A half-century ago there was a brief interlude of hope. Some of us remember that moment

I have often thought, as I suspect others have, that John Fitzgerald Kennedy should be entitled to, as should Princess Diana, be permitted to RIP.

Little chance of that happening on November 22nd this year since that date will mark a full half century since his untimely death by an assassin. And he is one of those individuals who, like James Dean, I daresay, always seems to be current and youthful.

Fifty years ago Friday a little creep named Lee Harvey Oswald brought to an abrupt and horrid end a thousands days that had seemed to offer a new hope to not just Americans but to people worldwide.

By that grim and hideous act he also brought about hundreds and hundreds of conspiracy theories that began the moment of assassination and continue to this day and will likely persist ad infinitim. Who was behind the act? I have no idea and I’m not about to make any suggestions in that regard. That’s mainly because I find most conspiracy theories to be just that – theories – and predominantly pains-in-the-ass.

I get torn writing about JFK. I’ve read enough to know that he wasn’t in the true sense of the word a ‘great’ president. Maybe he didn’t serve long enough for him to have proved his worth. But, at the same time, he was the guy who also stepped up the US presence in Vietnam, and we all know how that turned out. He also set in place perpetual antagonism with Castro’s Cuba – a silly (in my regard) legacy that persists. It was said that his antagonism to Castro stemmed from the belief that his reptilian and soft-on-Hitler old man, Joe, own half the whorehouses in Battista’s Havana. I like to think that’s so, but that’s just me.

He also, and there is no point in thinking otherwise, did very very little in the realm of civil rights. Any changes in that regard are part of the legacy of his successor, LBJ.

And then there’s the satyr thing. JFK screwed whomever female he could get his wandering hands on. He made old Bill Clinton look like a choirboy in that regard – it is said.

But, all that said, once there was a moment and there was an energy that arose with the arrival of this youngish and dashing man who seemed to foretell of a great change. I remember that feeling well and that feeling persisted to the degree that I was as horrified by the assassination as anybody else.

Such a replacement to tired old Eisenhower who seemed a tiresome vestige of an earlier era. Such a worthy alternative to his adversary, the oily Richard Nixon. I was very young then. Much younger than JFK, who was actually my parents’ vintage, but didn’t seem to be. My parents were more Eisenhower sorts in my mind. He was, in contemporary parlance, a ‘dude’. I liked him – then.

I was on my way to a sophomore history class when the news broke. He was still alive at that moment. The Cronkite wince-of-grief hadn’t yet happened. I went to my medieval history class and we who chatted were in a state of disbelief and trying to reassure ourselves it wasn’t as serious as it seemed.

And then he passed. And somebody informed my history professor of what had transpired. The prof gathered up his stuff and simply said: “He was a classmate at Harvard. I cannot continue today.”

In fact, the entire university did not continue that day. We gathered in groups and then we went to our respective homes and sat glued to millions of black-and-white TVs and we saw creepy little Oswald get bumped off in real time. What does it look like when a guy gets shot to death? Now we knew. Much as we knew about the Texas Schoolbook Repository and the Grassy Knoll and all the other stuff.

I could go on and on, but will resist the impulse but remain astonished to think this was a half-century ago and that moment in time foretold of the end of an era of hope for us all.

That much I know to be true.

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10 responses to “A half-century ago there was a brief interlude of hope. Some of us remember that moment

  1. I was two when it happened so I really don’t have much of a take on it. Nevertheless, ever the cynic, I can’t help but think that had he had his four years he might not have been seen as so extraordinary. He just didn’t have the time to monumentally screw up.

  2. I was in 5th grade when it happened and I remember that they sent us all home early from school. When I walked into the house, my mother and a neighbor were standing in front of the tv weeping. I did not understand what was happening, but was frightened to see my mother and friend crying as if the world were falling apart. I was only 10 years old.

  3. Mom turns 75 today and I recently realized she was a twenty-five years young Mom of two at the time. She told me her story of the events when we talked on Monday. She said, “For the next two days we sat glued in front of the TV just like people did after 9/11.” That sentence gave me the most insight into what people felt at the time.

    • I think 9/11 was, in my experience, the only other event that had such a world ending impact. We were in the Cook Islands then and it was difficult to fully appreciate what was happening thousands of miles away.

  4. For me he was a monumental creep: if the world was saved from nuclear war it was down to the good sense of Krushchov.

  5. Having grown up surrounded by the mythos of Camelot, it never dawned on me to question how effective a politician he was until about 10 years ago when I finally realized just how short a time he was in office/public service. Since then, I’ve come to believe we have lionized him the same way we have Marilyn Monroe and James Dean – allowing what might have been to become what would have been. Then again, I was/am a huge Teddy Kennedy fan, so if Jack had been half the man his brother was, he might have fulfilled our wishes for him.

    • Dean, Marilyn and JFK. Yep, I thought the same and we’ll never know. As for Ted, yes he did stalwart work as a senator for many years and cannot be faulted. But, I still can’t escape thoughts about Chappaquidick (sp)

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