Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fifty Years Ago

We were taught that the coming of the Kennedy administration was that of a new generation, a new way of looking at the world, and understanding differently history that was now cosigned to the ash heap. It was a new beginning, and despite the death of JFK we would go on to remake the world with a new face. And I was only six years old when John Kennedy was killed! It was quite a lot for me to take in.

But take it I did. It was all one world now, we were the greatest in that world, however, so we Americans were to keep the baton and see to it that the world didn't fuck things up. Apparently, that was our job.

JFK, in his inaugural address to this new world, let every person listening know; the United States would see to it that if they made a mess, we would clean it up. And that communism was another economic system, that if it would only join hands with Americanism, other worldly wonders, like peace and scientific advancement, and all the other good things governments could provide were only a handshake away. Collective cooperation was the secret to keeping peace between free and unfree worlds. He promoted freedom, as that was his duty as president. But he gave a nod and a wink to those who enslaved their people.

But what I wanted to get to was something, the ONLY thing most people remember from the speech in 1961. "And so my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you-ask what you can do for country".

Growing up and hearing those words made me kind of proud. Of what, I was sure that it was to be an American, to be selfless, and giving to the world. Growing up results (thankfully) in being grown up. And so many years ago, I read those words, tossed them around in my salad bowl of a head, now filled with newer ideas based on timeless philosophies, and wondered what the hell was he talking about. Don't ask anything of your country, but be sure to ask her what you can do for her. I mean, whaaaaa?

In the old years, we were never allowed to criticize JFK. OK. He was assassinated, a martyr, and then, of course a saint. Time usually takes most saints down enough notches so that we can examine just why we got talked into the saint thing anyway. And so it was with John Kennedy. After his fall from grace, most of us would never canonize a politician again (this is what is happening with President Obama and his ouster from his brief fling with sainthood).

Today, we who have tv will see JFK and those words repeated more than the thousand days he spent in office. And I will still need someone to explain them to me.


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