On November 22, I celebrated my 53rd birthday. Hold on, allow me to rephrase the preceding sentence. On November 22, I acknowledged my 53rd birthday. Like mine, a handful of birth dates are freighted with the burden of history or cultural tradition. December 25 (my son’s birthday), July 4, December 7 and September 11 come to mind. It seems there’s always a pall over the party if a tragedy is involved or a distraction if a holiday conflicts.
Forty years ago, John F. Kennedy was murdered and things starting changing in this country. President Bush says everything changed on Nine Eleven, and, by the way, get used to it, suckers. I think what he is implying is that the changes that began in 1963 are now complete, thank you very much, and we’re in charge and all of you can go back to being the very best consumers on the planet. I’m confident Bush speaks from an informed vantage point. When he says “everything” has changed, we should listen. But those changes started a long time ago, though forty years is nothing in the history of a nation. Sadly, I think, sense, intuit and suspicion that a legacy of evil connects Dallas and the Twin Towers. I can’t prove it, but I feel it in my gut. Maybe you do, too.
I was in a seventh grade classroom in a segregated Mississippi public school when the principal announced on the intercom that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. She paused and added, softly, that he did not survive. School was dismissed. We jumped in celebration that Mississippi’s arch enemy, that nigger loving John Kennedy was dead and we had the afternoon off. We had been raised to believe that integration would be a disaster for the white race, and Kennedy was the integrationist-in-chief. After winning the last battle of the Civil War (Ole Miss, 1962) Kennedy had installed that troublemaker Meredith as a student. Oh yes, we were happy he was dead. No more worry about integration and the wrenching changes it would bring, like eating next to coloreds in a restaurant!
I glanced behind me as I left the room with my cheering mates and saw my friend, Erin, crying softly. I couldn’t understand why. Genuinely perplexed, I walked back to her and inquired, Why are you crying? Aren’t you glad he’s dead? She looked at me with her dark Irish eyes flashing and said, “They killed him because he was a Catholic.” Erin was a Catholic and loved John Kennedy, but, of course, had kept that feeling to herself. Only then, did the enormity of the tragedy hit me, and I was ashamed I had succumbed to the mob mentality of the moment. I am still ashamed.
Erin was both wrong and right in her assessment. Kennedy was not murdered because he was a Catholic. But “they” did kill him. And who “they” were and are and what “they” represent and why “they” murdered Kennedy are entirely relevant to the current crisis.
Oil (and the money and power oil generates) is fueling the most sustained attack on our precious constitution since the Civil War. Our politics has become as polluted as our carbon smudged skies. Of course, Big Oil is not alone, it has powerful allies; the Banks, Wall Street and its main players (drug companies, hospitals for profit, prisons for profit, et al), and the biggest friend of all - the War Machine a/k/a the Military Industrial Complex.
If the Republicans continue to tighten their grip on the American body politic, I fear we will not recognize this country in another ten years.
I can barely remember the innocence of the small town I grew up in, an innocence shattered on November 22, 1963. As President Eisenhower so wisely warned in his farewell address to the country, if the military industrial complex is allowed to dominate American life, we will eventually lose our freedoms, our morality and, ironically, our security. Maybe we have a chance to save our democracy. It’s crunch time in the good ole U.S.A.
Suggested readings: Peter Dale Scott, “Deep Politics and the Death of
JFK” and Barr McClellen, “Blood, Money, and Power: How LBJ Killed JFK”
Copyright 2003, Dan Tyler www.dantyler.net
Dan Tyler is the author of the novel Music City Confidential.
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