On April 5, 1968, the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed, Senator Robert F. Kennedy made a speech that is still haunting and powerful. The "mindless menace of violence," as he referred to it, is what is damaging our lives and ruining the United States. It's troubling that violence, especially gun violence, has become so commonplace that I can easily refer to multiple mass shootings in the past week in California and Colorado, or go back just a month and discuss the 16 wounded at a New Orleans playground. It's not hard to see how America's culture of violence has remained perilously unchanged.
To illustrate that lack of change, filmmaker Terry Rayment used Kennedy's speech in his recent short film, which shares the speech's name, The Mindless Menace of Violence. Rayment juxtaposes the speech with subdued wide shots of gun violence in different neighborhoods, between different people of different ages. As the violence peaks and subsides within his short three-minute film a long final shot settles on an empty bed as Kennedy continues, "Whenever any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily—whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of law, by one man or by a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence—whenever we tear at the fabric of our lives which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, whenever we do this, then whole nation is degraded. Violence breeds violence, repression breeds retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can move this sickness from our souls."
Not present in the film is how Kennedy began his speech, which is also the vital takeaway: "This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics." After watching the short above, I encourage you to listen to Kennedy's entire "Mindless Menace of Violence" speech.
Jeffrey Bowers is a tall mustached guy from Ohio who's seen too many weird movies. He currently lives in Brooklyn, working as a film curator. He's the senior curator for Vimeo's On Demand platform. He has also programmed at Tribeca Film Festival, Rooftop Films, and the Hamptons International Film Festival.