49 Years Ago Tomorrow (11/22/1963) America Started Its Slow Descent to Mediocrity

President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX on 11/22/1963. This is not about the 10,000 conspiracies that surrounded it, it’s about how I reacted from Friday the 21st until the funeral, then closely followed by Thanksgiving.

I was in my Freshman year (9th grade) at Archbishop Curley HS in Baltimore. It was Friday, last period in the class on Earth Science and the teacher was Mr. Dan Biser. It was about mid period and the lights were out to watch a film strip. Then the announcement came over the intercom from the Pricipal. If you could believe you could make several hundred HS students speechless, announce the President was murdered. We all went home in a stunned state of mind. That night we walked around aimlessly. A few stores were open, but everybody was glued to the TV (think 9/11 without cable channels)

Things moved fast, and slow at the same time. Slow for lack of details, fast for the arrest of Oswald, swearing in Johnson as President, transferring Kennedy in AF-1 to go back to Andrews AFB. Then slow again waiting for details, fast for the killing of Oswald.

Then there was the viewing of a closed casket in the Capitol Rotundra. The questions of what’s next. A spot at Arlington National Cemetery was picked since Kennedy at some point liked the view of the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Capitol.

Of course rumors were fast and furious. Oswald was deemed a Communist and the wonder of was this a Communist Plot. Afterall, there was an agent on every corner. (Remember we were just 10 years from Korea) We had a Cold War with the Soviets and the Cuban Missile crisis was shortly before this. There were still Civil Defense shelters all over the place. Radios still marked Civil Defense radio stations (for those who wonder what the little triangles were for on old radios).

Then the final plans for the funeral were announced. (You kept wondering when the sirens for incoming missiles would go off) The funeral was announced for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (yeah, bury a President and let’s have a feast). My older brother had this crazy idea of going to DC for the funeral. So, the two of us, and a friend of my brother left our house around 2 AM to take a bus to downtown Baltimore to get on a Greyhound to DC. (Note: the terminal was on Howard and Centre Sts. No fear going there then, today, no way) We caught a bus to DC and got there around 4 AM. Greyhound in DC was on NY Ave and 6th St NW. We walked to 1600 PA Ave. and waited (No way of that happening today without getting mugged)

We were across the street from the White House at 5 AM and it was cold. We were the first few there. Marines lined the street. As the morning went on, more people showed up and we were 3 to 4 deep. Around 11 AM the funeral procession by horse cart came up PA Ave. and into the East Gate, stopped at the White House for a few moments and proceeded out the West Gate to to Arlington.

In the procession were many heads of State from around the world. I distinctly remember Charles DeGaulle of France standing out. So, when they went out the west gate to Arlington, the three of us took off for the Greyhound Station to go to Baltimore. We got home in time to see the burial.

Now why did I say the slow descent to Mediocrity. Because it was. Johnson got his guns and butter war in Viet-Nam. An unwinnable war based on the stupid rules of engagement. Johnson start the ill conceived War on Poverty which created more than it solved. The late 60′s brought the race riots. The country of self reliance, turned into the country of slow dependence on being dependent. The country was torn between being a country of modern miracles, or a welfare state. Gradually Welfare has WON. We went fron Can Do, to Don’t Try. And the strange thing is we have more in percentage of dependents than can do’s from the early 60′s. I remember Kruschev of the Soviet Union saying we will bury you. in the 60′s. Guess what? He was right. We are buried in a mountain of debt to feed the Age of Dependency.

It’s like the reason for inventing the M-16 over the M-14. The M-14 was almost a sure kill. The M-16 would wound more than it would kill so the enemy was overwhelmed with casualties to fix. The dead can be buried anytime. And if you apply the dependency thinking today, we have more than we need or can handle, and we are being buried.

7 Comments

  1. President Kennedy was the kind of Democrat of whom Republicans could be proud. He fouled up the Bay of Pigs action, but that was, in large part, because it wasn’t his operation from the start, and he wasn’t really prepared for it. But when the Cuban Missile Crisis arose, he stood firm and forced Nikita Sergeievich Khrushchev to back down.

    We can’t know if he’d have done better in Vietnam than did President Johnson, though it’s difficult to see how he could have done worse.

    The death of President Kennedy started the demise of honor in the Democratic Party. The Democrats and Republicans differed on some domestic issues, but both parties were in agreement that the United States had to have a strong, anti-Communist foreign policy, and that we were neither embarrassed by our wealth and might, nor afraid to use it. Without President Kennedy, the Democrats morphed into the part of the weak, the party which was embarrassed about our power and wealth, and that fed into domestic policy as well as foreign: we took pity on the poor, which we should have, but then created programs which didn’t get people out of poverty, but simply made poverty tolerable, and institutionalized dependency.

  2. Pardon me if I don’t join in the Kennedy worship. He attained martyr status when he was shot, and then the whole Camelot myth was created, but had he lived I think he would have been judged an average president at best. Not only did he make a hash of the Bay of Pigs operation (and his own personal life), an act that persuaded Kruschev that he was a weakling, he also stood by and did nothing while the Soviets put up the Berlin Wall (no doubt because they perceived him as a weakling). When they met, Kruschev treated him like a little boy and basically bullied him at will. He never would have done this with Eisenhower. He did handle the Cubam Missile Crisis reasonably well, but then the whole crisis could have been avoided in the first place had the Soviets not been convinced he was weak.

    And let’s not forget Kennedy’s role in the coup that overthrew Diem in South Vietnam, probably the only reliable ally we had in that country. Not content to depose him, the coup leaders then went on to murder him shortly thereafter. By being perceived as stabbing an ally in the back, by giving their implicit approval to the coup, the Kennedy Admin pretty much killed whatever credibility we had with the Vietnamese people. It made us look like opportunists who would support power over principle, and from that time on the South Vietnamese were ruled by a series of corrupt leaders who were seen by the people as being more puppets than legitimate rulers. Although this particular episide in history often gets overlooked because of Kennedy’s own assassination a few weeks later, I do believe it marked the point, thanks to one cynical and cowardly act, where we pretty much lost the trust of the South Vietnamese people and set the path for the troubles we would encounter there in the future.

  3. York, you correctly mark the point when America was turned away from an optimistic anticipation of a better future. I remember that awful black Friday well, and Lee Oswald’s TV murder two days later, and two days after that LBJ escalated the Vietnam War. Then came the fiction of the Warren Report covering for JFK’s assassins.

    Then in quick succession came two more assassinations, first Martin Luther King Jr and the Robert F Kennedy. America hasn’t been the same since.

  4. Rope:
    Then in quick succession came two more assassinations, first Martin Luther King Jr and the Robert F Kennedy. America hasn’t been the same since.

    When MLK was killed, I was in downtown Baltimore doing my highbrow volunteer job of being an usher at a live NY stage production play. The road productions changed every three weeks on average. But I digress. We (the usher crew) had seen the play already the week before and we huddled in the lobby out of concern for potential riots. Well we got home OK, but the riots started the next day. For the life of me I can not, and could never figure out is why the rioters burn their own housing and businesses. But I got home, the city was on martial law, and the city, county, state police, and the National Guard fought for control. They got it back in control, but it was tense for a while, a long while. But if you combine Kennedy, Lame Brain Jackass, opps LBJ’s Great Society, Medicare, Welfare as we never knew it, MLK’s murder, The Great Society’s pay for baies which fostered unmarried baby mamma’s and non-families that were given more money for more baies, limit 10, pimping daddies who just needed a place not a relationship, drugs really started in earnest, the war on drugs and it was the genesis of the dependent society that is taking us broke today. The program the Lame Brain Jackass didn’t start was the “war” for self reliance. opting instead for sit on your asses and we will provide it all.

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