Posts Tagged ‘Kennedy’

Letter From New York 03 02 15 It pays to be polite…

March 2, 2015

It is mid-day and I am at the Acela Lounge in Penn Station, where I have been doing emails and catching up on the Season Finale of Downton Abbey, which I missed last night. It was cold this morning when I left the cottage but the predicted six inches of snow failed to materialize but my understanding is that more is set to come. My morning train was filled with folks bemoaning the length of this winter as well as the depth of its cold.

The world outside the Acela Lounge is more chaotic than it is in here.

Netanyahu seems to be striking a more conciliatory tone now that he is on American soil. Speaking this morning at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual policy conference he stated that similarities between the US and Israel are greater than their differences and that we would “weather the current disagreement.” He is also making a point of saying he means no disrespect to Obama.

It appears, according to reports from CNN that a growing number of Americans disapprove of the speech and of Speaker Boehner’s invitation. I am going to be fascinated to watch this play out.

In the meantime, Iran is being slow to cooperate with the UN’s nuclear watchdog.

In the Mideast, the attack on Tikrit has begun and there are reports that Iraqi forces are making some headway. What is interesting is that one of the leaders of the military operation appears to be an Iranian General. This is not the first attempt to re-take Tikrit. The others were rapidly aborted.

IS has also taken to social media to denounce Twitter Co-Founder Jack Dorsey and to encourage jihadi to kill him and Twitter employees in the San Francisco area. They are upset that Twitter has taken down accounts that have been traced to them.

IS wannabes, Nigeria’s Boko Haram, have beheaded two men they accused of spying.

In Cairo and Aswan, two bombs exploded, killing two and injuring nearly a dozen.

In better news out of Africa, President Pohamba of Namibia has been awarded the $5,000,000 Mo Ibrahim Foundation prize for good governance. It is the first time the Award has been given since 2011 and only the fifth time in its history. Good governance in Africa is hard to find.

Eyes in America are turned toward the 2016 Presidential Election. Senator Marco Rubio is apparently about to announce he is throwing his hat into the ring, after calling Hillary Clinton so “yesterday.” He has also joined the illustrious list of Americans who have been declared by Venezuela asa “terrorists.”

Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey, once a frontrunner for the nomination, keeps slipping further and further behind in the race. Weighing him down this week is a New Jersey judge’s decision that it was illegal for him to withhold payments to a retirement fund.

The Bill O’Reilly saga continues. Today it is about his claim that he was just outside the door when George de Mohrenschildt, a figure in Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories, blasted himself to kingdom come with a shotgun. There apparently exists a recording of O’Reilly calling in on the day of the suicide from Dallas, saying he would head down the next day.

If true, it still won’t hurt him at Fox News.

There was a break while writing today’s blog. I went out to see my doctor and get my shots, vaccines and drugs for India. I have a slightly sore left arm and pills in my knapsack. The typhoid vaccine comes in pill form these days and I start it tonight, every other day for eight days and I have Cipro in case I get a case of Delhi belly. I received a call, a text and an email from the visa service telling me I could come in and pick up my passport with visa. I didn’t have too much trouble after all; it only took three tries to fill out the forms correctly.

Let me end with my favorite story from this week’s The Week.

A Londoner, late for a job interview, pushed, shoved and cursed the man in front of him as he was exiting “the tube.” He arrived in time for the interview only to find that his interviewer was the man he had pushed, shoved and cursed.

He did not get the job.

Letter From New York, November 26, 2013

November 26, 2013

Or, as it seems to me…

Fifty years later…

I was a young boy in Catholic school in 1963 when, in the early afternoon, it was announced that the President had been shot.  Not long after, it was announced that the President had died and we were all sent home.  At home, on that rainy November day, standing in our living room, looking out at Bryant Avenue, watching buses trundle down the rain slicked street, in a grey room on a grey day, I turned to my mother and asked her a question for which she had no answer:  what kind of country are we to do this?

I remember distinctly the color of the wood frames of the window, that I was looking out to the world and looking to the world to give me an answer.  That year the living room was painted an ivory color: I was standing behind a chair with a pink velvet back, next to a marble top that held ashtrays for guests, cocktail napkins and other assorted party goods, I remember all those odd details because that was where I was standing when I understood that Kennedy had died.  Not where I was when we I heard it but where I was when I understood he was dead.

I was crying that afternoon, once I realized what had happened.  I hadn’t realized what had happened when I heard the news; I only realized it when I was home, in the safety of my home, in the warmth of my home, in a place where I thought I was allowed to feel.

I was Catholic.  Kennedy was the first Catholic president.  We had all watched his inauguration on television in school on the portable television I had carried to school from my bedroom.  It was a major moment for Catholics, though not for my family.  We were Republicans and had supported Nixon – definitely a minority at Visitation School that year, 1960, when he had been elected. 

The 50th Anniversary of the assassination of Kennedy has brought back to me all kinds of memories of those days, the day he died, seeing Lee Harvey Oswald murdered on live television, the day he was buried.  I recall we watched CBS, Walter Cronkite’s voice carrying us through the trauma of having what we thought of as a lovely young man, youngest man elected to the Presidency, with a lovely family, the leader of the free world, a man of eloquent words and the capability of stirring men to motion, gone in a sudden, mad moment that even today seems incomprehensible.

Conspiracy theories flow like a raging river even now; there are conferences for them, those who think Kennedy’s death was the result of a far-right conspiracy or the result of Castro’s revenge, or that the Mafia organized his death or Lyndon Johnson’s Texas cabal organized the President’s death to catapult their man into office; it was Kennedy’s own driver who murdered him.  There were shots everywhere on the grassy knoll.  There are, it seems, a thousand theories and a hundred conspiracies, which have kept the case from closing on Kennedy’s death.  The Warren Commission was a white wash.  It goes on and on and will probably never end.

Kennedy was a man who said:  A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.  And Kennedy was an idea that has lived on despite our growing knowledge of his flaws and faults and all too mortal foibles, of his dalliances with interns, movie stars and mob connected women.  He accomplished only a middling amount in Congress but he was an idea and he lives on, an idea that drove us to the moon and back, an idea that created the Peace Corps, an idea that still inspires us to “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”

He is gone.  Those of us who remember where we were when we heard he had died are entering our late middle age or more and will be exiting the stage.  The 50th Anniversary of his death is a marker for those who remember where they were; fifty years is a long time, a lifetime, a half-century in which the world has radically changed.

It is said his death marked the end of innocence but we were not innocent then.  We were a deeply divided country, simmering with rage over integration and economic issues that bubbled over in the years following his death.  His death was the punctuation point for all the troubles to come.

But Kennedy was an idea and he lives on, an idea, an abstract, held in higher regard than any other post war President, 90% of people think he did a wonderful job and they think that because he is an idea that lives on, an eloquent idea that drew us beyond ourselves both while he lived and since he has died.



Letter From New York October 20, 2009

October 20, 2009

Or, as it seems to me…

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has issued dire warnings that failure to create an agreement at the Copenhagen Conference in December will result in even more dire consequences to be revealed in weather catastrophes. As I read his dreary statements [and Gordon Browne seems a dreary sort to begin with] I wondered [and here I must admit I was pushed toward this thought by the musings of my friend, the writer/philosopher Howard Bloom], is there no hope in the world? Have we become ostriches with heads in the sand because we hear no one saying there is hope anywhere? It is dire out there, whether climate changes are happening naturally, are being accelerated by human actions or are solely the result of human actions, we are living on a planet that seems to be going through a…change? Menopause? Something. Something is happening and to shrug it off is irresponsible as is ignoring it, as it is acting as if we are as doomed as the passengers on the Titanic after its brush with an iceberg.

While it is true that something significant is happening climate wise, it is untrue that it is completely out of our control. We are a remarkable race that consistently does remarkable things, often when our backs are against the wall [why do our backs have to be against the wall?]. So where in this desert of despair in which we so often seem to be living do we find a voice of hope? Who is going to stand up and say, yes, we can! [Oh wait! Obama said that and for a moment we thought we could and now seem to be slipping back into ennui, a tenebrous state of enervation. In others words: dark, gloomy, exhausted, without much hope.] And while it is more than a tad gloomy out there, we have survived gloomy periods before.

The Great Recession is not infrequently compared with the Great Depression, eighty years ago and there are some striking similarities. Now that was a pretty gloomy time also – and in the end the west pulled itself out from that period’s ennui through the vastly unpleasant shock of World War II, an event that united individuals and nations in a common cause against a frightful enemy. Do we, today, have to be that confrontationally threatened to wake up and react? Perhaps.

We have challenges in front of us [and, in fact, more challenges than we might actually need (certainly more than I personally want)] and we need right now a someone [thank you, Howard Bloom] to stir us with the same passion that John F. Kennedy stirred us with when he said: ask not what your country can do for you but what can you do for your country. It has been nearly fifty years since those words were spoken and yet they still have the power to excite and move and stir us in the fiber of our beings, a call to something beyond ourselves.

According to promos I saw on television this week, this is a week of volunteerism, a celebration of getting out and doing for someone else. God knows we have a lot of people who need doing for [I read a report of a 97 year old woman who is living in her car] and we have a lot of people who need to be doing, to stir themselves out of that ennui, the tenebrous state of enervation, out of the dark and gloomy space which really surrounds us but which we do not necessarily need to be victim to…