Words of Advice:

"If Something Seems To Be Too Good To Be True, It's Best To Shoot It, Just In Case." -- Fiona Glenanne

"Foreign Relations Boil Down to Two Things: Talking With People or Killing Them." -- Unknown

“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level
and then beat you with experience.” -- Mark Twain

"Colt .45s; putting bad guys underground since 1873." -- Unknown

"Stay Strapped or Get Clapped." -- probably not Mr. Rogers

"Let’s eat all of these people!” — Venom

"Eck!" -- George the Cat

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Day That the 1960s Went Off the Rails

45 years ago today, the 1960s went off the rails and, arguably, much of the rest of American history since then.

I was in grammar school when President Kennedy was killed. For only the second time (the first time was Alan Shepard's first space flight), the school interrupted the school day and played the radio news over the PA system. They did not close the school, probably because of the need for the school buses, but classes were canceled and we all just listened to the news coverage. I don't remember much of the funeral, but I did watch it.

Up until then, there was a sense that change was coming and that it was manageable. Civil rights legislation was brewing and maybe there was a chance it would be relatively peaceful. A great adventure was in the offing as both the USA and the USSR were competing, peacefully, to see who could first go to the Moon.

Three shots from a Carcano rifle in less than seven seconds and everything changed. A decade that had begun with hope and aspirations that things were changing for the better began to veer into the ditch. Within three years, President Lyndon B. Johnson, JFK's successor, had drastically ramped up the Vietnam War. There is some evidence that JFK was starting to wind down American involvement in the months before he was killed.

The causus belli for the transforming of the Vietnam War from a large contingent of American advisers to sending millions of Americans to fight was all grounded in a series of lies, as a president from Texas conflated his manhood and his ego with the national interest. Those who were in favor of trying to quash a guerrilla war with massive ground forces then wound up lying to themselves and generations to come with the gross fabrication that "everything was really going peachy and if the reporters and the hippies hadn't made a stink about the war and all the lies that were told, we would have won." That particular lie has reverberated for nearly forty years and was shouted loudly by the McCain campaign. That particular lie has also poisoned the debate about the Iraq War.

Within five years of the killing of JFK, both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy had been assassinated. Most American cities of any size had seen riots, arson and looting by then. Then came Richard Nixon, who rode race-based fear and racial prejudice into the White House. From Nixon came Watergate, which showed an entire generation of Americans that the political establishment could not be trusted. Nixon attempted to destroy the rule of law and transform the presidency into an all-powerful tyranny. Nixon started his own war, in essence, by dragging Cambodia into the Vietnam War, a move which culminated with the rise to power of Pol Pot and the subsequent death of a third of the population of Cambodia. Nixon also began the process of militarizing the police by declaring a "war on drugs."

And what should have been one of the shining moments of the 1960s, the landing of Apollo 11 on the Moon, the first of a short series of voyages to another celestial body, was rapidly forgotten by all but aviation and space buffs.

What has happened in the "Bush the Second" Administration had its roots in the Nixon Administration. The two architects of Bush's imperial presidency, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, served in Nixon's Administration. The evidence suggests that both men agreed with Nixon that "if the president does it, that means it is legal." Obviously, neither man batted an eye at lying to the American people for the need to go to war. Neither man paid any attention to the constitutional limits on the powers of the presidency. Neither man had any qualms about breaking any law of any kind which was inconvenient and they had, as their willing tool, probably the most intellectually vapid and incurious president in American history.

Without the assassination of JFK, Johnson would never have become president. Without Johnson as president, the Vietnam War would not have played out the way it did. Without Johnson's failure in Vietnam, Richard Nixon would not have become president. Without Nixon, there would have been no Watergate. Without Nixon, there would have been no young Rumsfeld and Cheney to learn about the alluring powers of an unchecked presidency. Without Rumsfeld and Cheney, there would have been no Iraq War, no Guantanamo Bay, no besmirching of America's commitment to freedom and justice for all by the use of torture and disappearing people into a network of shadow prisons.

The assassination of JFK shifted this country down a dark path. Millions of people died as a result.

The echoes of three shots fired 45 years ago from a war-surplus rifle have continued to this day.


Mark said...

That's some of the best writing I've ever read here. Great job.

deadstick said...

Well said, ebm.

Comrade Misfit said...

Thanks, guys.

Distributorcap said...

that was a fantastic post.....
you said it all my friend..

no shots from the TSBD AND the grassy knoll (you aint convincing me oswald acted alone) and no george bush

would the world have been better - who knows? i know it would knot have been worse....