In Raleigh, North Carolina, Kennedy Blasts Culture of Hate and Promises Unity

In Raleigh, North Carolina, Kennedy Blasts Culture of Hate and Promises Unity
Gabriel | January 15, 2024

On Friday, January 12, Beth Boswell traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina to attend a rally for independent presidential candidate, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Dr. Boswell, who works as a physician at the Durham VA, said “profiteering and fearmongering during COVID” brought her into Kennedy’s camp.

“Big Pharma’s got us by the tail,” Boswell continued, adding that RFK Jr.’s “got more of a health perspective than any other candidate.”

Like many of those who came to meet Kennedy at the downtown Raleigh event, Boswell expressed disillusionment with the party of Kennedy’s uncle and father.

“When people say ‘threat to democracy,’ they really mean threat to the Democrats,” she said.

Derrel Mack, a veteran from Fayetteville, North Carolina, made the journey to support Kennedy’s stance on America’s Forever Wars, “our poisoned crops,” and “protecting our kids and cleaning up the environment.”

Kennedy addressed Mack’sand Boswell’s shared concerns about public health and its relationship to recent assaults on North Carolina.

Watch the full speech

The candidate’s speech Friday night began with the story of Kennedy and his Riverkeeper organization’s efforts to restore the ecosystem of the Hudson River in the late twentieth century. Kennedy then placed North Carolina’s struggle front and center as an extension of that work in the twenty-first century. The candidate hammered on Smithfield Foods, the pork producer that runs slaughterhouses across the state.

At various points during Kennedy’s speech, the crowd erupted with chants of “Bobby, Bobby, Bobby, Bobby.”

“By raising hogs in factories,” Kennedy said, Smithfield “dropped the price of pork, in about a two-year period, from $0.60/lb to $0.02/lb.” The independent candidate added that this corporate model of agriculture not only impacted the rivers and soils near the manure lagoons of the Smithfield factories, but also cost the workers of North Carolina thousands of jobs.

“There were 28,000 independent hog farmers in this state,” Kennedy said, “and it [Smithfield] put all of them out of business and left hog production in the hands of 2,000 industrial outfits, all of them either owned or operated by, or had contracts with one company: Smithfield.”

Like his father, the assassinated senator from New York, former Attorney General, and 1968 presidential candidate, RFK Jr. has a track record, as a lawyer, of taking on corrupt corporations and their captive government agencies. So when Kennedy told the overflow audience in Raleigh that he was “going to hold Smithfield responsible,” the crowd’s response was nearly as loud as it was when the candidate promised to free Julian Assange, the imprisoned journalist and founder of Wikileaks.

Free speech seemed to be a primary concern for Kennedy’s North Carolina constituents. The fact that Donald Trump’s CIA plotted to assassinate Assange and that Joe Biden’s DOJ refuses to rescind Trump’s prosecution of the journalist (on the night the American reporter Gonzalo Lira died in a Ukrainian prison) suggests that America’s war on journalism is not a red problem or a blue problem.

It’s a uniparty problem.

Greg and Gianina Mills of Cary, North Carolina, both emphasized war and free speech as reasons for migrating to Kennedy’s camp. Greg, who grew up during the twentieth century when it seemed “Dems were the hippies from Woodstock whereas conservatives were pro-war,” now sees the narrative flipped. Gianina, who grew up under communist rule in Romania, said, “As an outsider, I thought America was the most democratic country, but what I’m seeing reminds me of the old Romania.”

Photos by Matthew Armstrong

“Freedom of speech means you can say everything,” Gianina added. “That’s not true anymore.”

Agency capture, chronic disease, the environment, the border, censorship, the forever wars, Assange’s imprisonment, RFK Jr. ‘s deplatforming, and the mainstream media blackout on the Kennedy campaign were recurrent themes with the diverse audience that made the pilgrimage to Raleigh.

Donya Lucas, an interpreter from High Point who traveled an hour and a half to hear Kennedy’s speech, sees all of these single issues as part of a bigger problem with the conversation.

“RFK Jr has brought me into a larger vision,” Lucas said. “Now I can act to be on the right side of history. Now is my chance to be able to tell my grandchildren that I stood with Kennedy, I sacrificed, and gave my best effort to bring forth a better future than the one we were headed for.”

Embodying that “larger vision” was an audience recurrently attired in tie-dye and purple, as if, through fashion, these North Carolina voters sought to express a hunger for a politics beyond the binary of the red and blue.

“The two-party system,” Lucas said, “is dividing our nation, and conquering us from within.”

Echoing that sentiment, Kennedy himself, towards the end of his speech and the tsunami of selfies that followed, asked all Americans to look for the conversations that unite, rather than those that divide.

“That common vision is a much larger landscape,” Kennedy claimed, “than those issues that are orchestrated to tear us apart.”

The campaign’s next stop is Georgia, where Kennedy plans to continue his ballot access drive with a series of events culminating in a petition-gathering at the Atlanta History Center on Monday, January 15, Martin Luther King, Jr Day.

M.C. Armstrong is the author of The Mysteries of Haditha, published in 2020 by Potomac Books. The Brooklyn Rail called The Mysteries of Haditha one of the “Best Books of 2020,” and Armstrong’s story was nominated for “Best Memoir” at the 2021 American Book Festival. Armstrong, who grew up in Winchester, Virginia, embedded with Joint Special Operations Forces in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, in 2008. He published extensively on the Iraq war through The Winchester Star. Armstrong is the winner of a Pushcart Prize and his fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Esquire, American Book Review, Criticism, Consequence Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, The Missouri Review, The Gettysburg Review, Mayday, Monkeybicycle, Wrath-bearing Tree, Epiphany, War, Literature, and the Arts, The Literary Review, and other journals and anthologies. He is the guitarist and lead singer-songwriter for Viva la Muerte, an original rock and roll band. His first novel, American Delphi, was published in the fall of 2022 by Milspeak Books, and his study of post-9/11 veteran-activists will be published by Bloomsbury in 2024/2025. You can follow him on Twitter @mcarmystrong.

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