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RIP, JFKJ

RIP, JFK

Hello, everyone

If anyone studies history to any degree, they will find that in each generation, there is a signature event that identifies that generation. I was born in 1942. Therefore, the signature event for my grandparents was the murder of Archduke Francis Ferdinand; that was the incident that triggered World War I. For my parents, their event was the bombing of Pearl Harbor; that was the event that got this country involved in the Second Great Unpleasantness. For my children, it would likely be January 28, 1986, the day that the space shuttle Challenger exploded. For my grandchildren – and Republicans everywhere, regardless of age – it was September 11, 2001.

But for me, it was November 22, 1963. That was the day that Lee Harvey Oswald murdered President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas, Texas.

“Where were you on the night of January 16th?” A line from a classic movie. But it is also a line spoken in relation to these defining moments. Where was I on November 22, 1963? I was a senior at the former Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa, carrying a double major of secondary education and Modern Languages. I was on my way to an Educational Psychology class. On the way, I met a buddy of mine who was one of my roommates during my freshman year. Tom Friel gave me the news. I proceeded to my class. The class was taught by Dr. Frank Tate, a large man who was almost as large as Rush Limbaough – but who had a far more pleasant personality and attitude about others. Dr. Tate always had a laugh lying just under the surface, and we laughed frequently in his class. But this day, when we assembled the class, he was crying profusely. He said that under the circumstances, the appropriate thing for us to do was to adjourn the class, and we did so. Dr. Frank Tate was the last person on earth that I thought I would ever see cry, but he cried that day, and we class members were crying right along with him.

A student’s senior year in college can be a heady thing, and mine definitely was. I was in the last stage of becoming a teacher. I was old enough to vote. A year from then, I would be taking my place in the world. And – most significant to me! – I had my first serious girl friend. She never would let me kiss her, but that is another story for another time.

We all took President Kennedy’s murder hard. We felt that he was one of us – someone young, with a vision for the future. We respected Truman and Eisenhower and other people of that generation, but to us, they were “old folks” who didn’t know us young whippersnappers, let alone understand us. They were of the generation of war, and they did not – or could not – understand why we younger people had a desire to live in a world of peace. Kennedy also fought in World War II, but he DID understand us; and for that reason, we all bought in to him. When the Bay of Pigs invasion crashed, many of us young freshman pups talked about going to Cuba and doing it over and getting it right this time.

We weren’t alone in our love and adoration of Kennedy. Most of the country took his murder very hardly, just as we young bucks did. Indeed, on this anniversary of the murder, the Washington post published a recap of that weekend, showing how the paper covered that weekend 50 years ago. Here is the URL: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2013/11/19/our-president-is-dead-how-the-post-reacted-to-john-f-kennedys-assassination/?Post+generic=%3Ftid%3Dsm_twitter_washingtonpost

But, to be sure, not all of America felt the same way about the martyred young president. There were people who absolutely despised him. Indeed, it is a matter of record that J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, despised BOTH John AND Robert Kennedy, to the degree that people held opinions that the FBI was behind the assassination. And – Texas being Texas – there was a group of conservatives in the Dallas area who also despised Kennedy – to the degree that earlier on that fatal week, they had taken out an ad in the Dallas morning newspaper that reviled JFK. The ad was in the form of an FBI Wanted poster. Here is the URL for the ad and an article about it: http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_vault/2013/11/15/jfk_assassination_flyer_distributed_in_dallas_by_edwin_walker_s_group_before.html

That ad got the people responsible for it an examination from the Warren Commission. However, the Commission was sold on the idea that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone in killing the president, so the Conservatives and their ad disappeared either under a rock or into the ether.

So the weekend ground on until the climax of the interment in Arlington on Monday. Jack Ruby shot and killed Lee Harvey Oswald – an act that I honestly cheered – and the TV networks showed a black-framed picture of Kennedy with his name and dates on the screen while Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony and Tchaikovsky’s #6 in B Minor were played over and over. We all cried for the dead president and prayed avidly for the new president, that God would guide him and endow him with the same amount of wisdom that JFK had shown in his leading of this country.

There is an old standard titled “What a Difference a Day Makes.” So does a half-century really make a difference? Not really. Republicans despise the young black president as much in 2013 as they despised the young Catholic president in 1963. Obama champions the gays in 2013 just like Kennedy championed the blacks in 1963, and the Republicans hated and hate both men for those championings. And Texas is still Texas – just as full of loonies, crazies, and whackjobs in 2013 as it was in 1963. So in reality, very little has changed.

So eventually Kennedy was buried and the world moved on. LBJ coasted to a landslide victory in 1964, only to decide not to run for re-election in 1968 because of opposition to the Vietnam War. Richard Nixon won that election, only to be forced from office in August, 1974, because of the Watergate Scandal. In the 1990s, we had a little sip of Camelot with another young, vibrant, intellectual president named Bill Clinton, who was also as deeply hated an despised by the Republicans as were JFK and Barak obama.

And life goes on in the personal realm as well. I received my B. A. the following June and completed two years of graduate study after my second year of teaching. I pursued theological education in a later period of my life and essentially hold two Masters Degrees. I taught for 5 ½ years – three in the public schools and 2 ½ years in a misbegotten Christian high school. I have worked also as a tutor, a direct-care giver in a facility for the developmentally disabled, and as an office manager and database manager and data man for a non-profit literacy program in northwest Denver. Plus I had a long and happy career as a church musician. So I have known both good and bad times since the Kennedy assassination, just like the country has.

And oh yes! I have had ladies cross my path who were quite willing to let me kiss them. In fact, I had a wonderful life with two of them as my wives.

Yes, indeed, life does go on. Have yourselves a great day and wonderful holiday season.

Bill

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November 24, 2013 - Posted by | Politics | , ,

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