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.