No time for something new. This is from 2009 and will have to do:
It means only one thing to those of us of a certain age. It was the day of days, the event of our national lives. That it no longer is the focus of every succeeding November 22 tells us that one day even September 11 will pass without substantial notice. Yet whether cable television devotes every moment to reliving a national nightmare, its importance remains the same and, as Mad Men showed so well a few weeks back, any recollection of that day can trigger many floods, even among those who, unlike some of us, were very, very young that day.
Yes, I was called up short when Mad men’s creator, Matt Weiner, mentioned that not everyone knows that Oswald was murdered only a few days after the President was killed, since there is no American who was over five years old at the time who doesn’t remember that and the sense, at that very minute, that we had spun completely out of control exactly as Mad Men reminded us.
And, yes, Mad Men was also right in the sense that the world just ended that day and began again, with different values, different history, and different rules. The guilt and sadness over the death of our young President resulted, it is true, in the seminal legislation of our time, the Civil and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965, respectively, and medicaid and medicare also in 1965. But the spirit of the era was gone and gone, it seemed, forever.
Ask not what your country can do for you: ask what you can do for your country.
That sense of obligation to our fellow citizens, the articulation of the underpinning of Roosevelt’s New Deal but now in the hands of
a new generation of Americans — born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world
President Kennedy’s death marked the end of an era, not the beginning he had promised us and his hopeful ideals for the country were replaced, first, by the war in Vietnam, followed by the war on the Great Society and then of the New Deal itself. The election of President Obama is the first thing that has happened since then which provides even a hint that we can get back on the path President Kennedy set for us.
But as much as Matt Weiner offered a reminder of how many people have no recollection of November 22, 1963, a diary on Daily Kos the other day shows that the path to darkness remains before us as well. We live in a time when a person with a Jewish sounding last name who blogs about the limits of Sarah Palin’s appeal receives an email about “Why People Like to Stuff People Like You into Ovens.” This is the combustible atmosphere that existed in 1963. Deny that at your own peril.
The diarist advised that we not fear the people who are out there—the “crazies” as Regina Spektor calls them—and that advice is worth trying to heed, but it will not be easy.
Over and over the reminders take over this space.
We are living in a time when a doctor providing abortions is murdered and people cheer or try to justify it.
We are living in a time when elected officials can appear on Meet the Press and justify threats of violence and even the overthrow of our government and are not hooted into an apology or oblivion.
We live in a time when a man proudly brags about the gun he brought to a rally where the President of the United States was speaking and yet this incident gets less coverage than whether some guy tried to hoodwink cable tv (big woop) by claiming his boy was in a balloon.
We live in a time when people are “praying” for the President of the United States hoping for his death.
We live among hate.
Hate cost us a president and almost two generations of progress. It is countenanced today by people who should know better and there appear to be nobody or very few in the Republican Party willing to speak out against it, the way the otherwise racist William F. Buckley did against the John Birch Society
or even Sen Prescott Bush spoke out against, tepidly, the “methods” used by Senator Joseph McCarthy in his anti-Communist crusades.
Part of this day, as every November 22 since 1963, will be spent mourning our late President, but the day should also be dedicated to never allowing this hatred to change our world again.