“Time Takes Her Toll and the Memory Fades, but His Glory is Broken in the Magic that he Made…” – Phil Ochs, Crucifixion
By Ryan Lindsey
Broken Glory: The Final Years of Robert F. Kennedy by Ed Sanders was an unexpectedly emotional and infuriating read.
I was hesitant to read Broken Glory at first. I am normally not a big fan of poetry – in the past I’ve consumed it only in small amounts, two, maybe three poems at a time. Before reading this book, I hadn’t read a full book of poetry in my entire life. In all honesty, after completing Broken Glory, I still can’t say that I’m a big fan of the genre (or at least, not a true believer in Sander’s take on the genre). I’m sure anyone with more familiarity with poetry would have appreciated Sander’s style more than I did though.
Thankfully for me, despite my disinterest in poetry, finishing Broken Glory was not a chore at all (at 351 pages, it certainly could have been a chore). Sanders does an excellent job at portraying the final months of Robert F. Kennedy’s life – with over 240 citations from a variety of respectable sources and experts on the subject, Sanders leaves little reason for the reader to doubt the facts he lays out. I thoroughly enjoyed (in a horrified sort of way) learning many new things about the Kennedys, the Vietnam War, the 1968 election, and the military’s/CIA’s mind-control experiments.
(One particularly humorous fact I learned while reading was that RFK didn’t enter the 1968 presidential race until March of that year – meanwhile, many 2020 presidential candidates had announced at the start of 2019.)
Among the information Sanders includes are direct quotes from countless interviews form a wide swath of people either directly or indirectly linked to RFK and the assassination – a former Memphis cop explains shadowy feds occupying a fire station across the street from the Lorraine Motel before MLK was gunned down, a former NFL lineman turned RFK bodyguard explains the scene in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel, a family friend of the Kennedys describes RFK’s final days using his beach house, etc. If nothing else, through this work Sanders has compiled a brilliant, massive collection of primary sources on the subject at hand.
Aside from the plethora of facts that Sanders provides, he also burdens his readers with a an abundance of his personal theorizing and inferences. (I say “burden” only because many of his theories are extremely unsettling and dismal.)
Like many others, Sanders is fully convinced that RFK was murdered by high-ranking elements of the American government associated with the Intelligence Community and Military-Industrial Complex – very likely the same group of people behind the murder of RFK’s brother, President John F. Kennedy. Unlike many others though, Sanders has done the research to back his claim up. Sanders manages to assemble a grand, weaving tapestry of conspiracy, connecting everything and everyone from General Curtis LeMay, MK-Ultra, sensual seduction, robo-programming a human brain, and a gun loaded with blanks. It may sound outlandish, but presented in Sander’s artistic way and with a respected citation above every other sentence, it seems all too plausible (and even likely) after completing Broken Glory.
As a grim bonus, Sanders also spends a decent portion of the book exploring the final days and assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. (After reading Broken Glory, it becomes clear that a holistic view of RFK’s presidential campaign cannot be held without including the King assassination.) Using a combination of eye-witness accounts, obscure but confirmed photographs, and official records, Sanders tears apart the official narrative of MLK’s death and replaces it with a grand conspiracy of motivated by red paranoia and racism.
A Graphic History
Right on the cover, Broken Glory is branded as a “graphic history”. This part of the book’s purpose is fulfilled by artist Rick Veitch, a renowned comic artist in mainstream and alternative comics. Veitch’s comic book-like black-and-white illustrations are an excellent addition to the book and supplement Sander’s writing perfectly.
While there are likely an infinite number of illustration-worthy moments from the final months of RFK’s life, Sanders and Veitch successfully determined many of the most visually-powerful ones. Veitch masterfully executed Sander’s (and RFK’s) words through his art.
While many of Veitch’s drawings are based off of existing photographs (some of them extremely iconic), he also created quite a few entirely original pieces for Broken Glory. These are especially useful when they are used to help visualize certain unknown aspects of Sander’s theories.
A Fitting Tribute
Above all else, Robert F. Kennedy was a true and passionate advocate for peace and justice, one of the most prolific in the past century of American politics. Whether you agree with methods and the specifics of his policy proposals, I think anyone who takes an honest look at Broken Glory will see a fundamentally honest man concerned for the well-being of all people, regardless of race, class, or nationality.
It is a fitting tribute then that Ed Sanders – himself a true anti-war protester and hippie-type of the 1960s – wrote Broken Glory, on the 50th anniversary of RFK’s death. Truly, only someone who hated war (the Vietnam War in particular) and all it did to humanity as much as Kennedy himself could write a history like this that is also a eulogy, a sad psalm for man who would have been president.
For anyone interested in the legacy of the Kennedy brothers, I cannot recommend this book enough.
“And so, after JFK, MLK & RFK
the history of the United States
was irrevocably changed
in the direction of violence
– Ed Sanders, Broken Glory