Convicted of murdering Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, Sirhan Sirhan is one of those rare figures whose name everyone knows, but whom nobody much discusses. Recently, however, he has been in the news again.
I remember being a kid, maybe an early teenager, sitting at the table with my father. He was cheerful that afternoon, a rare occasion in those days. He was my hero, but my insistence on doing poorly in school had caused lots of strain and we spent much of our time at loggerheads. He greeted rebellion with even more severe punishment. My father was kind and decent, but relentlessly confident in his idea of discipline.
But on that afternoon we were relaxed. We connected well through my burgeoning curiosity about the world, the Middle East in particular. It was before the internet and satellite TV, and dad hated talking on the phone, especially long distance (which was expensive in the old days), yet he always seemed to know what was going on back home. We were nibbling at nuts and olives and chitchatting without any of the usual tension.
I mentioned Sirhan Sirhan, whom I’d recently learned about from a news story. I thought it was hilarious that he had the same first and last name.
“He’s an Arab, you know,” my father said. His tone was one of both dignity and regret.
“I didn’t know that.”
“A Christian, too.”
Same tone. (...)