John F. Kennedy was a forward thinking leader, who believed in a simple principle that government’s purpose was to do things for the greater good of its people. He was a man of vision who once said, “We chose to go to the moon and do other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard”. Kennedy was eloquent and charming, yet ruthless and determined, which may have been his demise. It is my view on November 22, 1963, fifty years ago, America’s best hope died and it was “The Day Innocence Died” .
Kennedy had the courage stand up to the mighty powers to save the world, bringing it back from the brink of destruction during the Cuban missile crisis. He was trying to pull the troops out of Vietnam, which had it happened, fifty-six thousand Americans troops killed and the many more wounded, would not have happened. Nor the suffering and devastation caused to the families of those Americans.
Kennedy had to deal with issues of the cold war and fight the hawks who wanted it to remain under the guise of communism. He was about to break up the CIA and remove Hoover as FBI Director; more significantly he planned to remove Johnson from the 1964 ticket. This man stood up to the powerful forces within the government with such extreme right wing thinking that was like characters of a horror movie.
Then there was the issue of race and Jim Crow that was more prevalent than at anytime since the Civil War. He took it on with proposing aggressive legislative moves to address equality for those American citizens designated to second class citizenship within the most powerful nation in the world. Not to mention, his struggles with the backward and segregationist called Dixie-crates of the south, who were so ingrained in opposition to integration that you would have thought they were Klan members and many were cardholders.
In the interest of fairness, I must say with regard to race; he had no choice because of television. Actually, the race problem in America at the time was worse than the apartheid system in South Africa. Television brought the horrific coverage of Bull Connor putting dogs on peaceful protester down south on American streets into living rooms across the country nightly on the evening news, which was also broadcast around the world. This was a tumultuous year!
There was the March on Washington for jobs and freedom. There were also the actions of segregationists like George Wallace who stood in the doorway of an Alabama university to deny blacks, or colors as they were called then, access to higher education. Let’s not forget segregation at all levels of education and housing discrimination.
This was the year that Medar Evers was assassinated and on the very night of a speech given by Kennedy on the topic of race. In Birmingham, Alabama four innocent little black girl were killed in a church by a bomb planted by a racist. Dr. King was arrest and locked up in a Birmingham jail for his work in trying to achieve equality. There was Bloody Sunday a day where peaceful marchers were stampeded as they tried to cross a bridge into Selma, Alabama. These are just a few issues but at the time segregation was the law of the land.
President Kennedy embodied a vision of hope for America that spoke loudly to the heart of a man, as evidence by this remark “Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.” Translation; “leaders are not made they are born”. The point here is each of us is born with a purpose, and that is to die. However, a more significant purpose is what it is that do while we live. Could it be that he was born to die so that we could see? As horrible as Nixon was as president, resigning in disgrace ten years later, the world would have surely been much worse if he was elected in 1960.
It weighed heavily on my heart to write this commemorative piece to pay homage to the light that shined bright at a time when America was so dark, from my perspective as an African American. As I wrote this series of articles, I learned so much about the evils within the American body. Having lived through segregation, I witnessed how dangerous these evils were to everyone, particularly to African Americans, and the world.
Those evils remain today; we have the George Zimmerman’s and those who made him a hero. More troubling is the state of political discourse within our government, namely the Republicans and the Tea Party ilk that is not that much different from the Citizens Councils of old.
One thing that really surprised me as I researched the three week series “The Day Innocence Died”; there were countless people that died or were killed who knew too much about the murder of Kennedy. There were also many who benefited significantly that were presumed to be related in some way with or to the cover-up. Did you know that there were four presidents elected after the assassination that were mentioned by some researchers and experts as being connected or possibly involve in the death of Kennedy; Johnson, Ford, Nixon, and Bush that may well be the bigger sin [if true].
I can only imagine if President Kennedy could speak to us today. I believe, he would say:
“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future… Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable… Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies… The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.” Actual words spoken by John F. Kennedy
It is my hope that you gained more knowledge about “The Day Innocence Died”; America Died! What we learned is that the most profound sin is a tragedy unremembered and the absence of truth. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…