Voices are being heard in the land, he said, "voices preaching doctrines wholly unrelated to reality, wholly unsuited to the sixties, doctrines which apparently assume that words will suffice without weapons, that vituperation is as good as victory and that peace is a sign of weakness."
The speech went on: "At a time when the national debt is steadily being reduced in terms of its burden on our economy, they see that debt as the greatest threat to our security. At a time when we are steadily reducing the number of Federal employees serving every thousand citizens, they fear those supposed hordes of civil servants far more than the actual hordes of opposing armies.
"We cannot expect that everyone, to use the phrase of a decade ago, will 'talk sense to the American people.' But we can hope that fewer people will listen to nonsense. And the notion that this nation is headed for defeat through deficit, or that strength is but a matter of slogans, is nothing but just plain nonsense."
With a simple change of date, Kennedy's words would resonate today, wouldn't they?
I was reminded of a column written this week by Frank Rich titled What Killed JFK: The hate that ended his presidency is eerily familiar.
Thanksgiving week is a milestone for Barack Obama, but not one that many are likely to commemorate. The president who seemed poised to inherit John F. Kennedy’s mantle—in the eyes of Kennedy’s last surviving child and brother as well as many optimistic onlookers (me included) in 2008—will now have served longer than his historical antecedent...
But if the JFK story has resonance in our era, that is not because it triggers the vaguely noble sentiments of affection, loss, and nostalgia that keepers of the Kennedy flame would like to believe...What defines the Kennedy legacy today is less the fallen president’s short, often admirable life than the particular strain of virulent hatred that helped bring him down. After JFK was killed, that hate went into only temporary hiding. It has been a growth industry ever since and has been flourishing in the Obama years. There are plenty of comparisons to be made between the two men, but the most telling is the vitriol that engulfed both their presidencies.
Rich goes on to quote historian William Manchester, author of Death of a President.
While Manchester adds that “obviously, it is impossible to define the exact relationship between an individual and his environment,” he strongly rejected the universal description of Oswald as “a loner.” No man, he writes, is quarantined from his time and place. Dallas was toxic. The atmosphere was “something unrelated to conventional politics—a stridency, a disease of the spirit, a shrill, hysterical note suggestive of a deeply troubled society.” Duly observing that even the greatest presidents have been vilified in their time—Lincoln as a baboon and Jefferson as “Mad Tom”—Manchester saw something “more than partisan zeal” at work in this case. He detected “a chiaroscuro that existed outside the two parties, a virulence which had infected members of both.” Dallas had become the gaudy big top for a growing national movement—“the mecca for medicine-show evangelists of the National Indignation Convention, the Christian Crusaders, the Minutemen, the John Birch and Patrick Henry societies.”
It seems that all the JFK assassination conspiracy theories miss the one that was right out there for everyone to see. As an example, there was the Dallas radio personality Billy James Hargis. Take a listen and see if this isn't one of those things that sounds "eerily familiar."
And then there were people in Dallas like Edwin Walker who worked closely with Hargis and went on to incite violence against the federal troops sent in to de-segregate the University of Mississippi in 1962.
I call for a national protest against the conspiracy from within. Rally to the cause of freedom in righteous indignation, violent vocal protest, and bitter silence under the flag of Mississippi at the use of Federal troops. This today is a disgrace to the nation in 'dire peril,' a disgrace beyond the capacity of anyone except its enemies. This is the conspiracy of the crucifixion by anti-Christ conspirators of the Supreme Court in their denial of prayer and their betrayal of a nation.
I find a kind of strange comfort in all of this. Many times it can seem like the hate we are witnessing in the moment is something new and unique. Its not.
It is also not a coincidence that the hate we're talking about in Dallas during the early 60's was fueled by the federal government's stand on civil rights and de-segregation. We're now at a point in this nation's history when the next steps in our journey towards becoming "a more perfect union" are being taken in the midst of troubling economic times.
As I've quoted before, author Derrick Jensen talks about the unmasking of hate in his book The Culture of Make Believe.
From the perspective of those who are entitled, the problems begin when those they despise do not go along with—and have the power and wherewithal to not go along with—the perceived entitlement...
Several times I have commented that hatred felt long and deeply enough no longer feels like hatred, but more like tradition, economics, religion, what have you. It is when those traditions are challenged, when the entitlement is threatened, when the masks of religion, economics, and so on are pulled away that hate transforms from its more seemingly sophisticated, "normal," chronic state—where those exploited are looked down upon, or despised—to a more acute and obvious manifestation. Hate becomes more perceptible when it is no longer normalized.
Another way to say all of this is that if the rhetoric of superiority works to maintain the entitlement, hatred and direct physical force remains underground. But when that rhetoric begins to fail, force and hatred waits in the wings, ready to explode.
He's basically saying the same thing Rich did up above.
After JFK was killed, that hate went into only temporary hiding. It has been a growth industry ever since and has been flourishing in the Obama years.
And today we can quote the words that Kennedy didn't have the opportunity to speak.
We cannot expect that everyone, to use the phrase of a decade ago, will 'talk sense to the American people.' But we can hope that fewer people will listen to nonsense.