Friday, November 22, 2013

Fifty Years Without JFK

Mrs. Perry, Tenth Grade geometry teacher, elderly, rail-thin, probably homely even when she was young, systematic in her approach to her subject... just what you want in a geometry teacher, not distracting but commanding for those of us who loved math... was exceptionally somber when she entered the classroom fifty years ago today, making sure all of us were settled and quiet before directing our attention to the PA for an announcement. The principal announced... the principal never made any announcements, but that day, he did... that the President had been shot.

Before geometry class was over, the principal announced that President Kennedy was dead.

Nothing has been the same since then. Camelot faded, distressingly quickly. Americans of that era liked to think that their government did not depend on any one person for its continuity, its ability to function, even its spirit. We were right about two out of three of those matters. There was no coup attempt. Johnson, apart from his tragic obsession with the Vietnam war, was a competent and craftsmanly president, with some significant and genuinely liberal credits to his name. But Johnson didn't have the magic.

Now, fifty years later, presidents, though probably themselves still the targets of assassination attempts, are better known as the perpetrators of assassinations by proxy.

And in one way or another, America after Kennedy has been bereft of spirit for 50 years. I'm afraid it's not coming back.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Just for balance, Chomsky eschews hero worship in favor of almost cynical views of Kennedy in real life. He's right, of course; no president in real life could match Kennedy's heroic image. But damn, we could surely use a few heroes today...

1 comment:

  1. I had not yet been born when Kennedy was shot. That said, I never quite "got" the Kennedy worship. Based solely on his record, he was elected on a lie (a so-called "missile gap" with the Soviet Union), he almost got the US into nuclear war twice, got the US into VIetnam, badly flubbed Cuba policy to the point where he basically guaranteed that Fidel Castro would be President for Life, and got virtually none of his signature legislation passed. In the wake of the shock of Kennedy's death LBJ got some of Kennedy's agenda passed, such as the Civil Rights Act and Medicare/Medicaid, but continued the swinging dick contest in Southeast Asia that Kennedy had started too. There's those that claim that Kennedy would have gotten us out of Vietnam. Maybe after defeating Barry Goldwater in 1964, when he no longer needed a war to look Presidential, but by that time it would have been too late.

    I dunno, what am I overlooking? What's the deal with all the JFK admiration?



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