It’s said that everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news that J.F.K. was shot. I do. I was seven years old, it was a dreary November day in Montreal, and I just wanted my mother to get up from the nap she was having and make my supper. I don’t know if she was lying down because of the tragic news or if it was because of the daily grind of caring for four young kids, including a newborn. My dad had a successful career going, but the father’s job description in the early 60’s didn’t include changing diapers and helping with supper. I tried following that model during my own early years of marriage, but it didn’t work out so well for me. It’s one of the many reasons I still idolize my father.The only politician’s face I could picture was the recently -defeated Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and I remember thinking, “Why’s everyone so upset?”
A different age, a different time. Those thousand days of the Kennedy administration have since been dubbed Camelot, but I’m not sure why, unless Sir Lancelot and King Arthur were also having their way with every damsel-in-distress that they carried home across their saddles. It seems as if every second female, from Shirley MacLaine and Marilyn Monroe, to the office girl who cleared the coffee cups after the White House meetings, had a clandestine tryst with Mr. President. And remember, this was a man who suffered from a bad back, migraine headaches and numerous other ailments. Viagara was not even a thought in a pharmacist’s wildest imagination. The man was a giant.
Of course, there was no way of foreseeing that the hungry seven year old in 1963 would become the astute political analyst now writing these lines. That afternoon the news affected me so slightly that I can remember gathering up my road hockey stick and tennis ball and going out to take slap shots at Gordie Robertson. It’s said that dying young, especially from assassination, is a wise career choice. At least as far as becoming a legend is concerned.
J.F.K.’s human weaknesses notwithstanding, I think we all look back at that time with wistful nostalgia. A glamorous wife and beautiful family, the Cuban Missile Crisis averted, the Peace Corps begun and Vietnam not yet the controversial quagmire that it was to become. When was the last time that any country had such an attractive, witty and inspiring leader ? Even when he pronounced himself to be a jelly doughnut in Berlin (problem in translation) he was cheered wildly.
It has been said that there have been 40 000 books written on the subject of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Probably only Jesus, Napoleon and Alexander the Great surpass that number.
I only wonder if we ever will really get to the bottom of all those conspiracy theories ?