Friday, November 22, 2013

Half a century has gone by.......

It's hard to miss the fact that today marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, 1963. The internet has been buzzing with stuff about conspiracy theories, books on the topic, what ifs, and memories of "how I heard the news" for days.

I wasn't in the USA in 1963 - it'd be another 41 years before I came to live in south west Oklahoma - a 3 hour drive from Dallas. We were in the city just a couple of weeks ago (see here).

In 1963 I was staying with my parent's at their home and business, then in Lancashire. It was a messy time in my young life. Marriage had floundered after barely a year. I was spending a short time at home, helping out in the bakery and post office until I could find another hotel office job. In the evening of 22 November we were all in the bakehouse, cleaning and clearing up, dawdling because it was nice and warm in there. The radio was on - the announcement of JFK's assassination came over - we gasped. Shocked. I don't remember much more than that.

I wasn't particularly interested in US politics, or in the USA for that matter, back then. I was more aware of Jackie Kennedy than of JFK. She had frequently graced the pages of fashion magazines and newspapers in Britain. I had even copied her (then) signature pill-box hat for my doomed wedding the previous year.

Would these 50 years have been different in any meaningful way, I wonder, had JFK lived - and avoided any future attempts on his life? If any of the conspiracy theories were near the truth, whoever wanted him gone wouldn't have stopped trying to achieve that end.

“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on. Ideas have endurance without death.”
~ John F. Kennedy


mike said...

“It was an excess of fantasy that killed the old United States, the whole Mickey Mouse and Marilyn thing, the most brilliant technologies devoted to trivia like instant cameras and space spectaculars that should have stayed in the pages of Science Fiction . . . some of the last Presidents of the U.S.A. seemed to have been recruited straight from Disneyland.” J.G. Ballard, Hello America

The quotation above reminds me of JFK. He was elected at a time of American consternation, as the McCarthy era was winding-down, communism's "cold war" was escalating, nuclear destruction seemed imminent, and life was a dreary blur of conformity.

Along came JFK and Jackie...the romance of Camelot was born. Americans wanted and needed something wonderful, charismatic, warm, nurturing, elegant, and supple. They took America by storm. JFK and Jackie were like full color photographs after having only black and white prior. Oddly, color photography and color TV came into mainstream usage at that time, too.

JFK was a game-changer...he offered a season of spring flowers, but his assassination took us right back to the frigid winter.

Interestingly, I wouldn't call him one of the greatest presidents based on accomplishments, but he was cut short and it's impossible to know what could have been achieved. I would call him one of the greatest presidents in my life time for his ability to make Americans feel like they were participating in a vibrant and active present and future that each person possessed and shared with fellow Americans.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Very nicely put, mike!

In some ways I suppose Princess Di was the UK's "season of spring flowers", with a sad ending also.

It must be about time for another game-changer and another spring now.

Speaking of seasons -in south-west Oklahoma today winter has arrived, and how. This time yesterday it was around 70 degrees, today it's 32 - freezing. :-O

Anonymous said...

On election night, 1960, I sat in my living room wearing a Kennedy campaign hat and waving a Kennedy pennant. I was 11 years old . The next day, I asked my mother to buy as many newspapers from different cities as she could find. It was easy because she worked in a hotel and the newsstands were enormous in those days. She had seen JFK when he came to that same hotel earlier in the campaign and said he was more handsome in person. My mother had a pillbox hat for church and I bought a Jackie inspired suit for Easter. Mike writes it beautifully and right on. It really describes the temper of the times. If you can, find a copy of "Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye", by Dave Powers and Kenneth O'Donnell, two of JFKs' closest aides. It is a bit biased but charming and gives a different insight into the presidency and the man. I'm sure Amazon has a used copy. BTW, Twilight, I'm curious as you mentioned Princess Diana, have the British people come round to Camilla or is she just considered part of the package ?

Twilight said...

Anonymous ~ Hi! Thanks for recounting your memories here.

I shall seek out a copy of the book you recommend.

Regarding Camilla - I really don't know. I have no contact with anyone back in Britain, other than via Christmas cards, and I haven't been back since 2005, so am right "out of the loop". I suspect that she's tolerated rather than "loved" by the British public, but could be wrong. Maybe a passing Brit reader will enlighten us.

ex-Chomp said...

On one part we have the very ingenious American public, so prone to be abused, but on the other side we cannot forget where we arrived at now and today...

All the dreams, though ingenious, sometimes poor or ridiculous, have been betrayed but saying they were realizing them...

And if truly Kennedy would have ended the Vietnam War? Where would the world have been now?

This question needs to be pondere not for the stupid play of What-If history but, intead, in order to understand the path which came out even from that killing.

Le us never forget hat in 1968 the Republican Party started the path which led it up to Gingrich 1994, two dates we have never really resolved.

In fact we live in the End Part of the Long Shadow of those events.

Twilight said...

ex-Chomp ~ We do seem to be living in the long shadow of something.
You could be right. A second shadow fell atop the first on 9/11 also.

Shadows last only for a limited time though, as you said, and as we all hope, we're coming near to the end part now. :-)

mike (again) said...

Here's a weird one, Twilight. The article was in my local paper today, but I can't link to it, as it's subscriber only. Here's a free article link:

"Operator," answered a six-year employee with General Telephone Co. She heard a fuzzy sound. But no one spoke, and she thought the phone was off the hook.

Then the whispering started.

Worried the caller could be in trouble, the operator asked her co-worker to pick up, too.

"The President is going to die at 10:10," they heard whispered faintly through the open line.

They each looked at the clock. It was just a few minutes before 10:10.

Minutes later, another whispered prediction came: "The President is going to die at 10:30."

He was shot and killed at 12:30 p.m. Central time — 10:30 a.m. in California.

Twilight said...

mike ~ V-ery mysterious!
The story of 22 Nov. 1963 is full of mystery.

I read something today (I think on No Quarter - a conservative blog)
which mentioned a theory that the second shot - the one which hit JFK in the head- the fatal one, was really "friendly fire" from a CBI guard in the car behind - accidentally in the furor of the moment, not deliberate, the 1st shot - through his throat by Oswald - would probably have been fatal anyway (?)

Hard to believe, but not impossible.

We'll never know.