Tuesday, November 16, 2010

End Of Innocence ...


"I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple blossoms fill the air---
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring comes back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath---
It may be I shall pass him still
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows 'twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear... 
But I've a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town, 
When Spring trips north again this year,  
And I to my pledged word am true, 
I shall not fail that rendezvous." --Alan Seeger 1888-1916

Unpredictable winds of change were swirling that sunny November day in 1963 as America's most glimmering flame of promise and hope was suddenly and unexpectedly extinguished ... sounds of gunshots echoed across Dealey Plaza, then round the world sending waves of shock and sorrow throughout the hearts of a stunned nation ... those who witnessed the terrible events of that day will never forget the moment they heard the unthinkable ... "President Kennedy is dead!" ... words forever seared into our national consciousness ... President John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963) was killed by an assassin's bullet as his motorcade wound through the streets of Dallas, Texas - he had barely completed his first one thousand days in office ... our noble hero was gone ... our hope became uncertainty ... our joy turned to sadness and grief ... our hearts forever broken ... it was the end of innocence.

John Kennedy was the youngest man ever elected President of the United States ... he was also the youngest to die ... of Irish descent, he was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, May 29, 1917 ... after graduating from Harvard in 1940, he entered the U.S. Navy ... in 1943, while commanding a PT boat (PT-109) in the Pacific Theater during World War II, his boat was rammed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer ... Kennedy, despite grave injuries, led the survivors through perilous waters to safety ... for his bravery, he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal.

Back from the war, John Kennedy became a Democratic Congressman from the Boston area, advancing in 1953 to the Senate ... he married Jacqueline Lee Bouvier on September 12, 1953 ... in 1955, while recuperating from back surgery, he wrote Profiles in Courage, which won the Pulitzer Prize in history ... in 1956, Kennedy nearly gained the Democratic nomination for Vice President, and four years later was a first-ballot nominee for President, winning by a narrow margin in the popular vote, Kennedy was the first Roman Catholic to become President of the United States.

Kennedy's Inaugural Address offered this memorable injunction -- "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country" -- as President, he took vigorous action in the cause of equal rights, calling for new civil rights legislation ... his vision of America extended to the quality of the national culture and the central role of the arts in a vital society ... he wished America to resume it's old mission as the first nation dedicated to the revolution of human rights ... with the Alliance for Progress and the Peace Corps, he brought American idealism to the aid of developing nations ... before his untimely death, he laid plans for a massive assault on persisting pockets of privation and poverty.

As with any great leader, John Kennedy also had flaws and failures ... his most glaring occurring in April 1961 ... known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Kennedy permitted a group of armed and trained Cuban exiles to invade their homeland in an attempt to overthrow the regime of Fidel Castro ... this event became a disaster and an embarrassment for the young President ... soon thereafter, the Soviet Union renewed it's campaign against West Berlin ... however, Kennedy also displayed unfaltering creativity, courage and resolve, and decisively responded to the Soviets by reinforcing the Berlin garrison, and increased American military strength, including new efforts in outer space ... confronted by this reaction, Moscow, after the erection of the Berlin Wall, relaxed it's pressure in central Europe.

President Kennedy's most shining hour came in October 1962 ... discovered by air reconnaissance, the Russians were seeking to install nuclear missiles in Cuba just 90 miles from the coast of Florida ... enforced by a naval blockade, Kennedy imposed a quarantine on all offensive weapons bound for Cuba ... while the world trembled on the brink of nuclear war, the Soviets, under the direction of Nikita Khrushchev, backed down and agreed to take the missiles away, total global annihilation of all humankind had been averted ... Kennedy then contended that both sides had a vital interest in stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons and slowing the arms race - a contention which led to the test ban treaty of 1963 ... the months that followed the Cuban Missile Crisis showed significant progress toward his goal of "a world of law and free choice, banishing the world of war and coercion" ... his administration saw the beginning of new hope for both equal rights of Americans and the peace of the entire world, but dark days lurked just beyond the horizon.

I will always remember the moment when Walter Cronkite "the most trusted man in America" announced that President Kennedy had been shot while in Dallas, Texas ... then minutes later, Cronkite, his familiar voice breaking, delivered the dreadful news to the anxious throngs that our President was dead ... the entire country languished in stunned silence and disbelief ... the President of the United States of America ... the most powerful nation on earth ... the leader of the free world ... gunned down in broad daylight ... like an animal ... in the middle of a public street before the gaping eyes of the entire world.

During the ensuing days, as America sat in a state of darkness and mourning, and as our slain prince was carried to his final resting place, many images and impressions were indelibly etched into my young psyche ... images of the President being struck by the assassin's bullets ... Jacqueline climbing onto the trunk of the presidential limousine in an effort to retrieve bits and pieces of her husband's skull which had been blown away by the gunshot ... her pink dress drenched with his blood from her attempts to protect him from further harm and conceal his grave injuries ... Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson being hurriedly sworn in as thirty-sixth President of the United States while standing beside Jacqueline Kennedy aboard Air Force One - which also contained her husband's body ... Jack Ruby gunning down Kennedy's alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV as he was being led from Dallas Police Headquarters en route to the county jail ... and a host of others.

Finally, the seemingly endless days involving the pageantry surrounding the fallen President's state funeral, which was patterned after that of Abraham Lincoln, came to a close ... the entire procession from the White House, to the Capitol, to St. Matthew's Cathedral, to Arlington National Cemetery was six miles ... an estimated one million people lined the route ... diplomats and heads of state from around the globe were in attendance, along with Kennedy's family members and close friends, all of whom stood with blank and empty expressions on their haggard faces ... the clopping of the horses' hooves striking the pavement as they proudly drew the caisson bearing the President's bier, haunting cries of bagpipes wailing in the distance and the steady cadence of muffled drum rolls which accompanied the cortege were particularly poignant and memorable ... perhaps the most heartrending moment took place on the steps outside St. Matthew's Cathedral as Jackie leaned over and whispered to little John-John ... who then smart and crisp ... proudly saluted his father's departing coffin ... the President was finally laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, and at the end of the burial service, a soldier handed Jacqueline a lighted taper with which she lit the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame ... the presidential memorial was inspired by the eternal flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, which she and her husband had seen during a visit to France in 1961, and/or took inspiration from The Candle in the Wind of Arthurian legend and the Broadway play "Camelot."

Scarce are befitting words as to this tragic and unspeakable act that graved a deep and painful scar on the furrowed brow of American history ... it matters not whether you agreed with Kennedy's political philosophies or religious beliefs ... it matters not whether you personally liked the man or the Kennedy family ... John Fitzgerald Kennedy was first and foremost a human being ... no human being deserves to be openly ambushed and slaughtered in such an inhuman manner ... John Kennedy, along with his brother Robert Francis (Bobby) Kennedy (1925-1968), who was also killed by an assassin's bullet on June 5, 1968 while campaigning for the Democratic nomination for President, both gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country ... it matters not whether you loved them or hated them, both deserve the utmost in honor and respect ... I often wonder what great accomplishments could have been made had Joseph and Rose's ennoble son - Jackie's beloved husband - Arabella, Caroline, John Jr. and Patrick's dear father - and America's most shining ray of hope and promise for a brighter future had not been swiftly robbed of his life ... other equally abominable and immoral acts have taken place since the disgraceful, public execution of our young prince - sadly, these acts are now often looked upon as being commonplace ... but the killing of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the beginning of the end of innocence.

"He didn't even have the satisfaction of being killed for civil rights .... it had to be some silly little Communist" --Jacqueline Kennedy, on hearing that a leftist had been arrested for her husband's murder.

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven:

I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it,
nor anything taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before Him --Ecclesiastes



*Biographical information suplied by the U.S. National Archives --sja Share/Bookmark

27 comments:

TheSouthernJackAss said...

November 22, 2009 will mark the 46th. anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy ... this post was written in honor of that great man ... I believe it deserves to be published a few days early ...

BOB said...

Well said!

One thing that you have taught me is not to judge a book by its cover ... not as you might think, but in your stories ... your talents uniquely define you and I'm proud to call you friend!

I too think he was a great man!

Hard to believe that it's been that long!

TheSouthernJackAss said...

A friend indeed! ...

nothingprofound said...

I was a sophomore in college when the news of JFK's assassination reached me on campus. It's hard to describe the euphoria which existed among the idealistic young people of my generation when Kennedy ran for and won the presidency. It seemed a whole new bright world was starting to open before their eyes. Two years later the curtain dropped down and all that hope turned as rapidly to disillusionment and despair.

BOB said...

I think I prefer using popups for comments but I wonder how many folks don't allow popups on their computers ... maybe we should conduct a poll and find out

sja said...

I set my browsers to block pop-up windows, but it has no affect on my comments box either way ... I prefer using the pop-ups rather than the other formats because it permits a reader to leave comments relative any/all posts without leaving the main page ...

askcherlock said...

This is a beautifully written article. Those of us from that era, to a person, can tell you exactly where we were and what we were doing when the news came in that The President had been shot. My parents actually went into mourning, having lost someone they considered a leader in our family of man. I still find it hard to believe it has been so long. Great people leave that kind of impact.

sja said...

Askcherlock, thank you so much for reading ... indeed those were some of America's darkest days ...

Snarky Basterd said...

I'll say this: Obama ain't no Jack Kennedy.

BTW: You recently followed Feed Your ADHD. I wanted to let you know that I've moved. Stop by for a visit when you can.

sja said...

Snarky, you're right ... there most likely won't be another like JFK ... and I'll check out your new site, thanks ...

Leeuna said...

JFK was one of a kind and sadly there will never be another like him. The same can be said for Walter Cronkite. I remember this dark day too. I was in second grade and too young to really understand the real significiance of it at the time. I remember the sadness and fear in the eyes of the grown ups. Great post. Thanks for writing it.

Le-Chat said...

I was only a few months old when this happened and on top I live in a tiny country, it's somewhat narrow-minded, though with relatively much freedom, and not much ever happens here, in short it's (or rather was) innocent: Holland. I thought I'd never really completely grasp what this murder did in the minds of those who remember it consciously. I also thought my small country would be innocent forever. Until 8 years a go for the first time a politician was brutally murdered, 5years ago a movie maker. Both were very intelligent men of high integrity, but sadly misjudged for their bold ideas. The politician was killed by an animal rights activist, the movie man by an extremist muslem. I now understand a bit of the shock America must have felt back then. But more: there is now not one innocent place left in the world...

sja said...

Leeuna, you're right, Walter Cronkite was one-of-a-kind ... when he ended the news with "and that's the way it is" ... that is the way it was ... I believe he always told the truth ... sadly, honesty has gone right out the door with innocence ... they just don't make them like John Kennedy or Walter Cronkite anymore ... thank you for reading, please visit often ...

sja said...

Le-Chat, I don't think there is anyplace left on earth that is immune to such acts as the JFK assassination and countless other heinous atrocities ... hate and terrorism has become commonplace amongst all peoples ... but in the end, evil will not prevail over good ... thank you for the comment ... visit often ...

sja said...

Previous comments to this post are from last year(2009), please disregard if untimely, incorrect or irrelevant ...

BOB said...

hi! I didn't realize that comments were still open ... it was a shocking time ... folks couldn't understand what was happening .... what had happened ... still can't!

sja said...

Yes Bob, comments are always open and welcome ... I was merely letting folks know why last years comments are still appearing ... time flies!

Patti Hanan said...

I grew up in the Washington, D.C. area. I will never forget that day and the week that ensued. My family stood in line with thousands of others in a lightly falling snow through the night to pay our respects at his casket. I will never forget how silent the line was. Everyone was in mourning.

BOB said...

Seeing in essence, two murders live in and in a short period of time ... hard to assimilate ... I was in Germany shortly thereafter ... their my German doesn't permit exact translation but I remember thinking that it hit probably them harder than us ... they were so nervous, even after the fact ... couldn't sleep.

Years later, I drove a similar route from downtown ... to Parkland with symptoms of a heart attack ... it came on quickly that afternoon and nobody knew, not even Carol. As they wheeled me in, I thought of those events, the horror of it all ... as I later lay in bed, with sensors attached, thought too, that I'd never have the chance to say goodbye.
6 hours and several tests later, I was released ... a attack for sure, but anxiety not heart ... coffee and Anacin.

A doughnut maybe ... but one filled with courage, for sure.

BOB said...

End of innocence ... for some ... many mysteries surrounding these events still remain unsolved ... and perhaps that will always be. Should all the questions ever be truly answered so that the mysteries can be resolved and closure truly had, it would most likely bring with it the end of innocence for others as well.

Karen said...

Noticed you are a follower of mine on blogfrog, so decided to check out your site. Excellent post about JFK. I was only 10 when he was assassinated, but I remember the saddness in our country.
Also, I wanted to thank you for the video "That's My King". If Jesus can be described, that's a pretty good start.
blessings on your day!

BOB said...

Some folks is complex ... JFK was a complex man ... more than most, methinks.

I'm old school ... I like speeches what is written by them what gives 'em ... Franklin, Washington, Henry, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Jay Leno.

You sir, are to be congratulated ... for your selection of the American University and Secret Society speeches ... JFK is but an airport to some, a doughnut to others. Indeed he was a lot of things ... the good, the bad, and the ugly ... but he was a man of substance and courage ... his words are those of a patriot who wore the mantle well.

Folks what take the time to read them speeches will find it time well spent!

sja said...

Yes Karen "That's My King!" pretty much says it all for me too ... thank you for stopping by!

sja said...

Thank you Patti Hanan!

sja said...

Bob, the character and attitude of JFK displayed throughout those speeches most likely brought about his demise ... just an opinion!

BOB said...

I'll admit, he did seem to have a bit of attitude in them speeches ... some folks might get the feeling that he was sending a mess to somebody. Your opinion isn't a singular one ...

BOB said...

I know folks is busy this time of year and all ... but as "Ye Olde Barbershop" has less traffic than the donkey's stall ... let me drop a hint as to what I want for Christmas.

Forget the hint ... what I want for Christmas is for us to draw names ... three each.

Let's each pick out three relatives. Which ones?

That's easy ... cousins, nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters, ... aunts, uncles ... great ones too.

That is to say ... three from that group with whom you've kinda lost touch, maybe even almost forgotten.

For some ... that means folks they haven't seen, heard from, or thought about in a year or so ... for others, perhaps much longer.

The reasons are unimportant ... my guess is we can all make such a list ... one that includes more than three.

This is different from most other name drawings ... case you haven't guessed, we just drawed our own names. of course, that's just the first part ... there's the gettin' of the gifts and giving 'em too!

For some, the hardest part will be locating them ... current phone numbers and addresses ... for others it will be inertia, sometimes pride or embarrassment ... it's amazing how heavy that little phone can be ... how hard it can be to pick up.

Two gifts are demanded ... first is that we contact them, let them know the obvious ... that we're thinking of them, and that we care.

You in ... or you out?

The second will be easy for some, hard for others ... bringing each other up to date ... exchanging photographs and making definitive arrangements to stay in closer touch ... so that we can take them off that danged list!

The rest is up to you ... visits are highly recommended ... family reunions too.

You have me personal, money back guarantee that what you receive in return will be greater than what you give! Never mind about the difficulty ... the harder it is, the greater the gift ... it's written in the Book ...

My motives are selfish ... I want you to visit "Ye Olde Barbershop's" General Discussion Area ... and let us know what you think of this drawing names idea ... not a requirement, but it is what I what for Christmas!

Well, that or money!

If you start now, you'll have to work on your list of old friends too ...