Monday, November 22, 2010

JFK and the End of Innocence

November 22nd is always a somber day, as I recall hearing the news 47 years ago that JFK had been killed in his 46th year.

Today I think not only of him and his family, mostly dead, too, now, but of myself and how the shock of that day changed my life. The innocence of my youth, with its trust that such an assassination could never happen, came to a sudden end. My graduate work at the University of Illinois seemed pointless. I developed an ulcer that year, helped along by the sudden death of my father three months after the Kennedy tragedy.

Thus began my initiation into violence and the ugly side of America along with personal, emotional turmoil and a confronation with the reality of death.

Thanksgiving that year was painful: what was I thankful for? A dazzling, charismatic young leader, adored around the world, had been shot down in his prime.

I have never fully recovered, even though I did not know Kennedy or even see him in person. He was everything I wanted to be: idealistic, bright, eloquent, classy.
The death of my father was expected; Kennedy's seemed impossible.

Everyone of my generation with whom I have shared such thoughts has had similar reactions. They agreed that America changed, and we changed--and not for the better. Life for us was different after Nov. 22, 1963, that day in Dallas that is forever burned into our memories.

May he and all the dead rest in peace.

1 comment:

Ned Kessler said...

Of course, I remember that time, too. I recall exactly where I was when I heard the news, as probably you do, too. I also recall spending the weekend transfixed in front of the TV watching the real life drama play out, seeing scenes that intellect told me were true, but emotion told me couldn’t be actually happening.

Our first child was a few weeks over nine months old then, and another vivid memory is of sitting with her on a rocking chair, feeding and burping her, and rubbing her back while rocking to help her go to sleep. I sat with new life on my shoulder watching what was this country’s new hope be put to rest. Like you, I thought of assassinations as being things only from the history books. It couldn’t actually have happened, we’d think or say. But it did, and the violence of the sixties went on from there.

I think of the times we are in today: mired in a war in Afghanistan, a war we cannot win in a part of the world completely different from ours. The original objective was to get bin Laden, now we’re fighting the Taliban. When we eventually get tired and go away, they’ll come back.

The objective of the World Trade Center disasters was to wreak economic havoc upon us. Have they done that?