Tuesday, November 22


It seems incomprehensible that 42 years have passed since that somber day -- November 22, 1963 -- when a young president was shot dead in Dallas as the limousine he and the First Lady rode in passed through Dealy Plaza and, fatefully, past the Texas School Book Depository building. There on the sixth floor a lone sniper, Lee Harvey Oswald, took dead aim at President John F. Kennedy and, with several pulls of the trigger, caused American history to take as sharp a detour as the driver of the blood-spattered presidential limousine took in heading futily to Parkland Memorial hospital. A nation changed forever that day, as did millions of lives; and the memory of that day remains palpable for this writer.

It mattered not your politics or the fact that Camelot was more hype than reality, or that the young president's first 1,000 days, for that matter, hadn't come close to fulfilling the promise of his eloquent Inaugural Address. For if JFK's short tenure in the White House was anything, it was the light of a torch held aloft by a new generation of Americans and of a vibrant spirit of optimism brightly rekindled. They were particularly exciting days for young people -- young people, like me, who had found in this boyishly handsome president the inspiration to become interested in history, politics, and current events, and to think that anything was possible in one's life, including seeing men walk on the surface of the moon.

That's why it's disappointing all these years later, and on what should be a poignantly remembered anniversary of a dreadful day, to find the top story among my fellow bloggers (see Memeorandum) the mysterious "X" that appeared across Vice President Dick Cheney's face on CNN yesterday. To be sure, it's a trivial, half-baked conspiracy theory that pales against what ensued in the wake of John F. Kennedy's assassination and the publication of the Warren Commission Report that ushered in, in my lifetime anyway, the first real sense that the federal government doesn't always shoot straight with "we the people."

I've visited, in my adult life, John Fitzgerald Kennedy's gravesite in Arlington National Cemetary and the memorial in Dealy Plaza commemorating the day in November when his life was snuffed out and the promise of his public service extinguished. They form vivid memories of the history that have been a part of my lifetime. And those gruesome images from the Zapruder film remain etched in my memory, just as does the teary-eyed, shocked mien of CBS' Walter Cronkite when he made the grim announcement to the nation.

Wherever your place in the political spectrum of the blogosphere, kindly have a place in your heart and a prayer in your thoughts for the 35th President of the United States today and for his surviving daughter, Caroline, who must feel terribly alone today with her father, mother, sister and brothers all having passed from this earth.

In her collection of poems in "The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis" (published by Hyperion, New York), Caroline includes a poem authored by her mother, entitled "Meanwhile In Massachusetts." Jacqueline Kennedy wrote lovingly of her first husband:

He breathed in the tang of the New England fall
And back in his mind he pictured it all,
The burnished New England countryside
Names that a patriot says with pride
Concord and Lexington, Bunker Hill
Plymouth and Falmouth and Marstons Mill
Withthrop and Salem, Lowell, Revere
Quincy and Cambridge, Louisburg Square.
This was his heritage -- this his share
Of dreams that a young man harks in the air.
The past reached out and tracked him now
He would heed that touch; he didn't know how.
Part he must serve, a part he must lead
Both were his calling, both were his need.

FOLLOW-UP: Bulldogpundit expresses well the same reaction I have to the "X" silliness.

FOLLOW-UP II: The Boston Globe published this editorial two years ago commemorating what was then the 40th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's death at the hands of Lee Harvey Oswald.

FOLLOW-UP III: I encourage readers of ACSOL two read the eulogy for President Kennedy delivered by the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, Mike Mansfield. It's among the most beautifully-penned eulogies in our nation's history and limns a touching moment in the First Lady's dignified grief for a husband lost.

FOLLOW-UP IV: This was John F. Kennedy's favorite poem.

FOLLOW-UP V: Joel Achenbach has an interesting column today in the Washington Post in which he opens with the following: "The Single Conspiracy Theory doesn't wash." That, of course, is a seemingly skeptical shot at the conclusion of the Warren Commission that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin in the killing of the 35th President of the United States. But turns out Achenback is just pulling his readers' collective legs, for eventually he states: "For the record, I am among those crazy, goggle-eyed knuckleheads who think that Oswald shot Kennedy."

FOLLOW-UP VI: Karen Ayres has written this week in The Dallas Morning News (free registration required) of a charity event that stirred memories of a fallen president. Included in her column is a recollection of the attending physician who tried desperately to save the president's life and two days later the life of the assassin who killed him.