Friday, November 22, 2013

Where was I in '63?

I was six years old when John Kennedy was assassinated. I remember, vaguely, the events and the news, but I can't say I belong to the club that remembers where they were the day it all happened. I guess as a six year old in the UK, it actually wasn't that high on my list of important events that day.

I have clearer memories of the events of 1968, when in April Martin Luther King, and then in June Bobby Kennedy where both assassinated. By then I was a more mature ten, going on eleven. I was getting ready to go up to secondary school. I managed to pass my 11+ and secure a place at a Grammar School, starting in September 1969. Most of that year, '68-'69, was focussed on this transition and getting used to the idea that I was meant to feel both privileged and grateful for achieving this goal. Needless to say I felt neither, and wondered more about what I'd done. After all it was me who passed the exam!

On the other hand, there was something about the three political murders that nagged away at the back of my young mind, but chemistry, maths and biology, along with cricket and rugby soon occupied rather more of my thinking than political changes and the under current of conspiracy theories.

As the '60's turned into the '70's I was probably still too young to to either fully understand or appreciate the nuances of the political world, but things were changing. I started to read about the political events that lead up to the Vietnam war, I became more interested in what society was like and what it meant to choose a political ideology. Naive I might have been, but brainless I certainly wasn't!

Although I was later to discover that John Kennedy wasn't quite the hero he was portrayed to be, there were aspects of his life that were far from ideal, I guess his death did have some impact on me even though I was sonly six. Somewhere deep in my subconscious questions-political, social, moral, ethical questions-took up residence, and they shaped the way I began to think about the world.

The assassination of the Kennedy's, Martin Luther King and many more are acts of evil. Looking for the positives in them cannot diminish that truth. Perhaps, because of their untimely end, we can still aspire to something bigger, something ultimately less selfish because we have their examples. History is less kind to the memory of such individuals than popular culture.

Had Kennedy lived on and served out his time as President, then as one historian put it on the news this morning, he'd probably have been blamed for many of the social and political ills America endured in the latter part of the 1960's. Because he didn't we have an enduring image of a young president who looked forward to a better world and sought to challenge his generation to do something about it.

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