On this day November 22, 1963, John Fitzgerald Kennedy became the fourth American president to be assassinated in office. This was my father’s president. I don’t remember seeing dad for a couple of days afterwards. He was distraught to say the least. I wish we had sat down together at some point and talked about it. Now I am left to imagine how he felt about this turning point in our country’s well being.
I have thought about this a lot . . . . while mowing the lawn or in the middle of the night, or while going through old ships logs and photographs. These musings are mine alone, and may be quite arguable against but I don’t care tonight. Why did I choose this photo? Simple answers . . . better times. My dad was a sailor in the same theater of operations as JFK and PT-109. I have great memories of sailing off San Diego in the annual quest for migrating Grey Whales. I like this photo. Whatever.
This senseless murder marked the end of the post war revelry that quenched the land, and ushered in decades of near constant fracturing across America. JFK was not perfect by any measure. Who among us is? However, he represented so much. Our country learned for the first time that a Catholic president would not torpedo US, or carry out the Pontiff’s agenda. We still have a ways to go in this light. Other candidates since who worship their conscience in lesser known denominations have had many of the same objections from JFK’s campaigns rise up to frustrate them.
I believe that JFK would have found a way to leave the Vietnam dominoes where they lay with so much less loss of life. Just my belief . . . . it is what it is. Instead, we got Johnson and Nixon lying and tripping over themselves in one way or another, and 58,000 American lives later we left Vietnam. Many others have never come home all the way. Some days I wonder if I did. Ford was a nice man and did complete the withdrawal but he was not near as presidential as JFK. Carter was entirely forgettable, although he did try to exfiltrate the Iran hostages. It of course was a complete failure.
History has been kind to Reagan, however my father really disliked him. Again, I wish we had made time to talk presidents and things over one of this old submarine sailor’s favorite rums. Pussers Rum, the original Royal Navy rum was indeed dad’s preferred spirit as I remember.
George H. W. Bush was next and again a nice man, however unremarkable. His wife was a terrific first lady. He could not overcome the stereotypes associated with his privileged New England background, either in my mind, or the voter’s.
Then came (don’t go there) Clinton and his dry cleaning bill. I still feel so bad for Chelsea. What must she have gone through? Will his gift to us in 2016 be Hillary? Oh my gawd please no!
George W. was shackled with terrible history, second only to FDR on 7 December 1941. I can forgive most anything GW did because of what was thrust upon him. Unfortunately, every generation cannot have a JFK. I am not sure Obama actually hurt me or my family, and my father probably would have liked him. I find him a better choice than his opponent at the time. Obama has hurt our military however, and that I cannot forgive.
So now where do we turn? Who is the John Fitzgerald Kennedy of this time in our history. I do not see one. I believe I would wish for any past President than for any of the declared candidates this time around. I sort of feel like I ought to apologize for placing JFK on such a pedestal. But I will not! I believe my father was actually traumatized at hearing of President Kennedy’s assassination, and every year that goes by I come to understand dad’s pain more clearly.
“Oh God thy sea is so great and my boat is so small”