Sandrock wrote:stomperrob wrote:While BH's reply was a little harsh, I find it somewhat reprehensible that a history teacher would suggest that murder is good means of achieving change in a free and democratic society.
Okay, first off in no way did I suggest that murder is an acceptable way to bring about change in any form of society. Given the chance, I would stop the murder. But since it happened, I am more than allowed to recognize how America benefited from the tragedy.
You bring up good arguments and I could post counter-arguments and we could go back and forth for ages. JFK never got a chance to finish out his term and thus everything we'll be arguing about is mere speculation. The arguments I hear in favor of JFK mostly center on what he intended to accomplish. And unfortunately he never got a chance to finish it out. So while pretty much every historian I've ever talked with (no, I'm not a historian) agrees that JFK was overall a horrible president, it's really just a matter of opinion. He could have ended his term with a flare and been elected again. He certainly didn't have any competition at the time.
Isn't that what we do best around here and what this place is all about?
I apologize if I misinterpreted your original post but you certainly could have have worded it better.
And I don't know that I trust some historians to write the final chapter on JFK. It's so hard to quantify what his contribution was as it was so much more than adding up the total number of bills he pushed through Congress. There is a difference between reading/studying history and actually living it - while some of those who wrote about JFK were around at the time, it's questionable if some of them truly grasp what his contribution was - as anyone who has attended university can attest, all too often those who dwell in the hallowed halls and ivory towers of academe are out of touch with the real world and can only postulate how things work (or should work). All too often all they do is wallow in the mire of intellectual mediocrity.
If you didn't live through those times, it can be difficult to understand just what it was like. I was in grades 7-9 through JFK's presidency. Today we live with the threat of terrorism - 9/11 seems like a major incident (and rightly so!) but back them we lived with the threat of nuclear holocaust, where quite possibly the world might come to an end or at the very least that most of Europe and North America would be wiped out.
I can remember the air raid drills of those cold war days - those shrill air raid alarms going off all over the city and we had to leave school and rush home as quickly as possible (in those days there were no such things as school buses and I lived aboout 2 miles from school - I don't remember why, but for some reason we never rode our bikes to school so my friends and I had to run home when the alarms went). We never knew when the alarms sounded whether it was a drill or the real thing so we were often terrified on the way home for fear it was the real thing this time and wondering if we would make it home to be with our families when the end came. You have no idea what it is to experience that kind of fear and terror as a child.
After JFK came to power, it signalled the start of a new generation - he was the first President born in the 20th century. His promise of the "New Frontier" gave many people hope, and not just Americans, but free people everywhere (and indeed, not just free people as he even held out hope that those who weren't free might some day taste freedom)
He told us that it was okay to dream and that if we were willing to work hard enough those dreams might come true. He told us not to sit on our butts and wait for the government to make things better, but that we needed to roll up our sleeves and pitch in and help if we wanted to make our country and the world a better place. He told us to hold out hope for a brighter future and that the world just might go on existing for a while, while it be through negotiating with our foes or by mutual deterrence. He taught us, to put it in the words of Robert Browning, that "...a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for".
As opposed to previous administrations, he surrounded himself with "the best and the brightest" (as author David Halberstam so eloquently put it) in his cabinet and staff for fresh, innovative ideas - he was not interested in yes men.
His quotes were at once, legendary, memorable, and stirring. Some of the more inspirational were:
"A ship is safest when it is in harbor, but that's not what ships are for".
"Some men see things as they are and ask why, I dream things that never were and ask why not"
"Our task now is not to fix the blame for the past, but to fix the course for the future"
"The basic problems facing the world today are not susceptible to a military solution".
"And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country".
"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich".
"When we got into office, the thing that surprised me most was to find that things were just as bad as we'd saying they were".
"We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world - or to make it the last".
"We prefer world law in the age of self-determination - we reject world war in the age of mass extermination".
While historians may be divided on his proper place in the pantheon of past presidents, I for one harbor no doubts. History is more than cold hard facts written on paper and sometimes history is too important to be left to historians. Part of the tragedy of JFK is not just of because what was, but because of what might have been. God knows, the road LBJ took the country down almost tore it apart - as a result, instead of young Americans aspiring to build a better world, they were marching in front of the White House chanting: "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?" in protest of a war that few wanted, and that destroyed too many lives.
Perhaps it's hard for those who weren't around then to understand because it seemed like our world was never quite the same again. We buried more than a president that day - in a lot of ways we also buried our hopes and our dreams. As is oft said of the Kennedy years: "For one brief shinning moment, there was Camelot". Or as John Fogerty sung in "I Saw It On TV":
"A young man from Boston set sail the New Frontier,
And we watched the Dream dead-end in Dallas,
They buried innocence that year."