Thursday, November 21, 2013

JFK Assassination 50 Years Later -- My Memories of that Horrific Day

I have been depressed for about a week. Very unlike me. Then I figured it out.

I have been trying to "shove" the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination out of my mind with every ounce of my being ... but it keeps resurrecting itself like a bad nightmare that just won't go away.

It won't go away. It never has. I don't see how it ever will.

Thirteen years ago November 22nd began to have a happier association, when my grand niece Casey was born. Since then I have always been able to superscribe this one great joy over one of my childhood's greatest sorrows--but this year I can't because everywhere I look, online and off, JFK's life and death looms large. As it should. It happened fifty years ago tomorrow. In less than an hour's time, a nation changed.  

I was twelve when President Kennedy was killed. I was sick at home on the couch in Cle Elum when a news flash came on: President Kennedy has been hit by a bullet or bullets in Dallas, Texas. 

I was only half-listening to the TV when it happened. But for the next four days I was glued to the TV--we all were.

When Walter Cronkite came on a half hour or so after the news bulletin to report that our President had died, and took his glasses off, trying not to cry, I went into a kind of unbelieving shock. What?  Good guys don't die; they always survive gun shot wounds, no matter how grave. I'd grown up on westerns. 

For the next few days we tried to "do" Thanksgiving at my Aunt Marie's home in Seattle even as corteges and flag-draped coffins and a little boy named John-John and a little girl named Caroline said goodbye to their daddy, even as Jackie and Bobby  Kennedy did their best to "keep it together" despite their very personal losses.

I wrote a journal back then, trying to make sense of it all, trying to find some kind of 'happy ending' for this unbelievably sad story. Bobby Kennedy would marry Jackie, I decided. Then Mom told me that Bobby was married and had his own family and children. I didn't understand, then, why he couldn't have two families. I could tell he loved them.

I watched for five years as Uncle Bobby helped raise and inform Caroline and John Jr. alongside his own boisterous brood. Then, on June 5, 1968, Caroline and John Jr and ten (soon to be eleven) other Kennedy children lost Bobby to another assassin's bullet as he ran for President to pick up the torch his brother had carried before him. 

This was too much for me. This wasn't fair. This wasn't right. This was inhuman. This was ungodly. 

So... I've been trying to "keep it all together" all month, to move on, to say 'that was then and this is now'. 

Casey sees all this as ancient history, I'm sure. But I was just a year younger than she is now when this "history" happened to my heart, soul and brain-- and I have never been the same--for better and for worse.

The story still shocks and saddens me. I still (almost desperately) imagine a better outcome--I imagine the Kennedy brothers surviving their assassination attempts and a different trajectory altogether from the one our nation entered following those dark days. No Watergate. No Iran-Contra. No trickle down voodoo economics. 

When will I wake from this nightmare to find that so much of the past 50 years has been a bad dream, that most politicians haven't misbehaved (in the public interest and arena) as it appears they have (most of the time) since 1968?

I imagine a nation that cares about all of its citizens, not just the 1%.

I imagine we all do. 

What can we do about it?

We can vote to bring compassion, justice, fairness, and equanimity back into the political space. Statesmen used to serve us. Have they all been silenced or murdered?

No. Thankfully, no. So it isn't to late. It's just almost too late.

If we don't vote for the changes we still need, we'll keep getting the shaft we've been getting.

Don't give up. Don't ever give up. 

"Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."  JFK

"Some men see things as they are and say 'Why?' I dream things that never were and say 'Why Not?'" RFK

"The dream shall never die." EMK

Three rich men who could easily have afforded to sit on their rear ends their entire lives and done nothing. Instead, they gave their all.  
And we are better for it.


2 comments:

neer said...

Very heart-felt post Kris.

Kristine M Smith said...

Thank you, neer...