering.

Sure, a couple of his plays made it–in one form or another–into popular culture, but I don’t know how much of that had to do with him, versus how much of it has to do with us.

When it comes to RFK Sr, there is much to argue about, and whether or not this is the place to do so is also up for debate.

What’s not up for challenge though is that June 5, 2024 is the fifty-sixth anniversary of the date that Robert F. Kennedy, Sr. was shot and died.  At the time, he was merely a candidate for president on the Democrat ticket.

It happened.  All those years ago.  RFK was the victim of a bullet from a Palestinian-Jordanian’s gun. As of June 5, 2024, fifty-six years later, his assassin still lives, the original death sentence having been commuted to life imprisonment, and all the perpetrator’s subsequent appeals for parole having been denied.  (Full disclosure, he’s had to rely upon—of all people—Gavin Newsom for this most recent happy verdict, since Soros-friendly LA District Attorney, George Gascón, had, in the past, declined to oppose Sirhan’s parole requests.)

I do remember how shattering the events of June 1968, following so closely upon those of April 1968, were upon the general populace at the time.

And I do remember where I was (the last couple of days of eighth-grade science class) when RFK’s death was announced.

Where were you?

PS: Photo accompanying the post is asserted as “Public Domain” on the basis that it was taken and filed as part of the “Congressional Quarterly”  Report.

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Shaw’s problem was that he was too clever by half and thought he was too clever by whole.

    • #1
  2. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    I do not remember where I was when RFK was killed. I remember it was at an event in Los Angeles. I do remember where I was when JFK was killed. I was in high school, probably a sophomore, in 10th grade, and when it was announced many of the children cheered. I didn’t understand why they were cheering. 

    • #2
  3. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) 🏴 Suspended
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    RFK Jr says that Sirhan Sirhan did not kill his father.  Sirhan was a patsy, according to RFK Jr, and the real killer was Eugene Thane Cesar, a CIA operative who led RFK unexpectedly into the kitchen where Sirhan was waiting.  To be clear, RFK Jr says that Sirhan’s shots did not hit his father, and that the fatal shots were fired by Cesar.

    RFK was killed on the one year anniversary of Israel’s launch of the Six Day War, in which Israel conquered the Palestinian-Jordanian West Bank.  Pure coincidence, doubtless.

    • #3
  4. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    It was the end of my junior year of Catholic high school. IIRC, unlike JFK he didn’t die immediately. By the time I took the city bus to school, he was dead. It was a grim time. 

    RFK was sort-of “our guy” because of religion, but he didn’t get the nearly unanimous support from Catholics that his brother had; for one thing, although RFK is said to have had appeal to blue collar Americans, I didn’t see much of it, because unlike JFK he was felt to be much more liberal. 

    • #4
  5. EODmom Coolidge
    EODmom
    @EODmom

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    It was the end of my junior year of Catholic high school. IIRC, unlike JFK he didn’t die immediately. By the time I took the city bus to school, he was dead. It was a grim time.

    RFK was sort-of “our guy” because of religion, but he didn’t get the nearly unanimous support from Catholics that his brother had; for one thing, although RFK is said to have had appeal to blue collar Americans, I didn’t see much of it, because unlike JFK he was felt to be much more liberal.

    4 days from graduating from high school. Yes – very grim. Not my guy, but my date for the graduation party at Nan’s house was devastated. 

    • #5
  6. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    I was driving my summer job, delivering baked goods to suburban homes, working to save up for my wedding later that summer. Heard the news the next morning on the truck’s radio. 

    • #6
  7. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Shaw’s problem was that he was too clever by half and thought he was too clever by whole.

    An exemplar of what Thomas Sowell calls the “unconstrained vision”. In fact, Sowell cites George Bernard Shaw many times in that book.

    • #7
  8. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    She: You see things; and you say, “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and “I say, Why Not?”

    Those words are spoken to Eve by the Serpent in Shaw’s Back to Methuselah, which I have never read. Should we take those words as conveying a message that Shaw approves or disapproves of? Given Shaw’s political views, I would assume “approves” but assumptions can be dangerous.

    • #8
  9. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    I don’t remember where I was.  I remember where I was when I heard that JFK was killed, but I don’t remember the others.  If it happened Monday-Saturday, I was probably at work at a construction site (most likely a lake residence).    

    • #9
  10. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member
    9thDistrictNeighbor
    @9thDistrictNeighbor

    She: I do remember how shattering  the events of June 1968, following so closely upon those of April, 1968, were upon the general populace at the time.

    I was a little girl, just in first grade.  I do remember, we were home and something came on the black and white TV and I was terrified, after everything that happened earlier that year.  I ran to my bedroom where there was a cross on the wall behind my door.  I knelt down and asked “why are they killing everyone?”

    Nineteen sixty-eight was a bad year.  There are still blocks in Toledo that were burnt down and never rebuilt.  I remember riding in the car with my dad and asking him if all the people who were mad were mad at us as well.

    As for Shaw, my father-in-law liked to pretend to be sophisticated and call everyone with that name “Ber-nerd.”  Truth is, his own father had the same name and I’m sure pronounced it Bernie. 

     

    • #10
  11. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    RFK Jr says that Sirhan Sirhan did not kill his father.  Sirhan was a patsy,

    I recall that the physical evidence supports that.  

    • #11
  12. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    She: Where were you?

    Right here. Same house. Probably the same room.

    New TV set, though.

    • #12
  13. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    • #13
  14. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    It’s funny. Like a number of you, I remember where I was when I heard about the JFK assassination (in 4th grade I think – our class was assembled outside and our teacher told us the news), but I have no idea of when or how I heard of the MLK & RFK assassinations in the Spring of 1968 when I was in 9th grade.

    • #14
  15. She Member
    She
    @She

    Paul Stinchfield (View Comment):

    She: You see things; and you say, “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and “I say, Why Not?”

    Those words are spoken to Eve by the Serpent in Shaw’s Back to Methuselah, which I have never read. Should we take those words as conveying a message that Shaw approves or disapproves of? Given Shaw’s political views, I would assume “approves” but assumptions can be dangerous.

    Agree.  It’s never a good idea to pull a phrase out of an author’s narrative or dialog and wave it around as evidence that he must believe this or that, or suffer from one or another “ism.”  If he’s any good at his job, he’ll present many different perspectives and points of view through his characters and his story.

    That being said, I wouldn’t recommend GBS as a role model for anyone.  He was an ideologue, and–like most of them–in real life probably a crashing bore.  But he could write.  And he wasn’t always wrong.

    I do think there’s something of value in looking at the negative image of whatever is in front of one, and occasionally wondering, “Hang on: There’s something missing, and there’s more to this picture.  Why are we not talking about that?”

    • #15
  16. Old Bathos Member
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    I was in an airport.  There weren’t cable TV screens every 50 feet like there are now.  I stood with a bunch of people looking up at a single black-and-white TV.  Everybody stunned.  The murder of MLK and the riots just a couple of months earlier. The JFK assassination still in memory. Felt like it was all going nuts.

    • #16
  17. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    Felt like it was all going nuts

    That much I remember. 

    • #17
  18. Mountie Coolidge
    Mountie
    @Mountie

    I did this one as a quote of the day a few years ago. More to this than meets the eye, from my post:

    It would seem that Robert Kennedy may have never said the “Some see…. why not” quote. The best I could do was find it alluded to in a book of his unpublished work. Not a strong reference.

    Then I remembered, wasn’t it Ted Kennedy that said this of his brother Robert as he was eulogizing him.

    I feel for Ted Kennedy here. I’ve been in a place similar to him. Someone I loved had passed away, I’m at the funeral. All I really want to do is sit quietly and let my loved one pass on into the eternal. But I’ve been asked to do a eulogy. So, I have to be up in front of everyone trying to keep my control, hold my grief in check, pay homage to my loved one, and get to the end of it all.

    But it would seem that even Ted wasn’t the original author of the “Some see…. why not” quote. It seems that his brother John said this in a speech to the Irish Parliament. We know that JFK was supported by a speech writer par excellent: Ted Sorenson (second only to our Peter Robinson). It would seem, however, that Sorenson wasn’t the originator of the quote. A bit more digging led me to the original author: George Bernard Shaw.

    Shaw used the line in his first act of Back to Methuselah. In Act One we are in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve are untainted, and don’t know sin.

    The Serpent has been shadowing them, learning their language.

    Finally, the Serpent introduces himself to Eve. The Serpent immediately goes to work on her:

    THE SERPENT. Death is not an unhappy thing when you have learnt how to conquer it.

    EVE. How can I conquer it?

    THE SERPENT. By another thing, called birth.

    EVE. What? [_Trying to pronounce it_] B-birth?

    THE SERPENT. Yes, birth.

    EVE. What is birth?

    THE SERPENT. The serpent never dies. Some day you shall see me come out of this beautiful skin, a new snake with a new and lovelier skin. That is birth.

    EVE. I have seen that. It is wonderful.

    THE SERPENT. If I can do that, what can I not do? I tell you I am very subtle. When you and Adam talk, I hear you say ‘Why?’ Always ‘Why?’ You see things; and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?’ I made the word dead to describe my old skin that I cast when I am renewed. I call that renewal being born.

    EVE. Born is a beautiful word.

    THE SERPENT. Why not be born again and again as I am, new and beautiful every time?

    EVE. I! It does not happen: that is why.

    THE SERPENT. That is how; but it is not why. Why not?

    EVE. But I should not like it. It would be nice to be new again; but my old skin would lie on the ground looking just like me; and Adam would see it shrivel up and–

    THE SERPENT. No. He need not. There is a second birth.

    EVE. A second birth?

    THE SERPENT. Listen. I will tell you a great secret. I am very subtle; and I have thought and thought and thought. And I am very wilful, and must have what I want; and I have willed and willed and willed. And I have eaten strange things: stones and apples that you are afraid to eat.

    EVE. You dared!

    And so now we have it: Ted Kennedy, quoting his brother Jack, who is quoting ……. The Serpent.

    • #18
  19. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Everyone knew that presidents have speechwriters, but for many years it was considered bad form or bad taste to brag that you were the one who crafted the words. This inhibition largely faded in the past half century or so. When Ted Sorensen’s students asked him if he wrote the JFK inaugural, he’d wink and say, “Ask not”. 

    • #19
  20. Jim Kearney Member
    Jim Kearney
    @JimKearney

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    When Ted Sorensen’s students asked him if he wrote the JFK inaugural, he’d wink and say, “Ask not”. 

    The perfect sequel quotation. Must have been one of his staples.

    Staples, as in the Frasier episode “Taking Liberties” (w: Sam Johnson and Chris Marcil), wherein Frasier hires a personal butler, Ferguson:

    Ferguson: Yes, preparing a suitable sleeping environment is one of the 
              first tasks I learned at my father's knee.
     Frasier: Oh, your father also "butled?"
    Ferguson: Oh yes, sir.  Even my father's father was a gentleman's 
              gentleman.
     Frasier: [laughs] Oh, that's a good one, Ferguson.
    Ferguson: Thank you, sir, it's one of my staples.  Will it be breakfast 
              en suite today, sir?

    Re the RFK tragedy I’d slept over at my parents apartment that night for reasons not remembered. 

    Bobby was the hope of the anti-war movement once he joined the race after Gene McCarthy’s early primary showings. It seemed by June that Bobby could beat Hubert Humphrey then Nixon and end the Vietnam War quickly.

    Coming as it did shortly after the MLK murder the slaying of RFK turned 1968 to the dark side, away from optimism, and much of counterculture sentiment in that direction. One could argue that the JFK, MLK, and RFK murders permanently scarred American optimism for our generation.

    • #20
  21. Jim Kearney Member
    Jim Kearney
    @JimKearney

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    When Ted Sorensen’s students asked him if he wrote the JFK inaugural, he’d wink and say, “Ask not”. 

    Also a perfect Final Jeopardy

    “Ted Sorensen’s two-word response when asked if he wrote a famous 1961 speech.”

     

     

    • #21
  22. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    I was watching TV coverage of the 1968 California primary results.  Reagan was running unopposed for the Republican nomination and RFK was expected to win the Democrat primary.  It was quite a night.  This was the first time that computers were being used to tally votes.  

    My folks got a phone call to turn on the TV.  

    What I remember is the people at the podium telling everyone “Please leave the room.”  Over and over again.  

    I was, at the time, a 9th grader at Center Junior High, Simi, California.  It was about the same time that residents of Simi and Santa Susana voted to incorporate, with Simi Valley chosen as the name for the new city.  

    • #22
  23. ToryWarWriter Coolidge
    ToryWarWriter
    @ToryWarWriter

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    RFK Jr says that Sirhan Sirhan did not kill his father. Sirhan was a patsy, according to RFK Jr, and the real killer was Eugene Thane Cesar, a CIA operative who led RFK unexpectedly into the kitchen where Sirhan was waiting. To be clear, RFK Jr says that Sirhan’s shots did not hit his father, and that the fatal shots were fired by Cesar.

    RFK was killed on the one year anniversary of Israel’s launch of the Six Day War, in which Israel conquered the Palestinian-Jordanian West Bank. Pure coincidence, doubtless.

    Sirhan Sirhan was firing a pistol which has as many as 8 shots.  I understand that 13 rounds were fired.  Where did those 5 extra bullets come from?

    Of course you and I are the only ones on this thread interested in asking those questions.

    • #23
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