John Fitzgerald Kennedy was murdered 50 years ago tomorrow. He is looked upon as being a President of distinction and significance even though he served just 1,036 days in office. His death has had a resonance in this country, because he is viewed upon as being struck down in the prime of his life.
Young people related very well with this man. His Presidency was viewed upon as a new era in this country and upon his death we went from an inspirational leader backwards to a hard man, and some would even say a crass man, in Lyndon Johnson who stole hope and ushered in years of fear, control and paranoia that still grip the Presidential office to this day. Six revolutionary seconds in Dallas changed the world forever.
John Kennedy died 966 days before I was born, but he has had a significant impact on my generation -- Generation X. You see we were born into a world of shock. Twenty years after the Greatest World War. Born into a world that could now destroy humankind in hours through the use of Atomic weaponry. We were born amongst the tumult and surrounded by the mayhem of great and significant people being murdered, because "they didn't think right." Think about Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King being murdered, just like JFK, in the prime of their lives. Think about the lost contributions. Think about how they weren't able to put their own stamp on their own works. Think about what we missed out on.
The public didn't see the Zapruder film until 1975. We see any and every form of video of every situation in life these days. The world now changes so rapidly every day. Many say that the United States lost its innocence after that day in Dallas. I think what they mean to say is that the people lost their naivete after that event and the subsequent events that followed, including the murders, Vietnam, the 1968 Chicago Democrat Convention, and Nixon's Presidency ending in Watergate.
Kennedy wasn't stuck in the old conventions. He wanted to move the country forward. I can't get into all of the non-conventional stances that he took without introducing the controversial subjects surrounding his assassination. No! I do not think that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, if he even fired a shot. Kennedy had made many enemies by standing up to and against the establishment of the time. His assassination brought the establishment back into absolute power and no one has stood against accepted conventions, to the degree that Kennedy did, since that time.
As I wrote nearly five years ago in The Hottest Places in Hell - December 30, 2008:
I watched a documentary about President John F. Kennedy this week. The man was an enigma. He wasn't stuck within a political party mindset. I truly believe that he wanted to represent all of the people and if that meant making controversial decisions, then so be it. That is most assuredly what got him killed. But, he did not live a life in fear.
JFK was a leader, who never stuck his finger in the air to see which way the wind was blowing. He also didn't play the blame game. He was a visionary with a mind set towards accomplishing goals. He realized and communicated time and time again, through words and actions, that those who do not take a stand in life are relegated to a life of insignificance. He road tall and proud on that fateful day in Dallas, because he believed in his cause.
From the JFK Library online: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Historical+Resources/Archives/Reference+Desk/Dante+Quote.htm
One of President Kennedy's favorite quotations was based upon an interpretation of Dante's Inferno. As Robert Kennedy explained in 1964, "President Kennedy's favorite quote was really from Dante, 'The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.'" This supposed quotation is not actually in Dante's work, but is based upon a similiar one. In the Inferno, Dante and his guide Virgil, on their way to Hell, pass by a group of dead souls outside the entrance to Hell. These individuals, when alive, remained neutral at a time of great moral decision. Virgil explains to Dante that these souls cannot enter either Heaven or Hell because they did not choose one side or another. They are therefore worse than the greatest sinners in Hell because they are repugnant to both God and Satan alike, and have been left to mourn their fate as insignificant beings neither hailed nor cursed in life or death, endlessly travailing below Heaven but outside of Hell. This scene occurs in the third canto of the Inferno.
In this era of Tumult, does this fit you? For all who espouse themselves to be followers of the Kennedy Ideal, how do you defend your inaction?
There is hope. Today is a new day. You can shed your neutrality today and strive for a life of significance. Ambivalence won't change anything. Contributing to our community can change everything!!!
When I think of Kennedy, I always think about the speech below. This is the John Kennedy that represents me.