Nobelesse oblige…: Today is the 53nd anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I searched Google to see how it is being remembered in 2016 and 90% of what I found were books and stories about speculation on various conspiracies. There's almost nothing about the legendary man who became the first US President who was born in the 20th Century. He was also the first Catholic to hold that office which was a big deal on the spectrum of prejudice that still existed in 1960. Kennedy and Obama stand out in our history as men who overcame the dark side of American prejudice and I'm glad that I was alive to witness their victories.
JFK died on a Friday afternoon and over that long weekend the entire nation watched television and read the newspapers where there were pictures of Jackie Kennedy bravely standing beside Lyndon Johnson as he the oath of office on Air Force One, and on Monday we watched the state funeral. I was fourteen years old and at some point my father “Mac” made a bad joke about Kennedy. With tears in my eyes I angrily snapped back at him.
In the years since his election portended “the end of the world” I’d seen JFK take responsibility for the failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion in Cuba and deal with Nikita Khrushchev at the Vienna Summit and during the Berlin Wall and Cuban Missile Crisis. In less than three years as President he’d pulled the world back from the brink of nuclear war, implemented the Limited Test Ban Treaty, launched the Space Race and the Peace Corps, stood up for the Civil Rights Movement, and navigated America through the early stages of the Vietnam War. He’d done the best he could as he saw it and now he and the dreams of that “new generation” of Americans had evaporated in a spray of blood on a sunny afternoon in Dallas, Texas.
You can see it best in Walter Cronkite’s reactions and hear it in his voice:
Two years ago I posted about Kennedy's death: Scanning the news on Google this morning I see that the 24-7-365 Media Beast is still feasting on the fear and angst from Paris and Mali. I Google the news and found three or four tangential articles about Lee Harvey Oswald, the CIA and such. There was one head line on the Reno Gazette website followed by extracts from the 1963 story about the assassination. Ted Frier published a post on Our Salon: Did Kennedy Die the Hero's Death He Admired? But no major newspaper or magazine has published much of anything about the assassination or funeral since 2013.
With no disrespect for those who suffered injury and lost their lives, I wonder if John F. Kennedy will be remembered and honored at all in 2015 or will his memory, after the passage of fifty years, be lost to the whispered dream of legendary history along with Abraham Lincoln.
Of all the thousands of images from that tragedy, the one that stands out most in my mind is the photograph of the Kennedy Clan standing on the sidewalk as the funeral cortege rolled by where little JFK Jr. stood at attention and saluted the passage of his father. He couldn’t have been more than three or four years old. I’m not sure if one of his uncles coached him or not, but that doesn’t matter because the image speaks volumes about how most Americans felt about the death of a beloved president. Jackie Kennedy said this of her husband’s tragic end, “There'll be great presidents again, but there will never be another Camelot.”
That was a reference to JFK’s sense of Noblesse oblige and his affection for this lyric from the final song from the Broadway hit musical Camelot:
Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief, shining moment that was known as Camelot
I may be wrong but I believe it was Bobby Kennedy who, during the eulogy at JFK’s funeral, said that his brother was known to quote George Bernard Shaw, “Some men see things the way they are and ask, why – I dream of things that never were and ask, why not.” Perhaps I’m confused and it was Teddy Kennedy who quoted Shaw at Bobby’s funeral. In any case with the exception of Caroline, they’re all dead and gone, even JFK Jr. and tomorrow will be just another day - in this strange new world where Donald Trump is about to become President of the United States.
Except for attributed photos and text, all content is copyrighted © 2016 JKM (an apparently ineffectual boilerplate joke?)