Memory is a funny thing which is why I can’t say how old I was when I first heard about President Kennedy’s assassination. It happened six years before I was born so I can’t tell you a thing about how I felt or what I saw that day.
I think I remember learning about it in first grade around the same time we were learning about Martin Luther King, but I am not positive about that either. It was the Spring of ’76 and America was celebrating the Bicentennial so our teachers made a big deal about history and how we would live through experiences that would change our lives forever.
Of course when you are seven you don’t realize how easy it is for your teacher to remember some of those life changing events. The assassinations of Kennedy and King, Civil Rights Moment, Vietnam and Watergate are mostly just stuff grown ups care about. You are too busy trying to ride your Big Wheel, hang out with friends and watch The Six Million Dollar Man.
Generation X- Slackers Grown Up
Can’t say I ever liked the Generation X label but it has been around long enough for people to understand the reference and since I am a part of it I figured I might as well use it.
Figured that it might be interesting to share thoughts of a member of what was once called the slacker generation about JFK because he was a big deal for quite a few of our parents.
This past August I made a point to visit The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. I was living in Texas and the trip across the Metroplex was easy to make and since I had just finished reading Stephen King’s Novel 11/22/63 Kennedy was on my mind.
I wanted to see first hand where everything had gone down and to try to gain a greater understanding of why Kennedy was such a big deal to my parent’s generation.
Some of it was easy for me to follow.
I was 12 when President Reagan was shot, 17 when The Challenger exploded, in college for the first Gulf War and was married and a father for 9/11.
The boys and I have talked about how these moments impacted us. Some of them were more significant than others, but they made enough of an impression to merit conversations.
Many of us have spoken with our children about how flying used to be so very different before 9/11 or about how we didn’t have cellphones or computers when we were in 4th grade.
Life experience has changed our perspectives.
What Does JFK Mean To Generation X?
I am not entirely certain how I want to answer that. Haven’t conducted large scale research about JFK and how my generation views him at large so take that into consideration.
Most of these thoughts are my own with a smattering of friends mixed in.
The mythology surrounding the man is a big part of what got my attention. I can appreciate how very different he was to my parent’s generation and how it was new to see a leader who wasn’t an old man. I can kind of understand the convergence of that alongside television coverage and how it made him exciting, dynamic and promising.
They didn’t have a 24 hours news cycle and or the kind of media coverage that would have made certain any improprieties would be discussed ad nauseum.
So when I look at JFK I see things differently.
I see a charismatic man who came from wealth and who might have been a very good president. I like some of the speeches and things he did and am certain if he hadn’t been assassinated things would have been different.
But how different they would be I don’t know.
No one can say what would have happened with Vietnam or how he would have handled other situations. All we have is speculation and while it is fun to talk about it is just speculation.
It is similar to saying that if I was 7 feet tall I definitely would have played in the NBA. You could argue that is factual conjecture. Basketball players are tall and a 7 foot man is among the biggest on the planet so he would have a shot at playing.
But it doesn’t account for whether he has athletic ability or a desire to play.
So we can’t say what would happen with certainty. We can’t say I would have been in the NBA or that Kennedy’s New Frontier would have led to a more prosperous and peaceful time today.
Take a Stand
If push comes to shove I think things would have certainly been better if he hadn’t been assassinated for no other reason than we would be a kinder and gentler nation.
Maybe there would be fewer conspiracy theorists and a greater faith/trust in government. Maybe more people would vote and there wouldn’t be as much apathy.
What do you think?