Saturday, May 29, 2010

In Memoriam: John Fitzgerald Kennedy

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More words have been written about John F. Kennedy - born on this day in 1917 - than any of us could read in a lifetime; the thirty-fifth President of the United States has been praised, vilified, and everything in between. There have been those who criticized his private peccadilloes to deflect attention from their own personal malfeasance, and those who like to claim that because he liked to chase skirt he was something less than he was: a dreamer.

From the Peace Corps to the Space Program, Kennedy had big dreams, forceful dreams, the kind that got into people's heads and helped them to dream as well. History has been gradually rewriting the role he played in the escalation of the Vietnam War and his role in the Bay of Pigs Invasion; but even history has a hard time getting past whether or not (or even how often) he had sex with Marilyn Monroe. History, after all, is just the stories we tell each other about our shared past - and that is a pretty good story.

Either way, the life that officially ended with Lee Harvey Oswald's bullet gave birth to the legend of JFK, a larger than life figure who, because of his early death, now gets to be all things to all people. To the Right he's a demon, specifically because he was handsome and populist and gave people hope (which is in direct contravention of Republican ideology), to the Left he's nothing short of a secular saint to be evoked rhetorically at will, and to us here in the Centre he may just be the last person to embody what made the United States of America great - not America, not States, but United...
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