It’s a funny thing about parents. They love to remind you of things which may have interested you from your childhood. Mine reminded me this weekend of my passion when I was a kid, and my passion throughout my life. Those of you who know me or have followed me for a while know that, actually, I have two: History and Political Science.
Since the 1960 election, I have loved following political campaigns and elections. I have stayed up into the wee hours of the morning waiting with the journalists for the key to primaries and elections to see them finally break for my candidate or the other guy. And this started with that special campaign in 1960.
So, anyway, my mom gave me a reprint of the November 23, 1963 edition of the New York Daily News, which was included this past Saturday as a commemorative of that horrible day in our history. I certainly poured over that paper, reliving the stories which were trapped deep in my mind, and while doing so, I noticed some things which you never see anymore, ever, in a paper or in any other media.
In 1963, terms like “Negroes”, “Christmas”, “cigaret”; ads for cigarettes, liquor, porn movies and “exotic” dance; and names like Newman. Woodward, Wayne, Simmons, Signoret, and so many others, abounded toward the back end of the paper. Much of this is unheard of now, especially so in our politically correct world. After all, a person today would be offended because someone said “Negro” or “Merry Christmas”, wouldn’t they?
It’s really sad that we are afraid of terms which were so commonplace 50 years ago or that we like to believe we could have stopped smoking or drinking by not advertising them in a paper. Who really was being naive?
While I recognize that our society has evolved over the years, it’s a shame we really haven’t grown up. We are stunted in our development because we want to turn a blind eye on our history, especially since we have suffered so much national trauma since November 22, 1963. Folks, this was the day we lost our innocence and we will never recover it. By denying our past, we are damaging our future.
Kennedy’s assassination was the first in a series of national pain suffered by all of us born after WWII. Vietnam, the MLK and RFK assassinations highlighted the rest of the 60s, the Watergate scandals, gas lines, inflated interest rates and the Iran Hostage Crisis ruled the 70s, the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the Challenger disaster, Iran-Contra and the stock market crash of October, 1987 augmented the negatives of the 80s, and countless negative issues since then have dominated our country and our world.
Certainly, to say “If Kennedy were alive today…” is preposterous. He would be, after all, approaching his 97th birthday in May. But it’s too bad his ideals seemed to have died with him. Our country is worse off because he died much too soon.
Perhaps, we need to take that trip down memory lane once in a while so we can see where we came from and where we are, so we can get a better sense of where we are going. Then, maybe we can take those lessons and apply them to our lives, both personally and nationally. It really can’t hurt more than what hodgepodge we concocted up to now.
And then, the lessons of the past brought to us now, at this time, will serve as a reminder that some of us did well before us, and some of us can make it better with good, old-fashioned common sense. That is really the Kennedy legacy.
And then we too, can leave this place in better shape, with a better goal than how we found it.