Welcome to “The Gods Are Bored,” where today we walk down memory lane to a tragedy of epic proportions.
Where were you when John F. Kennedy was shot? Still a twinkle in the eye? Well, striplings, I was alive and a tender four years old.
My mother was very strict about television. She would not let me watch it during the day, unless there was an Apollo launch. On this day, however, Mom turned on the set and within moments was crying her eyeballs out.
When you’re four, and your mom starts crying, it’s intensely scary. Mothers aren’t supposed to cry.
What was worse was that the guy on the t.v. was partly crying too. T.V. newscasters REALLY weren’t supposed to cry. I was old enough to understand that this was something cataclysmic, old enough to wonder if I wouldn’t have to wear my black patent leather shoes anymore (which hurt like hell) because my girly nemesis, Caroline Kennedy, wouldn’t be on the t.v. so much. Mom always set Caroline up as the standard for appearance, admonishing me to dress and act like her.
Then there was all this talk about Oswald and Ruby, and Ruby and Oswald. Ruby shot Oswald, and my mother said it was to shut Oswald up, so he wouldn’t talk about who set him up to shoot the president.
Then we watched the funeral, and it was scary. So scary. I wondered if someone would shoot my dad.
It seemed like we watched television for days and days. If I needed any more confirmation that this was serious, there was a cancellation of a Shirley Temple movie that was going to be shown. The only other time Mom let me watch t.v. during the day was when Shirley was on. Oh wow. This event bumped Shirley, Bojangles, and Stepin’ Fetchit!
There was some small consolation in the fact that the new president had the same name as me. It was cool to have a President Johnson. But my dad didn’t like it at all. He voted straight Republican ticket, because that is how his family had voted since Lincoln won the war. It didn’t matter to him if the president’s name was Johnson. Johnson was a Democrat, and they were bad.
If what you’re reading seems a shallow and childish reaction to a presidential assassination, let me explain. I’m viewing it as I did when I was that age. A half century has gone since then. My life no longer revolves around patent leather shoes and Shirley Temple movies, and whether or not I could watch t.v. during the day.
When people complain about America today and how deep it’s in the crapper, I remember the long-ago 1960s. We lost two Kennedys and Martin Luther King to assassination. The world went upside down, especially in the wake of King’s death. We were constantly being told that Red China was going to invade us, and the Soviet Union was going to bomb us into oblivion. The cities erupted in riots, and students got shot by soldiers on college campuses. We were embroiled in a pointless war that had something to do with keeping communism from spreading.
Rush Limbaugh would have had a field day with all of this, but in those years he was hiding under a rock, trying to dodge the draft. Please be aware, striplings: Things are better now than they were a half century ago. This could change any day for a dozen different reasons, but as I reflect on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, I can’t agree with the Talking Heads that it’s “same as it ever was.”