“It was the best of times”… 34,220,984 voters (303 electors) had elected the ingenious John F. Kennedy… a man possessing a lucid, 20/20 vision for a moving forward America… “It was the worst of times”… 5 archconservative, U.S. Supreme Court judicial hacks had (s)elected incurious George W. Bush… a stick-figure man possessing a lurid, myopic vision for a falling backward America.
These are the ex-Presidents akin to temporal bookends to the more recently written chapters of American History. Respectively…
The sturdy one on the left had stood upright… tried his very best to usher in the dawn of a better America… a land built upon a strong foundation… its cornerstone to be composed of sweet liberty, racial harmony, equal opportunity and economic stability for all… a land where our innovative, can-do spirit would rule supreme and flourish. Indeed… it was the “age of wisdom”… “epoch of belief”… “season of Light”… “spring of hope”… “we had everything before us”.
The tipsy one on the far right had skulked off in the murky shadows of avarice, treachery and deceit… tried his damnedest to topple our nation / fan the destructive socially and politically polarizing flames… condemn all aspects of our once great nation… forcing the U.S. into becoming an unbecoming (figurative and literal) ground zero conflagration… its ruins and rubble still smoldering today. Indeed, it was the “age of foolishness”… “epoch of incredulity”… “season of Darkness”… “winter of despair”… “we had nothing before us”.
Whew… now that’s one hell of a wordplay workout… huh? While we all pause to catch our collective breath… I’ll tend to a few preliminaries…
Firstly… yes, my blog intro got a Dickensian assist… those quoted words from Charles Dickens’ 1859 novel, A Tale of Two Cities… his very book title serving as a tidy literary device to portray the bottomless pit of socioeconomic disparity between the 18th century’s aristocracy and peasants. I have little doubt that if ol’ Chuck were alive and writing his “Tale” today (perhaps on a laptop?) his social / political commentary would be taking some literary swipes at 21st century America’s Trumps vs. the Trampled.
Secondly… I must acknowledge that viewing anyone as a martyr (e.g. JFK) can be akin to looking through a pair of objectivity clouding, thick lensed distorting, rose-colored glasses… that this can cause History to overlook and blur such a person’s shortcomings and perhaps even magnify his/her accomplishments.
Thirdly… speculation re the events of a rosy timeline (which never was) is fraught with so many variables that exactly how a two term Kennedy presidency could’ve positively impacted American / World History will forever remain in the realm of nearly impossible to prove. Of course… would this not also be nearly impossible to disprove?
And since we, as a society, had been denied such a presidential admin… that does grant us the right to ponder the possibilities… and I will shamelessly do so in this blog.
Lastly… just in case my JFK’s “best of times” / GWB’s “worst of times”, blue ink saturated, lead paragraphs have left any doubt… I am a Leftie. My Democratic Party roots run deep. Hell… I even voted for JFK when I was ONLY six-years-old!
Well… uh… sort of. Here’s what had actually happened…
After Mom had closed the voting booth curtains, hoisted me up to adult eye level and demonstrated how everything worked, she actually let me shift JFK’s lever down! My having done something so grown-up on Election Day 1960 had been a feel good, defining moment in my young life.
As I grew physically, so did my understanding of (and respect for) the immense leverage, which each of those tiny levers can exert in shaping our nation and world. Tragically, not everyone opts in to such a civilized, orderly process. Such was the case on…
November 22, 1963 ~ It had been a gray, overcast, rainy Friday. There had been no school for Sis and me (due to parent / teacher conferences). I was just finishing lunch when my sibling came rushing into the dining room. Still clutching her pocket-sized transistor radio, she blurted out…
“Somebody Shot President Kennedy!” Mom, Sis and I quickly adjourned to the living room. Even before our Zenith TV’s B&W picture tube had fully warmed up, we could already hear one of CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite’s earliest bulletins.
As time came grinding down to a dead halt we felt ourselves rapidly descending into the depths of our nation’s communal shock. There was little else we could do… save for waiting and hoping that our worst fears would not be confirmed. But…
The bad news just kept on spilling forth from our nation’s TV screens while Kennedy’s dream for the betterment of our national / global society, was hemorrhaging forth from his head wounds… dying along with this great man. Eventually, Cronkite had to choke back his own overwhelming sorrow as he reported…
“From Dallas, Texas… the flash apparently official… President Kennedy died a 1 p.m., Central Standard Time… 2 o’clock Eastern Standard Time… some thirty-eight minutes ago.”
My above-described televised events can be viewed in this archival footage.
And that’s the way it was… the feel rotten, defining moment in my young life. The President I had “voted” for three short Novembers earlier had been blown away. Bullets… not ballots… had removed John Fitzgerald Kennedy from office and shot to hell my childhood innocence.
JFK had been a visionary… keenly aware that the sky (quite literally) is not the limit. A mere, thirty months earlier, on May 25, 1961, he had boldly challenged Congress, indeed, folks all across America, to think big. Said he:
“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space.”
Size Matters ~ Now, lest anyone accuse me of being starry-eyed… I do fully realize that… in the beginning… the space race was little more than the sabre rattling of Nikita Khrushchev, which left Kennedy little choice but to get sucked into this war of the words.
Basically, they had become two little boys territorially hosing down the vacuum of outer space with ideological, rhetorical urine. This was tantamount to Khrushchev and Kennedy comparing the size of their phallic symbol rockets… to their cockily strutting and crowing about possessing an ability to blast off these missiles and target their destinations with pinpoint precision… be their payloads utilitarian, orbital communication / weather satellites, top flight lunar bound astronauts or apocalyptic surface to air to surface nuclear warheads.
Fortunately, such immature posturing was doomed… perhaps even destined… to fade into oblivion… courtesy of astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders. NASA had scheduled an extra special, Christmas Eve 1968 telecast… beamed live from the Moon to the citizens of planet Earth. With their TV camera focused upon the cratered lunar surface passing a mere 60 miles below, all three astronauts took turns reading from the Book of Genesis.
Their unifying message had proven infinitely more powerful than the Saturn 5 rocket that had propelled them on their journey… inestimably more influential / inspirational than any scripture ever uttered by any earthbound preacher.
“Earthrise” (The Big Picture) ~ Anders had also snapped a still photo, which further and forever solidified what all three had said and read from their space capsule “pulpit”.
One would have to be stonehearted / rock-headed to be unable to compare and contrast that foreboding, dead as a doornail, rocky, pockmarked lunar terrain to our breathing, burgeoning with life globe… one enshrouded by a blanket of life-sustaining air, interlaced with high floating, white clouds passing over azure oceans… one where not one, single, solitary politically drawn, national demarcation line could be seen.
This had been a jaw dropping, unifying wake-up call to humanity. We, aboard “Spaceship” Earth, are all in this together… hurling through the inky black void of outer space… AND… most importantly… we had better not FUBAR our fragile world… the only known planet in the entire universe capable of sustaining human life.
Other Safe Harbors for Humanity? The closest, recently discovered, “Goldilocks Zone” / Earthlike, extrasolar planets are approximately 13 to 20 light-years away. Even IF we could construct close to speed of light velocity spacecraft, it would still take decades to traverse even those, “small” (on an astronomical scale) distances. And to get real here, upon our arrival, we could very well discover far from ideal conditions. Just to toss out a couple of worst-case scenario variables…
There might be insufficient breathable oxygen or, worse yet, if there is ample oxygen, it might be getting inhaled by billions of xenophobic, hostile aliens. For our interstellar astronauts to survive a close encounter of the disastrous kind, that would likely require superhero skills… the type only found, heretofore, in big and small screen Sci-Fi screenplays (e.g., the logical diplomacy of Ambassador Spock and/or the lock and load militancy of Ellen Ripley).
Radical Republicans: Ill Will Ambassadors ~ Perhaps it’s just as well that our current tax-dollar and technically challenged space vehicles (trapped in low Earth orbit / going around in circles / going nowhere fast) preclude our becoming interstellar spacefarers / our making first contact with alien civilizations.
Considering how today’s far from evolved, rabidly xenophobic, GOP radicals suffer from an overwhelming, wholesale loathing of any and all non-WASP terrestrial “aliens” (e.g. Muslims, Hebrews, Hispanics, Afro-Americans, etc.) it would not be hard to imagine how horrifically they’d react towards the extraterrestrial variety.
It’s pretty safe to say that outer space aliens (in possession of vastly superior spacecraft and weaponry) would never tolerate the likes of… oh… say… the totally reprehensible, bigoted Donald Trump and his best bud, David Duke. Hell, most PO’d ET’s would likely pay Earth a visit and promptly blast our world to smithereens.
One Democrat’s Good Will Ambassador ~ On July 20, 1969, when first man on the moon, Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong, had spoken of that “one giant leap for mankind”, he had not only been referring to his ability to jump higher in the (one-sixth of Earth’s) lunar gravity. In effect JFK had been speaking through him to present yet another challenge to humanity… elementary, elegant and enlightening … namely…
Even non-astronauts possess all the right stuff to leap / aim high in life. If we follow our hearts and heads to work together for the common good… we can complete any task we set our minds on (be our accomplishments majestic, mundane or something in the middle). To soar as one and sustain such an ascent could even “launch” a national / international renaissance.
However… with the passage of time, these now decades old sentiments have faded into oblivion… especially forgotten by the do anything to feather their own nests… anything for a buck… right wing extremist Republicans.
Today’s GOP has a budgetary axe to grind ~ I could’ve accepted humankind’s one giant leap backward… our demotion from spacefarers to stay-at-homes if these “saved” tax dollars had been utilized towards down to earth projects which were still consistent to JFK’s dream… i.e., had been inclusive of We, the common folk. BUT… more to the point… it’s only once in a blue moon (if even then) when the well-to-do ever step aside to permit those not-so-well-off to get ahead in life.
But it’s the S.O.P. of Uncle Sam to nearly always favor the obscenely rich. No questions asked, he’ll bestow untold, unlimited, welfare unto the wealthy. Hell, I could’ve even accepted THAT, if the high and mighty chose to spend at least a portion of this ill-gotten largess… oh… say… a bit more altruistically.
For the record… I have no problem with folks becoming successful / wealthy. But, I simply cannot fathom why those who’ve accumulated more wealth than they could spend if they lived to be 1000 years old still want more? In other words… why does anyone need more money when one already has too much?
Any chance for a JFK-like latter-day renaissance? Long story short… all one need do is draw out a horizontal line to strike out this paragraph’s headline.
But we can still imagine that societal rebirth… i.e., where Kennedy’s dream had not been deep-sixed along with him at Arlington Cemetery… so long ago…
By now… the end to fossil fuel consumption would’ve cleansed and breathed new life into our biosphere (our energy needs being supplied by a worldwide, solar paneled grid)… lifesaving / prolonging medicines would’ve cured Cancer, AIDS, mental disorders, etc.… the end to human starvation (be that metabolically, intellectually and spiritually) would’ve become akin to a birthright…
By now… our global society would’ve felt appalled by the hoggish, upward redistribution of wealth and, with no Have / Have not schism to contend with, the incidents of violent street crimes, deadly terrorist acts and no-win, endless wars would’ve become rare to non-existent… there would’ve been a globalized expansion of the American Dream thereby allowing each and every industrious Earthling to enjoy the fruits of her/his labors… AND, upon securing life fortunes, we’d have felt sufficient contentment and graciousness to step aside to allow others the same opportunity…
OK… but… would that really have been JFK’s path? Well, as I said at the outset, re alternate timelines, I can offer little evidence to either prove or disprove. But I do feel it’s safe to say that, had we been allowed to enjoy two full terms worth of JFK, at the very least, the American people would’ve been sufficiently impressed… to the point where they’d never have tolerated a timeline featuring the POTUS rogues gallery we did wind up with.
To name names… that was Watergate crook Tricky Dicky Nixon and his handpicked, suck up successor, Gerald Ford… union buster / Robin Hood in reverse Ronald Reagan… Nazi George H.W. Bush (who some claim had actually been seen skulking off in the 11/22/1963, Dealey Plaza shadows) and his ventriloquist dummy / puppet, war criminal, torture loving sonny boy W.
And, to be fair here… while what follows does not necessarily qualify as a rogues gallery… I must also address the deficiencies of DINO Lyndon B. Johnson (who likely would’ve never parked his butt in the Oval Office chair were it not for JFK’s coattails and the Constitutionally stipulated presidential line of succession)… Jimmy Carter who had suffered an absence of cojones AND Bill Clinton who had suffered from an overabundance.
As for President Barack Obama? There is a time and place for being a perfect gentleman… but… considering all that arch-conservative, vicious, avaricious, parasitic, opportunistic Republican opposition… now is not that time.
In short… had there been eight years of JFK… We the People would have never voted anyone into power (either Democrat or Republican) who had exuded even the slightest whiff of malodorous immaturity, incompetency, mediocrity, timidity, obstinacy, rapacity and/or criminality… all of which (upon first striking timidity from that list) provides the perfect lead-in for the discussion of…
GWB’s path ~ We, who can still think critically, have been forced to hold our noses against the stench of W’s Orwellian NSA and MSM, banana republic elections, corporate citizenship, too big to fail coddled big biz failures, an upward redistribution of wealth, a “no child left behind” spiritless “teach to the test”, backward public school system, misogyny, theocracy, homophobia, xenophobia, environmental rape, foreign oil dependence, clucking / crowing chickenhawks, warmongering / war profiteering, needless, endless no-win wars, terrorist attacks, zero gun controls and warzone municipalities where even elementary school kids get shot to death.
A Tale of Two Timelines (Part I) Parting Words ~ In Quantum Mechanics… as the theory goes… nearly everything scientifically possible goes.
For instance… say you’ve just turned the key in the ignition, put your car into gear and are pulling out of the parking lot… headed for home. There are two possible routes to choose from. The path you do take results in your getting involved in a fatal traffic accident. But… as Quantum Theory suggests… there’s also that “other reality” where you took the other path and reached your destination safe and sound… to live out your entire lifespan.
Well… applying that same premise to November 22, 1963… I sure as hell wish I could find the alternate reality where JFK had opted out from his Texas trip, gotten re-elected and lived on to a ripe old age (he might’ve even made it to 99 years of age this May 29th).
Even upon my facing down the vast unknowns associated with an alternate Kennedy timeline… if given the opportunity to go there… I’d sure as hell take my chances… in a heartbeat. Nearly anything else pitted against our present-day woes… our still suffering from the blowback from GWB’s corrupt, contemptible admin… would be infinitely preferable to me.
To that end… is there anybody out there? Does anyone on the WWW know how I might find that “JFK survived” timeline? If so… please… Please… PLEASE… outline the procedure in the comment box below… or… if you’d rather not publicly reveal that secret… maybe we can arrange a place and time to meet on the QT?
But… getting back to our here and now reality… my short term goal is to post A Tale of Two Timelines (Part II)… HOWEVER…
If that fails to happen in a timely manner… this just might mean that someone has shared her/his knowhow with me… that I’ve taken that Quantum Leap… gone off to enjoy that “best of times” timeline where JFK had lived long… and… as a result… America / the world has flourished. And by that I mean prospered in ways not merely measured in dollars and cents.
Of course, such a risky venture might have a high price tag attached… i.e., in the process of leaping about through alternate realities I just could wind up paying for it with my very life. Oh well… as Patrick Henry once said… “Give me liberty or give me death.”
And… if it involves the latter eventuality… well… I’ll yield my blogger’s podium… once more… allow Mr. Dickens to speak on my behalf…
“It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done… it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”