Monday 18 December 2017

Lay of the Land: A tale told of Kings, Kennedys and of canines

This last Sunday in August sees the leaves start to turn. (Stock image)
This last Sunday in August sees the leaves start to turn. (Stock image)

Fiona O’Connell

The flower boxes adorning The Salmon Pool in this country town are beginning to lose their lustre, despite Mrs Walsh's wonderful care. For this last Sunday in August sees the leaves start to turn.

And just as seasons shift, so too does the world. Which has come a long way since this day back in 1963, when Martin Luther King Junior made a remarkable speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

"I have a dream," he famously said, "that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character."

Placards from that not so distant past, which stated "no blacks, no dogs, no Irish" have not been forgotten. As I was reminded by a photograph of an African American wearing a t-shirt that declared "more blacks, more dogs, more Irish."

Certainly, canines - and other furry fellows - connect the King and Kennedys of that era - and not just because both were underdogs. Kennedy's Camelot was a veritable Noah's Ark of pooches and other pets. While King's widow, Coretta Scott King, believed the promotion of animal rights was the next "logical extension" of her husband's philosophy of non-violence. Like their son, civil rights activist Dexter, she became a vegan for the last ten years of her life.

And if John F Kennedy made history as America's first Catholic president, Martin Luther King surely paved the way for Barack Obama to become its first African American one. So maybe it makes sense that these families supported each other.

Like the time presidential candidate John F Kennedy phoned Coretta to express his sympathy when Martin Luther King was jailed for picketing a department store. While Bobby Kennedy obtained King's release after he was subsequently sentenced to four month's hard labour for driving with an Alabama license while being a resident in Georgia. Martin Luther King Senior was so grateful that he voted for Kennedy, adding: "I'll take a Catholic or the devil himself if he'll wipe the tears from my daughter-in-law's eyes."

But sorrow was not far away. King was "visibly shaken" by Kennedy's assassination a few months after his own "I have a dream" speech. When King suffered the same terrible fate just five years later, Robert Kennedy ordered more telephones to be installed in King's residence so his family could answer the flood of calls they received, as well as offering a plane to transport Coretta to the scene of his murder in Memphis.

It was Coretta's turn to provide comfort when Bobby Kennedy was murdered two months later. She flew to Los Angeles to console his widow, Ethel.

Those bright lights were brutally snuffed out during that tumultuous time. But as another presidential wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, put it: "the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."

For they transcend all seasons.

Sunday Independent

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