Friday, November 22, 2013

It Was Massive.

An often asked question, on this day, of people over 40, where were you when The President was shot?

News, 50 years ago consisted almost exclusively the preserve of the daily paper augmented by weeklys,  TV had only just reached NZ, few homes had it, Radio news was only a rare news special, the only regular bulletin was on 'The National program YA network with an evening half hour of world news at 6 PM ex BBC  and a local effort at 9 PM.

The shooting occurred early on Saturday November 23rd NZ time and the news took sometime to reach many here.
When it did, it was massive, the free world was on the brink of nuclear oblivion, Hungary had succumbed to the Russian Bear after a failed  attempt at regaining Independence 7 years earlier, more recent we had watched the Cuban Missile crisis take the world to the brink, Mainland China had joined Russia in moving to world domination through sponsored revolution.
In short, freedom and democracy that we took for granted was seriously under threat.

Kennedy was a figure of hope for a future where free people could stay free even if many saw Communist domination as an inexorable force that was increasingly seen as prevailing.
Korea, Laos, Sth Vietnam, Malaya, Indonesia and almost all of Africa apart from The Republic were  threatened in a  creeping effort to extend  Communist domination in the wake of WW2 and decolonisation.
As The UK, Portugal, The Netherlands and the French empires all gave their colonies self government, in addition to the decolonisation of the territories from the defeated Axis powers, an increasingly belligerent USSR and China moved on.

It is difficult to describe and articulate how the threat to the "free world" weighed on the psyche but Kennedy by his rhetoric and actions seemed to have answers.
His 'ich bin ein Berlina' effort and the apparent facing down of Kruschev over Cuba were reassuring, The Bay of Pigs and the increasing spiral into the morass of Viet Nam were submerged in the inspired hope he provoked.

Of course there was no hint of his drug use for chronic back pain, profligate rooting, manipulation of due process, and a possibility of disguised physical weakness,  along with his Addison's disease, not revealed until the mid 1970s, we only saw the positive and it was indeed comforting.

The assassination and the subsequent circus charade of the fate of his alleged killer,  gave the events of November 1963 an almost surreal aura.
So many had a perfectly sound reason to have Kennedy eliminated.
The Russians and world Communism,  they killed opponents eg Trotsky in Mexico.
Oswald had spent time in the USSR.
Organised crime, Kennedy's brother, RFK was a threat to them.
White supremacists, opposed to Kennedy empowering the Negros.
CIA, many were not happy at JFK solving Cuba by giving way on missiles in Turkey.
FBI Hoover was an enigma with a very independent long time power base used with malicious intent.

Elected, against bias of his Catholic religion (very relevant then), and a nominal southern democratic 'Dixy' wing that was closer to the Republicans, over a well established vice president Nixon  in a cliff hanger, Kennedy had gained a considerable popularity in the 1000 days to make him an odds on for re-election.

50 years on and it is so ingrained in memory, a lot of innocence died that late autumn day in Dallas 12 30 pm local time November 22nd, on Dealey Plaza.


Tok13 said...

My recall - 9.30ish on a Saturday morning, me a 13 year old mowing the lawn of our mill village house in a small central North Island town - the generally sturdy, rollicking, always cussing, mother of the kids over the back running through the back gate past me to our back door - distressedly yelling "the bastards have killed him the bastards have killed him".
Don't remember wondering whom "the bastards" were but do remember a sense of shock and grief. The glittering pageantry of the US presidency, big with that 13 year old subscriber to Time magazine, was suddenly replaced with palpable tragedy. The mawkishness of the condolences I sent to my numerous American West Coast penpals......

Noel said...

My situation was similar.
Mowing an old ladies lawn to obtain pocket money when she came out and ask me to stop. She had a glass of orange juice and at first I thought that's why she stopped me.
Then she told me the US President had been assassinated, but it was the look of fear on her face that struck me most.
I was much older when I would see that type of face again, during war and I started to understand how our redundant defence mechanism kicks in to capture all stimuli including visual, hearing, smell amongst others.
Hence the lawn been so significant.