Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday, November 22, 1963

People keep asking when America started going downhill. Republicans say it was as soon as Obama came into office – or Clinton or Carter. Democrats say it was Bush – or Reagan or Nixon. They all want to blame all of our problems on the supposed mistakes of whoever was in the White House that they didn’t like.

I don’t think it’s the temporary policies of temporary presidents that hurt us. I think it was the very permanent damage on the nation’s soul that came with the assassination of a very youthful president. Like him or hate him, Kennedy was young and could have easily been president for another 5 years. There’s no way to know what would have happened in those 5 years if he’d lived. The 1960s were a very turbulent decade for the United States and a lot of it might have been very different without the assassination.

It doesn’t really matter if Kennedy was murdered by a vast conspiracy or some lone nutjob. His murder shocked the country out of white picket fences and into the real world. Before the assassination, people wore suits and hats whenever they left the house. After the assassination, they all started dressing like slobs. People used to trust the government and believe pretty much anything they were told. Now no one trusts the government – though a lot of people still believe anything they’re told. Wars used to be about principle and doing the right thing. Now they’re about money and corporate investment. Worst of all, movie musicals used to be good. Now they’re Auto-Tune and CGI. Can you imagine Judy Garland singing with Auto-Tune or Gene Kelly needing computer graphics to dance?

The world would not be a perfect place if Kennedy had lived. But maybe without the shock of seeing a young leader so publicly executed, it would have taken us longer to become as cynical and bitter as we are today. Maybe we could have even avoided that whole disco phase.

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