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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Day Kennedy Died

JUST LIKE YESTERDAY,  I REMEMBER THAT FALL AFTERNOON AND THE EVENTS THAT SHOCKED THE WORLD AND CHANGED FOREVER THE HISTORY OF THIS COUNTRY, IF NOT THE WORLD.  I WAS LIVING WITH MY GRANDMOTHER WHILE ATTENDING NORTHEAST LOUISIANA STATE IN MONROE, LOUISIANA JUST A FEW HUNDRED MILES FROM WHAT WOULD BECOME GROUND ZERO FOR THAT FATAL DAY AND THE MONTHS THAT FOLLOWED. 
 
DALLAS, TEXAS, AS ONE COMMENTATOR WOULD DESCRIBE IT, WAS A HOT BED OF RIGHT WING ACTIVITY.  A HOME TO REACTIONARY FANATICS INTENT ON DESTROYING THE PROGRESSIVE AGENDA OF PRESIDENT KENNEDY.  THIS WAS THE EARLY REPORTING ON THE THREE MAJOR NETWORKS OF THE DAY---ABC, NBC, AND CBS.  CABLE NEWS WAS YEARS AWAY.  LATER, IT WAS LEARNED THAT THE ASSASSIN, LEE HARVEY OSWALD, WAS NOT THAT WILD EYED REACTIONARY RIGHT WINGER, BUT A CONFIRMED COMMUNIST WHO HAD LIVED IN THE SOVIET UNION AND HAD MARRIED A RUSSIAN WOMAN.  IMMEDIATELY THE NEWS MEDIA OF THAT DAY WENT SILENT ON THE MOTIVES OF THE KENNEDY KILLER.  SUDDENLY HE WAS JUST A ANGRY YOUNG MAN WITH NO POLITICAL MOTIVE.  SOMETIME LATER THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF NEW ORLEANS, JIM GARRISON, WOULD TRY AND SHOW OSWALD'S CONNECTION TO CUBA AND COMMUNIST IN THIS COUNTRY ONLY TO HAVE HIMSELF PAINTED AS A NUTCASE BY THOSE IN THE MEDIA.

ON THAT FATEFUL NOVEMBER DAY I WAS TAKING WHAT WOULD BE A SHORT NAP AFTER ATTENDING MORNING CLASSES AT NORTHEAST STATE, WHEN GRANDMOTHER ENTER THE ROOM AND TELLING ME IN AN EXCITED VOICE THAT PRESIDENT KENNEDY HAD BEEN SHOT.  THE REMAINDER OF THE DAY WAS SPENT IN WATCHING THE NEWS REPORTS COMING FROM THE THREE NETWORKS.  THE NETWORKS THAT CONTROLLED ALL THE NEWS COMING OUT AT THAT TIME.  THE NETWORKS, THAT FEW REALIZED AT THE TIME, THAT HAD AN AGENDA, A VESTED INTEREST IN WHAT WAS REPORTED.  A NEWS MEDIA THAT WAS DECIDEDLY TILTED TO THE LEFT.

IT TOOK ME YEARS TO REALIZE THE FULL EXTENT OF MY BRAIN WASHING.  PERHAPS IT WAS WHEN I MET GENERAL EDWIN WALKER.  A MAN WHO MOST OF YOU HAVE NEVER HEARD OF.  BUT THE MAN WHO LEE HARVEY OSWALD SHOT AT A MONTH OR SO BEFORE HE SHOT KENNEDY.  A MAN WHO WAS BRANDED AS A RIGHT WING FANATIC BY THE MEDIA.  NEVERTHELESS, A TARGET OF OSWALD.  THIS WAS FOUND OUT WHEN THE BULLETS FROM THE PRESIDENTS BODY WERE COMPARED WITH THOSE TAKEN FROM A WINDOW CASING IN GENERAL WALKER'S HOUSE FOLLOWING AN ATTEMPT ON HIS LIFE.  I HAD OCCASION TO MEET THE GENERAL WHEN HE SPOKE AT A SMALL COLLEGE IN BROOKHAVEN, MISSISSIPPI AROUND 1965.  WITHOUT DOUBT, THE GENERAL WAS WHAT THE MEDIA OF THE DAY WOULD CALL A RIGHT WINGER!

PRESIDENT KENNEDY'S DEATH WAS ANNOUNCED SEVERAL HOURS AFTER THE FIRST REPORTS OF THE SHOOTING IN DEALEY PLAZA.  STRANGELY I FELT NOTHING.  THAT IS NOTHING EXCEPT FOR HIS WIFE AND CHILDREN.  ALL OVER AMERICA, PEOPLE WERE CRYING FOR THE LOSS OF WHAT THEY SAW AS A GREAT AMERICAN LEADER.  BUT I MUST TELL YOU THAT MY THOUGHTS OF KENNEDY WERE NOT THE SAME.  I WAS REFLECTING ON WHAT THIS MAN, THIS PRESIDENT MEANT TO ME.  TO ME HE WAS THE MAN WHO LEFT THE FREE CUBANS AT THE BAY OF PIGS WAITING ON THE BEACHES FOR PROMISED AMERICAN SUPPORT THAT NEVER CAME.  HE WAS THE SAME MAN WHO SENT FEDERAL TROOPS ON TO THE CAMPUS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI AT OXFORD.  SINCE THE DAYS FOLLOWING THE CIVIL WAR SOUTHERNERS HAVE NOT LIKED THE INTRODUCTION OF ARMY TROOPS TO PUT DOWN CIVIL UNREST.  AS THEY ARE SELDOM, IF EVER USED IN THE NORTH.  THESE THOUGHTS RACED THROUGH MY MIND AS I REFLECTED ON THE EVENTS OF THE DAY IN DALLAS.  NO TEARS WERE SHED WITH KENNEDY'S PASSING.  YES, I KNEW OF THE YOUNG MAN'S HEROIC ADVENTURES IN THE PACIFIC DURING WWII.   AND FOR THAT I ADMIRED HIM.  MANY AMERICANS ADMIRED HIM FOR THAT ALONG WITH WHAT THEY SAW AS GREATNESS IN STANDING UP TO THE SOVIETS DURING THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS.  I FOR ONE, THOUGHT THE CRISIS WOULD NEVER HAVE OCCURRED IF THE RUSSIANS HADN'T BEEN ENCOURAGED BY OUR FAILURE AT THE BAY OF PIGS.  A FAILURE I ATTRIBUTED TO JOHN KENNEDY AND HIS BROTHER ROBERT.

  STRANGE, WHEN I WENT TO BED ON THE NIGHT OF KENNEDY ASSASSIGNATION, I THOUGHT NOT OF THE PT BOAT CAPTAIN WHO SAVED HIS MEN AFTER HIS BOAT WAS SUNK BY THE JAPANESE, BUT OF ANOTHER AMERICAN HERO WHO FOUGHT THE SAME ENEMY IN WWII.  GENERAL CLAIRE CHENNAULT WHO WAS IN COMMAND OF THE "FLYING TIGERS" DURING THE DAYS BEFORE THE UNITED STATES ENTERED THE WAR AGAINST JAPAN  IN WWII.  I HAD MET THE GENERAL AS A YOUNG BOY AT MY FATHER'S BARBER SHOP ACROSS FROM THE CAMPUS AT NORTHEAST STATE IN MONROE WHEN MY FATHER WAS TEACHING AT THE TIME.  FATHER WAS A MAN WHO LOVED TO TEACH, BUT HIS FIRST LOVE WAS CUTTING HAIR.  HE HAS WORKED HIS WAY THROUGH COLLEGE VIA THE BARBER SHOP. 

ALTHOUGH I WAS NOT SORRY TO SEE KENNEDY GO, HAD I KNOWN WHAT WAS COMING IN THE PERSON LBJ, MY THOUGHTS WOULD HAVE BEEN QUITE DIFFERENT.  BUT I WAS A YOUNG MAN IN SEARCH OF HIMSELF.  A YOUNG MAN WITH FEW THOUGHTS OF THE FUTURE, BUT ONLY OF TODAY.  AND AS FOR TOMORROW, WELL IT WOULD BRING WHAT IT WOULD BRING.  THE ONLY CERTAINITY WAS THAT KENNEDY DIED TODAY.
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