Friday we remember the much-too short presidency of John Kennedy. Has it really been fifty years since he left us much too soon? Accolades have been coming in from all directions. And should. But we have a problem in this country of forgetting our history. Amnesia is rife. Maybe it has always been. Pause and think of the Kennedy years. He was hated by many people. In fact he was warned not to go to Texas. The atmosphere there was toxic. The newspapers in Dallas and other places were calling for his impeachment. The Pastor of the then-largest Baptist Church in that town denounced him as a traitor from his influential pulpit. He would not let people forget that Kennedy was a Roman Catholic. This was the setting of that terrible day in Dallas. But it was a mirror of much of our country. We have a selective memory. We forget the painful and dark side.
Behind the carefully choreographed facade was a President who was very ill, and who had serious problems with sex. His public persona as a family man did not stack up with what we now know. In a different age he would not have fared as well probably as Bill Clinton. Seymour Hersh’s book, The Dark Side of Camelot is worth reading. A reputable journalist—not a hack, wrote it.
All said, we forget that God always writes straight lines with crooked sticks. Maybe countries, too. This does not excuse irresponsibility or wrong-doing.
But we must remember that we live only in the present. Today. This week. This time in history. So—fifty years from now people will look back and remember another President. Black. Smart. He will be then called courageous for breaking the color line in the White House. They will write of how people of color the world over felt so good about America. Obama will be compared to Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King and Lincoln. Hopefully they will write that he left us with a legacy in which all our citizens were covered with health care. Will that memory still be selective? Probably. Little will be said about the birther fantasy. Few will remember the ugly whispers: “He just is not like us--he is a Muslim.” “He will destroy this country.” His real weaknesses, too will be mostly forgotten.
Now we forget most of the bad stuff of yesterday. We remember only that the myth of Camelot was real and right and true. We should not forget that terrible day when our hearts stopped and we watched the sad, sad drama acted out in Washington for three long days. And we should also remember the horrendous climate that made that awful day possible. Hated for his integration stand. Hated because of the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Hated because he dreamed big dreams for all our citizenry. Some just loved to hate.
Democracy is always messy. Our history surely tells us so. But when we look back this week on the short Kennedy presidency let us remember the whole story. The difficulty of trying to help this people live up to its best dreams and its values. And let us pledge ourselves that in this day and this time. We will never be yes people to this President nor any other. But we will try our best to make this climate today healthier not only for those that serve us—but for us all.
I keep remembering the story that comes from Philadelphia. As Benjamin Franklin emerged from Constitution Hall a a Hall a woman asked him, “What kind of a government are you giving us?” He replied, “A republic, Madam, if you can keep it.”
--roger lovette/ rogerlovette.blogspot.com