Cover art by Mark Granza (Original photos: JFK's "La Sierra Program" | NYT's portrait of RFK Jr.)

A Candidate for a Sick Nation: On the Phone with RFK Jr.

By Benjamin Braddock · 4 May 2024

Politics is Downstream from Health: Q&A with Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

“The physical vigor of our citizens is one of America’s most precious resources. If we waste and neglect this resource, if we allow it to dwindle and grow soft then we will destroy much of our ability to meet the great and vital challenges which confront our people. We will be unable to realize our full potential as a nation.”
– JFK

I quoted these words of President John F. Kennedy in my first-ever published work as a writer. That vital truth that President Kennedy saw, but few Presidents have since, has long been at the core of my politics. I believe in the country America used to be, and especially the America of the California Dream. A life lived in the sunshine, surrounded by the natural beauty and blessings of the mountains and the coasts, with an economy that provided a good quality of life for ordinary people. California was still like that when I was a kid. The community was safe and friendly; I could roam for miles with my friends from morning to after dark without our parents having any reason to be concerned for our safety. Our skin was golden and our hair bleached blonde. We were children of the sun. On some summer nights, it felt like paradise.

Then the Great Recession came, and it was paradise lost. The government looked out for Wall Street, but the people were left to bear the costs of the reckless greed of the speculators and the Federal Reserve System that enabled them. Tent cities appeared along the railroad tracks where us kids used to build our forts. Criminal gangs began to operate with impunity, decapitated bodies dumped in the almond orchards. Family farming operations were bought up by megacorps like Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland and the ever more intensive industrialized agriculture drove an increase in toxic pollution from agricultural chemicals in California’s Central Valley. The quality of life is much worse now. The cost of living is much higher and so are the taxes. The government services and schools and roads are worse. The water is contaminated; babies are born with birth defects; the asthma rates are the highest in the country; cancer rates are high even among fit non-smokers. The canaries in the coal mine went ignored: the fish with lesions and deformities, the intersex amphibians and field mice, and wild birds born with exposed brains and deformed limbs. Any of these should have prompted serious action from our leaders, but none was taken.

What is happening in the Central Valley is happening all across America. Once again, the government serves the multinational corporations and billionaire class and leaves the people to bear the cost — in many cases with their lives and health. The crisis of American health has reached a critical juncture. Six in ten Americans have at least one chronic disease. Four in ten Americans have two or more chronic diseases. Testosterone levels and sperm counts have been in constant decline for at least three decades. Female reproductive health is similarly affected. Our healthcare system is behind that of many developing countries, and we just went through a terribly destructive period with COVID-19 where effective treatments were prohibited and new pharmaceutical products with deadly side effects were pushed instead. America is in desperate need of a leader who will address these issues, but these issues are nowhere to be found in our national political discourse.

The health and physical vigor of a nation’s population are fundamental to whether that nation is capable of survival. Other issues that are seen as vitally important are downstream of this. One of the main reasons America as a country is in decline is because the very physiology of its people has been compromised. Nearly 65 million Americans — one in five people — are currently taking prescribed mental health medications. One in ten people are taking pain medications. Twenty percent of women between 20 and 29 are taking hormonal contraceptives. These classes of medication distort the very perception of reality to varying degrees — often to extreme degrees. Most of the social pathologies plaguing our country are a direct result of such a high proportion of our population consuming behavior-influencing drugs or being exposed to chemicals in the environment which disrupt the endocrine system. For instance, high levels of testosterone drive men to be more cooperative, to devote more time and money to charitable endeavors, and to help those in need. Environmental contaminants that lead to reductions in this hormone cause men to become less like the kind of men they would be otherwise. In aggregate, this causes civilizational dysfunction. Solving these problems is a prerequisite to solving our other problems.

For the first time in my lifetime, a presidential candidate — Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — is putting these basic issues front and center in a presidential campaign. Whether or not he gets the Democratic nomination and wins the election, his message deserves serious attention and elevation in the political discourse. RFK Jr. was the key leader of the resistance to biomedical tyranny and corruption during the pandemic, speaking out at great personal cost. As the scion of the most beloved family in the Democratic Party, he could have gone along with the party and remained in good standing with the Establishment. Instead he chose to take a stand for the truth and has suffered tremendous ridicule, slander, and censorship for doing so. This speaks to his integrity and commitment to his values.

We spoke briefly on the phone last week about his campaign and vision for America. Given the topics I wanted to discuss with him, the setting for our conversation had something poetic about it. I was riding a train down the Central Valley, passing by the vast industrial feedlots north of Bakerfield when I picked up the phone.

***

Note: The following transcript of Benjamin Braddock's conversation with RFK Jr. has been edited for clarity.

Benjamin Braddock: In your announcement speech, you spoke about the sharp rise in rates of obesity and chronic health disorders among the population. What do you think is driving this increase?

RFK Jr: I think we’re swimming around in a toxic soup. Other countries don’t have it as bad as we do. We take pharmaceutical drugs at three times the rate of the Europeans and are much sicker. These pharmaceuticals are not making Americans healthier, they’re doing the opposite. The level of childhood diseases in this country is just appalling. We have the most contaminated food supply in the first world. GMOs have driven a lot of this because by developing crops to withstand herbicides like glyphosate, they have created a situation where glyphosate is used much more frequently than in non-GMO farming. Our industrial agriculture processes are destroying the soil, and when you do that the food no longer has the nutrient density that it should have. Our nation’s food is not food, it’s filler. All of those things have conspired to give us the sickest population in the industrialized world.

Benjamin Braddock: What do you think can be done at the federal level to address these chronic health problems?

RFK Jr: You have to go agency by agency to fix the problems in each one. I’ve sued those agencies and in many cases I know the names of the individuals responsible for causing the problems and I know how to stop it. We need to round up the medical journal editors and publishers and haul them into the Department of Justice on federal racketeering charges. Release the CDC data that’s hidden in a lockbox. There is so much information the government has on what’s really going on that is hidden that I think we can accomplish a lot just by getting the truth out there. There’re a million things that I will do to reform the system. We need to penalize the universities involved in gain-of-function and other dangerous unnecessary research and blacklist them from grants. Instead of doing gain-of-function research and creating new viruses to make new vaccines we need to shift that money into researching chronic diseases. What causes them and how to solve them. Why did the obesity epidemic begin in 2006? Why did the chronic disease and autoimmune epidemics begin in 1989? Genes do not cause epidemics. I believe it is something in the environment.

Benjamin Braddock: Why do you think you’re the only major political candidate to speak about this?

RFK Jr: Both parties are subsumed by corporate money and patronage. The people responsible for this have spent enormous sums of money ensuring that the political system doesn’t interfere with what they’re doing.

Benjamin Braddock: Your uncle made youth physical fitness a national priority under his administration with the La Sierra Program in the 1950s and ’60s. Would you reintroduce the program and expand it nationally?

RFK Jr: Yes I would, immediately. It would be a top priority.

Benjamin Braddock: Would your attorney general open a criminal investigation into Anthony Fauci?

RFK Jr: Any official who betrayed the public trust should be prosecuted. Anyone who defrauded or deceived the American public about the safety and efficacy of medical products should be brought to justice. We owe it to all the people and families that suffered as a consequence of their criminal wrongdoing. We also need to get corporate influence out of regulatory agencies. That is the main problem. The majority of the staff are decent people. It’s the corporate powers that are not allowing them to perform their job properly.

Benjamin Braddock: Do you think that new potentially harmful technologies like 5G should have to go through a safety review period before being pushed into people’s communities?

RFK Jr. I absolutely think that. In fact, I’ve litigated that point against the FCC and I won. And as a result of that the FCC is going to have to do a review period against 5G.

Benjamin Braddock: What should be done about the CIA?

RFK Jr: It needs to be reorganized. Again, most of the people who work at the CIA are good public servants and patriotic Americans. They’re not the problem. The problem is the division that gets involved in foreign countries, that creates war, assassinates people — those people need to be held accountable. The term espionage used to mean “information gathering and analysis”, not getting involved in fixing elections and engineering coup d’etats around the world. That is the direct opposite of promoting democracy.

Benjamin Braddock: I was at your rally in Washington D.C. back in January of 2022. I think it was the most diverse group of people I had ever seen at a political event. Americans from across the political spectrum, from different subcultures and ethnicities and religions. Do you think you can pull a similar coalition together in this campaign or will that be more challenging?

RFK Jr: I think I can. I’m trying to get people to forget about their party identification and join a movement based on principles. Free speech, constitutional government, protecting our freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. Elevation of democracy over corporate power. Ending the war machine that has hollowed out our middle class.

Benjamin Braddock: I hear the politicians in your party talk about protecting “Our Democracy” while simultaneously tearing down fundamental democratic principles. What does democracy mean to you?

RFK Jr: Democracy means that the citizenry of the country has the experience of self-governance. It also means that there is a legitimate nexus between government and governed. And right now that doesn’t exist. Corporations and billionaires are colluding with the politicians they finance and they’re all running the show. The rest of us are in a dream world. There is only a vague illusion of democracy in America. People don’t trust the government anymore and for good reason. We have to change the system and clean it up — ending the secrecy and corruption — so that we can start to earn back that trust and put the power once again into the hands of the citizens.

Benjamin Braddock is an American writer and IM—1776’s Commissioning Editor.

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