Civil Discourse Now

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   Fifty years ago on this date, as we all know from massive coverage of acknowledgment of the event, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. The cliche is true for me: I remember where I was and what happened. Mrs. Coleford was our third-grade teacher at New London Elementary School. Early afternoon, Mr. Kincaid, the principal, entered our classroom. Mrs. Coleford was one of my favorite elementary school teachers. She was kind, patient and made school interesting. Mr. Kincaid, later, was my sixth-grade homeroom and social studies teacher. I always liked him, too. 

   Mr. Kincaid obviously was shaken when he entered the room. Mrs. Coleford stopped what she was doing. He whispered to her and quickly left our classroom---probably for one of the other classrooms in the small building to deliver the same news. Mrs. Coleford told us the President had been shot with a shotgun on a construction site in Dallas, Texas. Our buses were on the way to our school and we would have the rest of the day off.

   November 22 was a Friday. That evening, as we watched the news in our living room (on a black-and-white TV; color TVs were rare in our area), my old man commented Johnson probably would make a better President. Next day, I accompanied my old man on a tour of construction job sites. We had breakfast in the diner next to the Sinclair gas station---a lot of gas stations had diners afixed to them back then---on South LaFountain in Kokomo. People talked about the previous day's events.

   My mother was Roman Catholic. She had voted the same as my old man in every election after Truman fired MacArthur. After JFK's assassination, however, she bought a book highly favorable to the late President, "The Torch Is Passed," and always had it on our coffee table in the living room.

   I also remember when Lee Harvey Oswald was shot, in real-time. Then there was the ride I got, in November, 1966, through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, with the top down on a convertible. I was 11 years old and thought our host for the trip had given me a cool experience, complete with a slow drive by the Texas School Book Depository, slamming the dashboard of his 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang, and flooring it all the way to the driveway of the Parkland Memorial Hospital.

   President Kennedy's record in office was a mixed bag. He handled the Cuban Missile Crisis in such a manner as to avoid a nuclear war. That alone should put him in the Top Five of great Presidents. Some say the Cuban Missile Crisis would not have occurred but for the Soviets' perception of JFK as weak, after the way in which he balked at aid to the invaders at the Bay of Pigs. The attempted invasion of Cuba by Cuban ex-patriots was a carry-over from President Eisenhower's administration. One could argue Kennedy was stuck with an operation he did not favor. Besides, was the United States supposed to back invasion of Cuba in order to re-install a different dictator and to take back Mafia-owned properties?

   Many people missed the obits of two other great men on that day. Aldous Huxley also died. Huxley, on his death bed, is said to have dropped acid so he could "go out" tripping. C.S. Lewis passed away on November 22, 1963. Of course, Dallas Police Officer Tippett also was killed on 11/22/63, by Lee Harvey Oswald on a Dallas neighborhood street.

   This 50th anniversary is the same calendar as November, 1963. we only can hope there are no more assassinations of Presidents.      

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