Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November 22, 1963: Living The Illusion That It Could Never Ever Happen Again

If you are of a certain age, the events of November 22, 1963 and the following days are deeply seared in your mind, but as yet another anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy comes and goes, those memories do not automatically flood our minds as they did in earlier years. Part of this, of course, is the passage of time, but it also is the fact that with the exception of Ronald Reagan, there has not been a serious attempt to take the life of a president in nearly half a century and most of us live under the comfortable illusion that it could never ever happen again.

Yet the safety of Barack Obama has been very much on my mind and not just because of a certain president of a Republican group at a Texas university who infamously suggested a few days ago that it is "tempting" to assassinate him.

Every president has had their hardcore detractors. In fact, an ad was running in a Dallas newspaper accusing JFK of treason the day of the president's visit. Yet Obama has been the recipient of an unusual amount of animus.

Charlie Pierce, writing in Esquire, says that:

"Every president has to live with the notion that any random nut can buy a gun and stand a pretty good chance of getting the job done if the random nut doesn’t mind getting ventilated in return. Presidents get briefed on this stuff. But, as is the case in so many things, this president is different. History has made him so. An attempt on this president’s life would resonate, in history and in memory, far beyond Ford’s Theater, and Union Station in Washington, and the Exposition Grounds in Buffalo, and Dealey Plaza. It would resonate, in history and in memory, back to the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, and to an earthen dam in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and to 2332 Guynes Street in Jackson, Mississippi, where the blood of Medgar Evers still stains a driveway, and to a hundred dark roads, and to a thousand ghastly trees, freighted down with so much more than Spanish moss. Some bullets make history. A bullet fired at this president would gain its power from a history that we all have worked so hard to pretend never really happened before, and really could never happen again."

I don't really want to go here, but here I go: Would the assassination of the first African-American president really be so surprising in a nation where state-sanctioned violence against blacks was eliminated barely a half century ago?

There already have been a few ham-handed plots on Obama's life, and that certainly has something to do with the supercharged political climate. Then there are religious fanatics like Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, whom investigators say fired a semiautomatic rifle at the White House the other day because he believes Obama to be the Antichrist.

But Obama is an African-American and while there never has been comprehensibly plausible explanation for the circumstances behind JFK's assassination would we ever believe the commission that would weigh in on the assassination of the 44th president?

Of course not, because American history would not be on officialdom's side.

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