Saturday, November 23, 2013

If They Can Get Away With This….

(The “I’ll Know What I Want” series will resume next week.)

In 1963 my mother was working as a bookkeeper for a real estate company in Fort Worth. Their office was on River Oaks Boulevard and she saw President Kennedy’s motorcade on its way back to Carswell Air Force Base. From there they made the short flight to Love Field in Dallas. JFK, Jackie, Texas Governor John Connally and his wife got in their limousine and with the top down, drove into the city.

Shortly after lunch, our elementary school principal came on the intercom and told us that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. Classes were dismissed and we could go home. It was a beautiful day in Texas and I walked the mile and half to my house. I could have taken the bus, but preferred to walk. On that day, I walked home alone. And when I got home, I was alone. An only child, both parents working and I old enough to stay by myself. I turned on the television and Walter Cronkite told me that the President was dead. My mother called and said that she was on her way home. Dad was still on the road and would not get home until the weekend.

My folks, all of my folks, were Democrats. Back in those days, most working class people in Texas were Democrats. I think I had one great-aunt who had married into some money and another uncle who worked for an oil company. They were Republicans. Otherwise, all Democrats. Even though JFK was a Yankee and a Catholic, at least he was not a Republican. So he was our guy. The fact that he was a WWII combat veteran got him extra points with my Dad who had also fought in The War.

When Lyndon Johnson, a Texan, was sworn in as President I remember my mother commenting that it would probably be good for Texas but bad for the nation. And when dad finally got home, he speculated that Johnson was probably in on the assassination. My dad was one of the original conspiracy theorists. He could not stand Johnson and in the following years as the war in Vietnam escalated, he would say that Kennedy would not have let this happen. So when Oliver Stone’s movie JFK came out, it was like déjà vu all over again for me.

No one really knows what would have happened had Kennedy served out his term. I think it’s likely that he would have been re-elected. But, I’ve always figured that Vietnam would have turned out just about the same. I tend to think forces far above and beyond the President or even Oliver Stone’s military-industrial complex are at work when it comes to war. I’m guessing that Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy would still have been killed. Nixon would have gotten elected. Watergate would have happened. Oil would still play a major role in world events and the Soviet Union would have collapsed one way or the other.

But, I do think that the Kennedy assassination made the nation and certainly my generation less optimistic and more uncertain. It left behind a false dream of “what was” or “what might have been”. A dream that reality could never measure up to. For some it became an excuse and for others a warning: If “They” can get away with this “They” can get away with anything. And fifty years later, those words still echo.

I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the gods they made
I shouted out,
Who killed the Kennedys?
When after all
It was you and me.

-“Sympathy for The Devil”, The Rolling Stones
Songwriters: Mick Jagger & Keith Richards

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