As the saying goes, and I paraphrase, no death ever changed the world.
Well, the assassination of John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, changed America.
Saturday was the 46th anniversary of JFK’s murder, and it went by with hardly a mention.
That’s history for you. It’s in the past and we are a culture that’s pretty much in the moment.
And things are moving so fast that the moment is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Unless it’s something insignificant like what a celebrity is doing.
And the more ridiculous the more it has what they call “legs” in show business. Meaning it has staying power to last a lot longer than a news cycle. Like Jon and Kate, the Octomom, or Sarah Palin.
At no time ever is it important what a celebrity is doing.
But celebrity is shaping our future. And it’s not pretty. It’s just a continuation of the dumbing down of America. We’re that eager to thin out the herd.
We didn’t used to be like this. Not that we were so much smarter as we were well informed and ready, willing and able to challenge the status quo using insight and confidence.
But, again with the past. Another cliche —- those who live in the past are doomed to repeat it.
It’s not so much living in the past as it is learning from it.
“What’s past is prologue,” Shakespeare wrote in “The Tempest.”
John F. Kennedy continues to represent an era when a young president challenged the nation to reach for the sky and beyond — literally —– to the moon, Alice.
JFK was indeed the beneficiary of the torch passed to a new generation. His presidency took on the look and promise of a vigorous agenda. Nothing was impossible. What was once considered difficult was attainable.
JFK represented an era that promised hope and change.
But JFK was first and foremost a politician. And he was also vulnerable. The Bay of Pigs debacle proved that. A coup to overthrow Fidel Castro, it was apparently set up by Tricky Dick Nixon when he was vice president to make him look tough once he succeeded Eisenhower. Of course that never happened and JFK was left holding the bag. And with egg on his face. An utter failure.
While still in the Senate, JFK wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Profiles in Courage.” Decades after his death, it’s hard to image adding a chapter to his own book that would include him.
Certainly JFK fared better a year after the Bay of Pigs when he stood his ground against the Soviets during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a nail-biting several days that saw the U.S. and Russia ready to undertake nuclear war. You might have studied this brink-of-World War III incident in school (unless you’re George W. Bush’s former press secretary Dana Perino —- now a contributing whatever to Fox Noose —- who never heard of it.)
OK, had he lived and run for re-election in 1964, Kennedy could’ve used the slogan “He prevented World War III.” His opponent would’ve been Barry “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice” Goldwater, considered the father of modern conservatism and, unjustifiably, who was painted as a trigger-happy, hand on the button loose cannon.
Kennedy would’ve wiped the floor with him, considering the times.
Arguably, JFK’s real test of courage came on the home front when dealing with civil rights.
He displayed some chutzpah on the most important issue of the time, but it was apparent Congress was not going to act on legislation.
Then there was Vietnam. Many pro-JFK Monday morning historians believe firmly that had he lived and had a second term, he would not have ordered escalation.
Other historians without a jaundice eye saw JFK as a hawk, who would not have turned chicken and pulled out of the conflict.
JFK was assassinated before he had a chance to show any profile in courage when it came to civil rights and Vietnam.
It would be his successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson of Texas who would get the Voting Rights Act passed —- as a tribute to JFK, but perhaps more to the point to his effectiveness at getting Congress to pass what he wanted.
Unfortunately, LBJ’s arm-twisting also got us deep into Vietnam. The war eventually did his presidency in.
Second-guessing how JFK would’ve run his presidency had he had a second term is almost as much a parlor game as the conspiracy theories as to who really had him killed.
For years I played the game and figured out it was probably the Mafia (not their style of execution, if you believe your gangster movies), or the FBI (J. Edgar Hoover hated Kennedy and certainly wasn’t above suspicion), or the CIA (Kennedy said he wanted it “smashed into a thousand pieces.”)
Other theories say it was LJB, who was reduced to vice president after having all that power as a senator. Or Nixon, as revenge for feeling he was cheated out of winning the presidency in 1960.
But as I get older I have come to the conclusion that conspiracy theories are fun to argue, but the sad fact is that the creep Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.
The loser who for the first time in his nothing life unfortunately had luck on his side that tragic day in Dallas.
America did change drastically following JFK’s murder.
Some would say for the better —- a youth counterculture helped usher in a renaissance in the arts and eventually helped bring Vietnam to an end. In essence, it was the baby boomers who were the children of JFK who brought down two presidents, LBJ and Nixon —- both a nemisis to JFK and both who deserved to be drummed out.
Kennedy and Johnson ran as the Democratic ticket and Nixon as the Republican in 1960. All eventually became president. Their presidencies ended in either tragedy or disgrace (Nixon’s also in resignation.)
The death of JFK seemed to also bring on a decade of decadence — drugs, promiscuity. You know, the good stuff. The government wasn’t to be trusted. There weren’t any wussy tea parties, the young were smoking tea and burning draft cards.
All because JFK was assassinated? It can be traced back to Nov. 22, 1963.
When some wonder whether JFK would’ve gone the distance with Vietnam, others wonder if the country’s youth would’ve supported him if he decided on that path to war.
Prior to JFK getting wasted, the young were gung ho —- future astronauts or Marines all.
And would there have been the Beatles and an ultimate thinking person’s pop music in the decade had JFK lived?
As the modern day cliche goes, it is what it is.
The fact is the country hasn’t been the same since John F. Kennedy was shot dead.
Some would say get over it, it’s been 46 years.
Fact of the matter is, every president since Kennedy has been held to the standard he set —- whether they could deal with it or not.
Clinton wanted to be Kennedy the skirt chaser.
Obama wants to be JFK with the glamour and the vim and vigor. But he’s still visionary-impaired.
Truth is, Reagan was the closest we’ve had to a president like Kennedy —- if only because the Gipper was affable, quick-witted and savvy.
Forty-six years ago the bar was set high.
Kennedy was the man who challenged us to go to the moon by the end of the decade. And we did it.
George W. Bush told us to go out and buy a car after we were attacked on Sept. 11.
Back in the day naysayers were concerned that there would be a Kennedy dynasty. We can’t have that in America. The presidency isn’t a family business, they argued.
So we got Daddy and Son Bush. A dynasty for the ages. Ya, the Middle Ages.
What did we do to deserve that? Maybe America is still doing penance for our past sins.
Kennedy was an American martyr, but he wasn’t a saint by any means.
The child of privilege never got the privilege to prove what he could do for his country.
Religious zealots would call that retribution.
His death did more for America than he probably could’ve done as president for two terms.
When we see those black and white newsreels of JFK it seems like it was 100 years ago. It might as well have been.
Nowadays when JFK is mentioned it’s often in the same sentence as Marilyn Monroe. As in JFK had trysts with Monroe in the White House. (Was that trysts and shouts we heard coming from the Lincoln bedroom?) Or, was JFK involved in a cover-up of Marilyn Monroe’s death?
We can’t even get enough of dead celebrities.
If they made a movie about JFK today, it would probably be revisionist. At his inaugural he’d say, “Ask not what you can do for your country, it’s what your country can do for you.”
Then he’d try to talk Jackie into a three-way.