Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fifty Years Later

My father was in the U.S. Army in the late '50s and early '60s, and he was actually assigned to the Pentagon for a couple of years. In fact, Corp. Allard (Spec 5) was on duty in the Department of Defense headquarters the day President Kennedy was assassinated. I asked him about this night, and though I can't give the story justice, he specifically remembered a number of generals panicking upon hearing the news of his death. Secretary McNamara's staff was either catatonic or in tears, and all the phone lines and switchboards were completely jammed. My father was also in military dress at Arlington National Cemetery when Kennedy was buried a few days later.

It seems almost cliche to pinpoint JFK's death as the day America lost its innocence. Indeed, this was the first tumultuous moment in a decade overflowing with violence and tragedy, but the world was changing even when Kennedy was still alive. His passing only accelerated that progress. I have no right to compare or contrast life before JFK, I wasn't alive yet. I can tell you what great music came out in '63 and that's about it. At the same time, this is a milestone in our history that we cannot take trivially. For my generation, it was September 11th. For my grandparents' generation, Pearl Harbor. For my parents and the whole Baby Boomer generation, it was President Kennedy.  With embarrassing scandals and other arbitrary crap dominating the media, I hope people look at this sorrowful 50th anniversary as an opportunity to remember when politics worked and this country had a sense of guarded optimism.

Other notes:

+ Jamie Brown Reed, the woman who first hired me at WZND (the college radio station at ISU) lost her childhood home to the tornado that blasted through central Illinois last weekend. Several other acquaintances of mine also lost everything they had when the twister hit outside Peoria. I highly recommend donating to the American Red Cross if you haven't done so already. They could really use the relief.

+ Dad Update: Our live-in caretaker has been with us for three weeks and change now; she's doing a fine job, though my father is still having his ups and downs. However, last week he spent four days in the hospital with two swollen feet. It doesn't seem like anything serious --a reaction to his medication, if not anything else-- but that doesn't make my family any less concerned. On the bright side, it doesn't look like he'll need chemotherapy, radiation, or dialysis again, at least not until 2014.

+ Finally, some words of wisdom: there is nothing like an impromptu, pay-what-you-can yoga session to remind you that you're not as limber as you think you are.

Next Week: my ninth annual "Thanks/No Thanks" list.


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