As you probably know, I have done the voices of many American presidents, for Jibjab’s This Land, the films Monuments Men and X-Men, and most recently, The View.
I don’t always play political figures for comedy, however.
I recently had the pleasure of narrating a collection of speeches by Robert F. Kennedy for an audiobook, RFK: His Words for Our Times, edited by C. Richard Allen.
Many of his eloquent messages, given to a variety of audiences during the 1960’s, are as pertinent now as they were then, and in many cases, due to continued decline of morality in America, even more so.
For example, Kennedy said, while on the campaign trail in Phoenix, Arizona in 1968:
“If there is one overriding reality in this country, it is that we must resist any erosion of a sense of national decency. Make no mistake, Decency is at the heart of the matter–and at the heart of this campaign. Poverty is indecent. Illiteracy is indecent. The death or maiming of brave young men in the swamps of Asia, that is indecent.”
Decency is a word we don’t hear much of in modern culture.
Much of what still vexes us as a people in 2018 is encompassed by a lack of decency; the drug disaster, where profits, from street or medical drugs, trump any empathy toward the consumer. Our continuing wars and conflicts, in which our military are deployed and which contribute to suicides of American servicemen and women at a rate of 21 per day. Religious intolerance, which in a nation founded on religious freedom should be non-existent.
The indecency that drained the spirit of Americans in 1968, fifty years ago, is not only still being felt today, it’s gone into hyperdrive.
I see many people in the culture that do work out of a sense of what is right, rather than just something profitable in the short term. Many are aware that we live in perilous times, and that mankind’s hold on survival demands that we work together, not pitted against one another in isolated camps.
Many try to do as Kennedy recommended later on in that speech, to resist “any erosion of a sense of national decency.”
The great challenge of our new social media reality, where, like it our not, our beliefs and practices are exposed to view to anyone with an iPhone, is to continue to practice and support decency, even when rumors and passions threaten what little privacy we have left.
As a Scientologist, I am proud to be part of a group which works to instill morals and ethical behavior into areas where indecency has created a degraded community through corruption, illiteracy, violence and drugs.
We expend many man-hours and much treasure in programs which deliver a demonstrably positive result on crime rates and drug usage, even in the most violent and far-flung corners of the world.
And yet our group is still sometimes demonized by the press, or joked about on television shows, by those who neither know, nor care about our impressive statistics in the war against the indecencies of our modern world.
To stand idly by and do nothing, in an indecent world, is itself indecent. To attack, belittle or degrade anyone who is making a positive, honest attempt to bring order to an indecent world, is obscene.
RFK made another observation later in that speech in Phoenix:
“This is a time to create, not destroy. This is a time for me to work out of a sense of decency, not bitterness. This is a time to begin again.”
That message is as true today as it was fifty years ago, just months before an assassin’s bullet cut short the life of Robert F. Kennedy, and ushered in the age of Watergate and new depths of disillusionment with government from which I feel the country has never recovered.
It’s never too late to begin to treat others with the decency which we all prefer to be treated with.
The first step is to listen and engage with one another, without prejudice or fixed ideas. Respect and compassion are much closer companions to decency than suspicion, prejudice and contempt.
The truly good is never truly destroyed, not by harsh words, cruel acts or assassin’s bullets. In the long run, I believe mankind will win.