Sunday, November 21, 2004

A Day to Remember

Tomorrow will bring a spate (but not a tidal wave) of reminiscences about the death of John F. Kennedy, 41 years earlier. I still remember precisely where I was when I heard that JFK had been shot, then later when I heard that he had died.

I was devastated by the assassination, for I had come to believe in the Kennedy mystique, even though I had, three years earlier (and a bit too young to vote), favored Nixon over Kennedy because I associated the Democrat Party with such evils as legal segregation, high taxes, and corrupt unionism. (How little has changed in 44 years.)

The pomp and mourning that ensued the assassination seemed, somehow, to validate my idealistic belief in the power of government to do good, and the right of government to use that power. I then fell prey to the hysteria that Barry Goldwater's candidacy invoked, in those days of genuine fear of a nuclear holocaust and naive idealism about ending racial separation legally. It took riots in big cities, the debacle in Vietnam, and Watergate to overcome my emotional attachment to the prevailing faith that government is all-knowing, all-wise, and beneficent.

Yes, November 22, 1963, and the days that followed are seared in my memory. But they now remind me of the folly of allowing emotion to govern reason.