Showing posts with label JFK. Show all posts
Showing posts with label JFK. Show all posts

Saturday, November 22, 2008

November 22nd

By Ted Burke

It seemed for years that we were caught in a loop of empty testimonials and evocations each time November 22nd happened upon the calendar page, an increasingly hallow chorus of platitudes and crumbling cliches centering around the promise of the late John F.Kennedy's administration and how that road to our destined Eden was bombed, blasted and dug up with his assassination. So much hope, but we trudge on, there was so much promise, but we carry on the work, the world has only become more insane, but we maintain faith in our hearts of our better instincts and work all the same towards that Paradise that is the American Dream.

We've been through these waves of self laceration, self-loathing, mumbled commitments to social justice, and we've trudged on instead, weighted with hostage crisis, nuclear brinkmanship, bi-polar stock markets, entrenched meanness regarding race and economic gain for the working class, our optimism stashed in a box, crammed in the back of a closet overstuffed with dashed hopes for a better existence.

Those of us in our fifties who embody the cocky retorts of a bright boy and the spite of the laziest who disguise their apathy with a pretense of cynicism roll our eyes when the fateful date comes again, the speeches and the hushed tones are read again, that our noddings of the head will suffice in place of expressed irritation less out of respect for the memory of John Kennedy and what he represents so much as maintaining a peaceful workplace. It's a sad fate to have one's internalized values become a source of venal aggravation. Irony, easy literary devices, earnest cliches become true; hoist by my own petard.

At the moment George W.Bush is giving a speech to an economic summit and it's the lowest of ironic effects that the President who presided over the evisceration of our economic system, our prestige as a presence internationally, and who launched an unjustified war should be lecturing anyone, at anytime, in any capacity about the right way to run a nation. So much hinges on the coming administration of Barack Obama--the liberal verities are revived, the multiple crisis are in place, there seems to be a consensus among many of us, even those of us who've surrendered to an extinct to an easy chair nihilism, that we can, as a country, face up to and face down the catastrophes that confront us. 2 million new jobs? Financial help for Detroit automakers with it in mind that they get their respective houses in order? A health care plan for every American? President Elect Obama has a full in-basket, perhaps the worst set of conditions an outgoing President has handed over to an incumbent at any time in our history. Yet Obama inspires that yearning to work with the rest of the nation toward solutions to our current states and the reemergence of a Greatness that can truly benefit the World. Time will tell, and sooner than anyone really suspects--history makes a lasting judgement much faster in our high velocity times.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Norman Mailer titled a 1963 essay collection The Presidential Papers, with it in mind to have the miscellaneous essays, asides, interviews, book reviews and poems serve as a set of metaphysical advisories for then President John F.Kennedy. Kennedy was assasinated the same year, however, and Mailer's book is a conspicous artifact of the hopes among true believers that more than Kennedy's body didn't die that fatal day.

Here we are again, in the early evening of November 22, 2005, hazily remembering and half-heartedly feeling bad about it being the 42nd anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It is one of those touchstone events with which we've come to mark our progress both as individuals with ideals ,and as democracy that attempts to overcome its worse habits and to ensure and protect freedom for all Americans. As usual, we come up short--I am constantly doing and saying things that run afoul of my professed liberalism on matters of civil rights and free speech, and as a country we come up short when we match ourselves against every grand themed speech given on patriotic holidays when our mandate from Heaven is declared, affirmed, praised. Coming away from these ridiculously steep points of comparison always lacking in ways one could be more "Christ like" or "Kennedyesque" and feeling horrible, sullen and cynical as a result, I have it in mind to ignore Kennedy's image, his body of work, his good deeds and grand speeches, his movie star looks, all those things that JFK supposedly meant to have America become had he lived long enough to work his reputed magic. It has become something like the worship of the dead, a yearning to mope and whine that our best nature and potential was stolen from us and now lies entombed in the dark sealed enclosure that contains the stilled embodiment of our last best chance to do good work.

It's whining, of course, and it comes across as a collective letting-ourselves-of-the-hook when we look around for who is responsible for the wrong turn History took. It's as if we have had ourselves driven from Eden after another, constantly cast out by ogres, terrorists, assassins, malcontents and psychopaths and insane dictators who have no desire to see the population of a great country re-assume command of their lives and extend our potential to- do- good- by- being -good have the effect of getting people off their knees in the worship of betrayed idealism and instead get engaged with their communities that still require the good graces we used to speak of. I am cranky at the moment and fairly disgusted with all the mewling melodies coming from the ain't-it-a-shame club. Once again, enough of this. Let's close the casket a last time and lower JFK into the ground and get on to doing just a little of those good works we've been wishing someone would inspire us to take on. We have to be our own heroes and move into a future determined to make it work.

The past is a lonely country because everyone who lives there is dead