JFK and Camelot
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We wanted to believe in him. We still do.
The Legacy of John F. Kennedy is one of Doomed Promise
Riots, illegal wars, assassinations, drugs, mindless murders becoming everyday occurrences, presidential resignations, destruction of the environment, the transversal of America into a much more violent and sick society.
America was sick long before Kennedy. We annihilated our Native American Indian population, confined them on reservations where they starved, and called it, instead of a "Holocaust," the "Winning of the West."
Long before Kennedy.
Kennedy has come instead to personify allusions. He was so many different men inside. He had great charm, wit and humor. He was the last truly eloquent president, capable of penning and speaking ringing, poetic statements that made us feel good to be Americans. Unlike Kennedy, subsequent presidents are totally lacking in their ability to conjure up even just one memorable statement.
He was so youthful-looking and handsome that it made us feel like we were too. He was the first movie-star-like president in a land of Hollywood and Disneyland. He seemed to personify glamour, and optimism for the future.
It was a myth, like the story of Camelot with which Kennedy will always be associated.
John F. Kennedy almost certainly didn't win the 1960 election to become president, and his chicanery and that of his family in winning it by cheating would set the tone for Watergate and the expansion of presidential power into an unstoppable engine running away under its own power down its own separate track that bedevils us today.
The Mayor Daley Political Machine in Chicago fixed things illegally for Kennedy to win the presidency in a key state, and payouts were also made to miner's unions in West Virginia, bribe money from father Joe Kennedy, a bootlegger, rapist and anti-Semite pro-Nazi who once sodomized actress Gloria Swanson. The money was paid out by brother Robert Kennedy, who like his brother John had a combination of hero and gangster inside him.
Richard Nixon, aware of the cheating that had given Kennedy the narrowest margin of victory in presidential elective history, considered suing and demanding a recount, but was advised such a move was unlikely to succeed, and that losing a lawsuit would brand him a poor loser and finish his political career. Nixon kept his silence, but vowed never to be hoodwinked by the Kennedys again. The seed for the Watergate scandal was born.
The Kennedy family eagerly adopted and the public accepted the beauty of their personas and the mythology comparing them to the imaginary kingdom of Camelot, but it was a fanciful epic that masked the unpleasant truth. Camelot was a mythical kingdom where a heroic King Arthur ruled in a saucy love triangle with a beautiful Queen Guinevere and the dashing Lancelot. The reality of the Middle Ages, a life expectancy of only 23, a world of vile smells and open sewers, of diseased malnutrition men, their faces pocked with plague and typhus. That truth repels us.
Americans more than any other people on earth like to believe what they want to believe, a fatal flaw, like the contradictions of good and bad inside John Kennedy.
Kennedy expanded the descent into the Vietnam abyss but two weeks before his death had reservations and told Walter Cronkite in an interview that the Vietnamese had to fight their own war---we couldn't do it for them. Whether he would have followed his own advice is unknown. He would have probably continued down the same quagmire path had he lived, but pulled out sooner than the rigid-thinking Lyndon B. Johnson. The war would have claimed 20,000 fewer American lives.
Kennedy like his brother Bobby ignored the Civil Rights of black Americans until the unrest caused by the country's latent racism forced him to take notice. His moves toward equality were tardy and weak, but his tepid baby-step responses calling for greater understanding, restraint and tolerance culminating in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a year after his death, was a move in the right direction.
Kennedy was a brave man. He lived with chronic excruciating back pain and he cheated to hide it like he often cheated people. He wore a back brace and had to be hoisted on a lift into his airplane and hid it from the public. He had debilitating potentially fatal Addison's Disease and hid that too, lying about his ailments to get into the U.S. Navy and World War II where he became a hero.
His mother even attempted to joke about the likelihood of her son dying young in a heroic stoic attempt to put a brave face on the impending always continuing tragedy that apparently members of the family could palpably feel.
The Kennedy boys had been taught an unhealthy compulsive manic competition for glory and women by their partly gangster father, and Joe Jr., Jack's elder brother, the most promising of the boys and the heir apparent, was killed in World War II on a high-risk flight trying and outdo his brother's PT boat rescue incident. John Kennedy was given a medal and the media trumpeted his achievement unlike that of other war heroes because John F. Kennedy was the son of a famous man.
Kennedy cheated on his beautiful wife, buying her a separate ranch where she could indulge her passion for horses while he indulged his passion for naked White House swim pool orgies with high-connected hookers who had ties to the Mafia. Film of Kennedy leaning against a wall being nudged by a horse during one of his infrequent visits to the ranch just a few weeks before his death is one of the iconic images of the era.
Kennedy cheated on his wife because he was fatalistic about life and despite his public charisma, an insecure man who needed a sexual release and who wanted to live life to the hilt every day because he knew it would be short. He cheated on the women that he cheated with. He used women as pieces of meat to stroke his own fatalistic ego.
John F. Kennedy wasn't president long enough and didn't achieve enough to be considered one of our greatest presidents, though he still is. He was not a great enough president to have a funeral copied exactly from that of Abraham Lincoln, as his wife insisted it be.
He is considered a great president partly because of his heroic potential unfulfilled and his tragic heart-rending death in full pubic view. We were traumatized by it. We still are. We need to forget it, but many of us can't. It's more important to believe in the perceived best of John F. Kennedy and forget the rest.
With the passage of time, Kennedy's foibles will perhaps seem minimal compared to the ruthless politicians of today.
The legacy of John F. Kennedy is one of doomed promise and heroism built on a foundation of deceit, but perversity being what it is, he charmed us.
We wanted to believe in him.
We still do.
John Sammon, : John Sammon is a writer whose experience includes newspaper reporting, magazine writing, personality profiles, interviews, celebrity interviews (Clint Eastwood), historical pieces, investigative and crime. He was selected “Most Valuable Reporter” for California’s oldest continually operating newspaper, and covered the weekend crime beat for a daily newspaper in Nevada. If you beat your wife on Friday, he wrote about it and got you in deep trouble on Saturday. He covered business,... (more...)