Monday, November 23, 2009

Two Novembers


Yesterday marked the 46th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. I was too young to remember much about it, although I recall first hearing of it as I came in from the school playground. My parents, of course, had voted for Kennedy. In those days, we did not spend much time in front of the television, or at least not as a family. But this was different, and I recall all of us watching coverage as events unfolded in Dallas and Washington. I was too young to have known of the passionate hatred directed against Kennedy by many in Dallas and in my part of the state.


At that time, a man who would later become my close friend (and mentor) was in his late 20s, living on his East Texas farm. He had gone to Dallas on business, and returned home on the 21st of November. My friend, also a Kennedy man, remarked to his wife that he was shocked, and perhaps a bit shaken by the vitriol he heard against the President in Dallas. The next day he was driving across his pasture and stopped to speak to a seismograph crew going across the meadow. One of them heard the radio coverage of Kennedy's motorcade from my friend's truck and said, "somebody ought to kill the sonofabitch." Not wanting to hang around, my friend eased on across the pasture. Not two minutes later came the news that the President had been shot. He said had he still been by the seismographers, he would have decked the man who had said that.


My friend and I meet every week for lunch, and have done so for over 20 years now. In that time, I have heard many stories, but he related this one only recently. And the context for the telling of it was the similarity he sees with the current extreme and radicalized political discourse again gripping our region.
And then today, another friend sent me this. The recent edition of Esquire (a magazine I am not in the habit of reading) carries a story comparing Kennedy-hatred of 1963 Texas with Obama-hatred of 2009 Texas. The focus of the story is the U.S. Representative from the city in which I work (I live 150 feet into the next district, though my representative is hardly any better.) The story also contains a letter written from a resident of my city 2 days after the Kennedy assassination. The story and letter are fascinating--and sobering. I'm afraid my region had, and has, much to answer for.

10 comments:

Steve Hayes said...

That is quite scary.

James the Thickheaded said...

I see the vitriol, too. I tend to think Obama is less the object than government in general... but more the perceived divorce and rape of the country by our elites over an extended period. Last year's decline has exposed a rift that is ignored by most... they'd just rather not think about it. This is the segregated lunch counter no one wants to see... but it's there, only now they wonder whether bankers who pled armaggedon last year and now are sitting fat on big bonuses this year may have simply pulled a fast one... like all the other demogogues... only from Wall Street. So anyone wondering what's worse than bogus Climate Change science... take a look a bogus end-of-the-world finance... only the latter managed to get its hands on public billions... er Trillions! that ecologists can only drool over. No one will state this outright... but my guess is that this lies under the surface. And still the average guy can't find a public school that wants to teach his kids to read, to write and do calculus at world class levels. Nah... we teach them sex, drugs, rock'n'roll f'sure... 'cause they don't need a job so much as a credit card.

So academia, Wall Street, Congress... both parties... there's a perception that after turning the full-bodied world into looking like our flawed academic econometric models... the common man's been given the boot, and then the bill. Obama's mistake so far is the perception (and I voted for him remember and I'm still pulling for him) that he's too Chicago and allowing the machine to "get 'er done" while he's taking all the hits as representing the elite Harvard, lawyer types who got us into this. Maybe this strategy will work... so far it looks like a cropper.. even if they pass healthcare. Trick is that he's got to show he's the clever politician - clever enough to out-think the unstoppable Hillary Clinton... and show us he's really the guy we elected. So far... it's still on the come.

I'm still very optimistic on this country, but short-term it's going to be ugly... and deservedly so since we're tackling so few of the problems we were promised we would... and those we are tackling, we're doing the miserly small-thinking approach rather than the whole enchilada rethink that really gives me something positive to take away from the effort. Where's the gain? Only for a few. What's the problem in US politics... only a few care. Surprised? I'm not.

On a positive note, I contend the last 10 years is something like the problem in the plains in the 1870's that ultimately led to Progressivism, or the Pullman Porter Strike that ultimately became the Civil Rights movement. A risky touch of populism with its ugliness may play a part in waking up the decent people. Decent people were shamed out of public life by the media witch hunts of the 1970's (gonna find another Watergate everywhere)... and now the Press is busted and unable to investigate anyone, preferring instead to ape press releases. But try to comprehend the whole... and be patient. Have some faith in the common man. This takes a long time to wake a country up and revitalize public life and then work what needs to happen. Longer still to figure out what needs to be done and how. We're just starting. Anything worth doing, takes time. Anything folks try to force on us too fast... probably is less in our interest and more part of someone's not-so-hidden agenda. So we gotta give a damn and take the place back from the people that don't.

Oh my. Sorry. Looks like the caffiene hit again! LOL. Thanks for your stimulating post! I'd a slugged the guy too... but as a small dude...that might be risky. But the truth is the nasty undercurrent is always there... and some folks would rather be "right" than righteous or even successful. What's a fella to do?

Kirk said...

John, I think I've told you that I would love to move to Tyler, except that I could never, ever practice law there. My reason has alot to do with the fact that the congressman is a former district judge. Can you imagine practicing--or appearing as a litigant--in front of this man? The other judges are about the same, and all of them are politically untouchable.

Milton T. Burton said...

Kirk, I know him well and he was actually a very decent, reasonable judge---the best of the bunch, in fact. He just seems to have lost it since he went to Washington.

Kirk said...

I'll take your word for it, Milton. My theory is that when you are one of 435 representatives, you have to take some outlandish positions to get noticed.

Milton T. Burton said...

Actually, he really believes that crap he spews. Louie may be a loon, but he is an honest loon.

James the Thickheaded said...

I don't know about "Louie", and I'm up in DC not TX - which is my loss, but sounds like you guys need to cut the Lone Star state a little slack. If it were confined to TX, that'd be one thing... but looking more broadly at the record, locale's the least of our problems.

W gave the Secret Service the order to give Obama full protection WAY before the usual point.... and watching what happened through some of the rough parts after the conventions... it was the right thing to do.

I can't recall whether W actually condemned some of the things said by McCain's "excited base"... that were really over the top... but it may have happened. No love lost between these two. But the "excited base" remains out of control. And choice of language (and props) matters as John points out. "Going Rogue"... don't even get me started. It matters how we get noticed if we're to build and maintain a decent society.

John said...

JtTH, on your first comment, this is out of character for me to say, but you might want to consider decaf--ha! While I suppose I am a pessimist, I am far from morose and downbeat. My motto is "situation hopeless, but not serious." And I agree, things take time. I generally take a really long view of things. But I have no faith in the common man you mention. Maybe in the uncommon man...

JtTH, We are not being too hard on Texas. If someone elsewhere were doing so, we would take exception, but as residents we can complain till the cows come home. And I'm not really bitching about the state in general, mainly just East Texas. Take my word for it, it really is crazyville around here sometimes.

John said...

Kirk, you know, of course, that they wrote a book about the Smith County legal system: "Smith County Justice." But move to Tyler anyway. We need you to shine a light amidst the darkness.

John said...

Milton, you write: "Actually, he really believes that crap he spews. Louie may be a loon, but he is an honest loon." Doesn't that make it actually worse? Give me a good, old-fashioned demagogue any day of the week.