Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Anniversary of John F. Kennedy's Assassination

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John Murtha's recent comments on the Iraq war, and his subsequent emergence as a sincere and earnest voice adeptly diagnosing the costs of our military misjudgments has reminded me how far behind we have fallen from the prestige and self-sacrifice of past generations. Where politicians in the 1950's had invariably met the greatest challenge, fighting in real wars, fighting against fascism and totalitarianism, risking their lives and limbs and sons and daughters for the future of the nation... by contrast our small minded, self-serving political representatives today can't sacrifice a tax cut or a pork barrel project to not leave our children in trillions of dollars of debt.

Where John Murtha's generation was consumed by war, our generation is consumed by rhetorical warfare, too busy branding each other extreme in the constant hope of retaining power or regaining it, to be invested in the truth, or humble enough to recognize mistakes like the post war planning, or lack of it, in Iraq.

John F. Kennedy was the man who brought the world back from the brink of self-destruction a year before he was assassinated. When all of his advisors called for the invasion of Cuba, after Soviet missiles were discovered hidden there via Satellite photographs, Kennedy reached out to Soviet Premier Khrushchev and found a different solution, publicly agreeing never to invade Cuba while secretly agreeing to remove ballistic missiles from Turkey within a six month time frame. As a result, the missiles were removed from Cuba by the Soviet Union and a war that would have resulted in a ground battle for Berlin, possibly escalating into nuclear exchanges throughout the world was prevented.

Domestically, John F. Kennedy was the man who transformed civil rights, personally enforcing the 1954 SCOTUS ruling outlawing racial segregation, while proposing the civil rights act that was implemented after he died. He also proposed one of the biggest, and most successful tax cuts in US history, while investing heavily in schools, hospitals, and care for the elderly under the banner of the "New Frontier." One of his first acts as President was to create the Peace Corps to help spread freedom around the world via non-military means.

But, for me what made John F. Kennedy a great President was the eloquence, precision, and timeless, everlasting truth of his words. His Presidency challenged the world to focus upon what we shared when we were at our most divided and fearful:

"For in the final analysis, our most basic common link, is that we all inhabit this small planet, we all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children's futures, and we are all mortal."

So much of what he said is applicable to the world today. To Israel and Palestine, to N. Ireland, to Kashmir and tensions between India and Pakistan, to the growing threat of terrorism around the world and the ever expanding divide between the West and Arab world.... perhaps we should try and always remember this:

"Too many of us think (peace) is impossible. Too many think it is unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable, that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings... World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor, it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement. And history teaches us that enmities between nations, as between individuals, do not last forever."

The World, not just the United States, lost a great leader on November 22nd, 1963, and the Democratic Party lost the man whose spirit will continue on in perpetuity defining what its Presidential hopefuls should aspire to.

R.I.P. J.F.K.

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20 comments:

Lisa said...

Cool...a JFK post! :)
Ditto what you said. I totally agree with it. But I'm sure that you will say something more controversial later on. I hope so. :P

Graham said...

Hey Lisa,

I'm sure I will. Although, I'm also sure you'll beat me to it if I don't :).

Yeah, JFK was awesome.

Girl on the Blog said...

Wow... Graham... this is an awesome post!!!!!! Gosh... you are the man!!!

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

Graham said...

Awww. That's way too sweet Girl. I liked it :). I also dig that quote. It's great just reading things that JFK said. I especially love his inaugural address, which can be seen here:

American President's

For all Clinton resembled Kennedy in some ways, he never had Kennedy's timeless eloquence.

Chris said...

Your first paragraph is one of the best ever written on the Internet.

I would comment further, but it might seem too partisan, and right now I just want to soak this post in.

Thanks Graham.

Alice: In Wonderland or Not said...

Nice post graham. I love the quotes.

I 'm not totally convinced that Kennedy was a " great" president though he was surely right for the time and his rhetoric was extremely eloquent and always timely. He handled the Missile Crisis well but with lots of help. He was able to say the right things at the right time for the nation but there was no great policy making or other more in depth things that I would associate with a great presidency. He was good for that time and his assassination made the whole Camelot thing seem even more like a fairy tale.

I think it would have been clearer as to if he was going to be great had he actually lived but he served at the dawn of a whole new era, one he participated in but did not really provoke even though he was a great supporter of it.

Graham said...

Thanks MJ, that means a lot from you.

Alice...

I strenuously disagree :)

On the Cuban Missile Crisis what made the whole thing so remarkable was that nearly everyone of his advisors suggested an invasion. We know because Kennedy taped everything in his office and the tapes were released something like fifteen years ago. Rusk, McNamara, the Pentagon, the specialists he brought in, all recommended invasion. Only Adlai Stevenson suggested otherwise and he didn't have that much credibility. Kennedy, on his own, showed the courage to find another course... and this was part of the reason he continued to infuriate the hawks who wanted to take out Castro desperately. No one else deserves credit for the Cuban Missile Crisis apart from Kennedy, even though he may not have thought up the strategy of ignoring Khruschev's reversal, he was the driving force behind the solution that was found.

Also up until Kennedy the SCOTUS decision making racial segregation in schools unconstitutional was being ignored throughout the south. Kennedy angered many in his own party, who were as racist as they came at the time, by fighting against this vocally.

And...

Kennedy was going to end the Vietnam war. If Kennedy had lived, thousands of American lives would not have been lost, let alone how many Vietnamese died.

I agree that Johnson was the one who actualized most of his proposals, and it was Johnson's legislative prowess that got civil rights implemented in congress... but, in my humble opinion, none of it would have happened without Kennedy's bravery. In his campaign he took on Jimmy Hoffa running the unions... he has this image as the ultimate politician, but his courage is the substance that truly makes his Presidency last... he reached for the better angels of our nature and accomplished more in three years than most President's have done in eight, if only by his example more than any actual policies.

Even when he screwed up, during the Bay of Pigs, he refused to commit the US military, and said sorry to the American people.

Of course, I'm very biased... But, there was a reason why he was killed, and a reason why his brother was killed. There was a reason why they infuriated the military establishment and organized crime like no one else...

Thanks for the comment Alice :). Sorry for the rant.

Lisa said...

Here he goes again...lol. At least his biases are blatantly obvious ones. :P They are well-argued as usual, though.

Fence said...

Obviously one can only live in the time that one lives in (starting off a bit obtuse there amn't I?) so do you think that Kennedy would be any different if he were alive and in power today?

After all back then he was allowed to have his personal life kept secret, today would that be splashed all over the papers and tabloids? Would the media spin be enough to conteract his political courage and his figt of the gab?

I do admire Kennedy as a president. I'm just speculating here.

Alice: In Wonderland or Not said...

I think he would be annihilated today for his private life.
Graham: we will just have to agree to disagree on this one babe.

Graham said...

Hey Fence & Alice :),

I agree with the private life question. But, I don't think he would have been annihilated. I think he wouldn't have done the things he did in a different climate. I also don't think the current climate is necessarily a good thing. Lets face it, pervasive media scrutiny hasn't exactly equated to a higher standard of public servants in government.

ptg said...

The cat was a fake, any way you look at it. He didn't deserve to get shot, though. Not in public like that!

Graham said...

If he was a fake on the outside in terms of his presentation, the way in which he met the challenges of his Presidency displayed plenty of substance on the inside. I can't think of any political leader who would have been as courageous as Kennedy during the cuban missile crisis, or principled enough to take some the stands he took...

Plus he appealed to our better angels, as a politician, and not to our fears or prejudices.

I don't understand the "not in public" qualification.

Girl on the Blog said...

"Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind...War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today." -John F. Kennedy


ptg... Are you kidding me? maybe the only thing fake might have been his personal life... but I and noone else can say this for sure. He was a humitarian, assertive military, civil rights activist, and the list goes on... For you to say he didn't deserve to get shot in public is an utter disgrace... he didn't deserve to get shot PERIOD... nor does any President no matter how hated they are... shame on you!

Graham said...

Here here Girl on the Blog :)!

I agree, if JFK is the standard for fake, considering the ambition and bravery of his Presidency, what does that make our current politicians today?

Great quote too :).

Girl on the Blog said...

Graham... where are you? Waiting for another post... :) Sorry... just need a "graham post" to feed my mind!

Graham said...

This is very sweet :).

I was planning on writing something tonight for the week ahead, so it should be up a little later on. Thanks for the encouragement Girl :).

Lisa said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lisa said...

Ditto what Girl said. Ok...it's later now. So where's the new post? :P

Graham said...

It's up now :). Just took a while as it involved a lot of researching some of the things I'd read about before. + it's a bit long, as most of my stuff always is.