JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY
Thirty-Fifth President of the
United States of America
born Brookline, Massachusetts, 29 MAY 1917
assassinated Dallas, Texas, 22 NOV 1963
I was just a little Irish-Catholic kid when the first Irish Catholic was elected President of the United States. I grew up watching his brilliant press conferences. Those were the days when we had a bright, articulate, congenial man of the people in the White House, who was not afraid to speak to us, directly. Those were the days when everything seemed possible, and when we could believe our government was dedicated to doing good in the world. It was a good time to be a young kid. My life changed forever when he was murdered.
All of our lives did. But, especially the Irish Catholics. It may not seem like a big deal now, an Irish Catholic President. But the last Irish Catholic to run for President, NY Democratic Governor and working-class hero Al Smith, in 1928, had lost in large part because he was an Irish Catholic. A vicious campaign was waged against him, attacking him for BEING Catholic, and nothing more. Protestant ministers preached against Smith from the pulpit. The solidly Democratic South voted against the Democratic candidate en bloc, for the first time since the Civil War. The new medium of radio was used by Evangelicals to rail against "Rome Rule." The Klu Klux Klan held huge anti-Catholic rallies. Smith lost. Today, many Irish Catholic "Reagan Democrats," fans of Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, seem to have forgotten that they were once targets of the Right, like blacks, Jews, gays, and so many others.
Though they have no coherent philosophy, conservatives can be said to unerringly, unthinkingly support the status quo, the leadership of it, and anything they do to retain their position. Their dog-like "loyalty," if it can be called that, also manifests itself in a willingness to attack anyone different, outside their limited experience, or perceived as threatening to the status quo. To conservatives, whatever is is perfect. Any change would be disastrous for them, somehow. This justifies their tactics, which resort first to violence, intimidation and slander of anyone who disagrees, or even fails to agree heartily, or quickly enough. They can tolerate no dissent, no argument, no questions. Their minds are made up, locked up, and incapable of adapting to new realities. They would rather die, or kill, than change with the times.
These are the people who could not accept the election of an Irish Catholic liberal Democratic Massachusetts Senator, in 1960. (Any of those descriptive terms will still set these people off.) These are the people who opposed Kennedy's every move. These are the people who killed him. Kennedy was a threat to their Sacred Status Quo. Kennedy supported workers rights, fought for civil rights, considered nuclear disarmament, and would have begun the process of detente with the Soviet Union thirty years earlier. That is why he was killed. No mystery.
The Republican campaign to slander the last genuine hero to occupy the White House, and one of the few ever, goes on today. They try to co-opt his legacy now, and Truman's, and even Roosevelt's; but they need to run JFK down, personally.
That's because there never was, and there will be a genuine conservative hero, of any sort, in the White House. Kennedy wasn't just a war hero, as recent underwater archaelogy confirms. He was, despite his wealth, a man of the people whose father had fought his way up from near the bottom, as a grandson of unwelcome immigrants. And no Kennedy ever forgot that.
This is what conservatives really hate about JFK. He was a working class hero, martyred for peace and justice, and an enemy of the status quo. From the space program, taken credit for and then abandoned by Nixon, to the Peace Corps, still bringing hope to the world after forty years of Republican assaults, John Kennedy inspired America, and the world. And the world mourned, genuinely, when he was brutally murdered.
To this day, I see cheap tapestries and faded icons to Kennedy in the homes of poor and working-class people, of all races, all over the country. There are no conservatives in such places of honour, in any honest home.
And that really galls them. Deep down, even the least educated American knows who his friends are, and who his enemies are. The Republicans are always there to remind them: Cutting aid to the poor, keeping wages down, opposing unions, and dividing America along every line they can find, or create.
Republican conservatives have nothing positive to offer. So they have to try to run down Kennedy, and all he stood for. He asked all Americans to put their country before themselves. Republicans always put Party first.
The worst they can really say is that John Kennedy MAY have slept with Marilyn Monroe. They're so out of it, they think that's a BAD thing! (I guess Nixon was jealous. Our tragic goddess of the silver screen would never have associated with such Republican trash.)
Remember John Kennedy, today, and his legacy, every day. Much of what little good there is left in the world came from him, and men and women like him. We'll not see his like again soon.
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