I have always been curious as to why JFK’s assassination is called the “death of innocence”. I’ve heard the phrase many times, but it doesn’t make any sense from either a historical perspective or a biographical perspective. As for historical, America has always had skeletons in the closet and assassinations had happened before with previous presidents. As for a biographical look, JFK, while an admirable and charismatic personality, was anything but innocent. The man was well documented to be a womanizer and if the stories I’ve heard are true, then he also conspired with Mayor Daley in the 1960 election to have thousands of dead voters get him past Nixon to win.
I don’t mean to speak ill of the dead, I mean, maybe 51 years is too soon to besmirch the spotless character of a US president whose greatest claim to fame is challenging NASA to go to the moon.
I believe the real reason so much is made about JFK is he was the first and only US president to be assassinated on live television. Because of the fact that the whole nation was “there” so to speak as opposed to the hundred or so in Ford’s theater a hundred years prior, it was a much greater shock and terror. The death of innocence? Maybe it was the generation of youngsters who witnessed it on television. For my generation, it was watching the Challenger explosion on live TV in my fourth grade classroom. For those a little younger, it was watching the towers collapse on 9-11.
Television, and now social media, has so dramatically altered the “shared experience” of world history and events. The events are no longer something you read about. We are now all there at the moment these things happen. This is how I would say there is a “death to innocence”.
It’s just ironic that under my definition, it means that the meaning of the man’s life, JFK I mean, is rendered relevant only in that he happened to be the man shot. Just as Franz Ferdinand would have been another forgettable member of the Hapsburgs had it not been for a crazed terrorist assassin. Does getting shot really bring meaning to one’s life? Is this why we remember Treyvon Martin? Who was he that any attention is paid other than he was shot.
Sorry for the rambling on, but the title to your post really set off my thoughts into a different place.
Thanks for continually bringing interesting material to my attention.
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Hi David, Thank you for your thoughtful response, as always. I am not an historian, but to me this event was a watershed for the country. The innocence was the thinking of the country as a whole. . . which escalated in the following years. . . . trusting or not the government, the war in Viet Nam, birth control, abortion, integration, Watergate, riots in the streets, no prayer in the schools, assassination of our “Prince!” flawed as he turned out to be. Don’t get me wrong, some of those changes were necessary and positive. But to me, November 22 was the beginning of all those changes . . . .and did I say Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll? Everyday people wondered what was going to happen next? A very unsettling time. . . . oh maybe similar to “now”?
One of my favorite all-time quotes. Thank you for this, nice to think about today.
Yes, it is a beautiful , inspiring quote and much needed today ! Thanks for stopping by !
The tragic death of JFK will always be remembered as the loss of a charismatic prez. He was the last intellectual president of the country. He has been an all time hero to me, though I was not even born then. Every time I visit the US, I get some new book written on JFK. I visited his assassination site in Dallas and I have no words to express my state then.
What a lovely response. Thank you for sharing. . . . I haven’t been to Dallas, myself. He though flawed was well loved. Of course his term was young when it was cut short and there was not 24/7 news on TV. Much of his philandering was not known by the public at the time. Have you read “Profiles in Courage?” He wrote that and inspired a generation. Thank you !
Yes Ms.Anne. I have read that too. JFK, Rob and Ted had a great upbringing. Seems his dad would ask the children, on the dinner table, to speak about what they had read during the day. No wonder the three were intellectuals. I think he had an elder brother too who died in a plane crash or had some tragic end. Except for Ted who departed some years ago, every other Kennedy sibling was somehow cursed. I was very happy when JFKs’ daughter was made the Japanese ambassador a couple of months ago. Every man had his weakness. JFK had his. After all he was human. Nonetheless his charisma was never matched. Reagan too did not match his charisma. And he was no match for JFKs’ intellect.
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