Monday, September 14, 2009

Extra, Extra, Read All About It!

Last week when Senator Ted Kennedy died, I overheard a thirty-something guy say to his friend: "I didn't know about the girl who drowned in his car". It's funny, events we "seasoned citizens" remember like they happened yesterday, events that changed our lives and shaped the times in which we lived, are not at all familiar to many post-Baby Boomers. I started thinking about some of the headline stories from the fifties and sixties that we read about in the Daily News, the Journal American, and the New York Times (before it became a liberal rag) while growing up on the streets of Brooklyn.

In the summer of 1957, the city of Little Rock, Arkansas, made plans to desegregate its public schools. On the night before school was to start, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus called out the state's National Guard to surround Little Rock Central High School and prevent any black students from entering. On September 25, 1957, the nine black students entered the school under the protection of 1,000 members of the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army. Today, when I see newsreel footage of those poor, frightened children, I want to cry thinking of what we put them through.

In the years following the end of World War II, fear of Communism grew.In the midst of this fear came Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. In 1950, this senator from Wisconsin made a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, where he claimed to have a list of 205 people in the state department who were members of the Communist party. It's scary looking back to see how far this lunatic was able to fool the American people before he was stopped cold by a brilliant and gutsy lawyer named Joseph Welch. In our zeal for vigilance, we allowed ourselves to be railroaded by a fear mongering demigod who damaged many reputations before common sense again prevailed.

In 1960 John F. Kennedy was the youngest man ever to be elected president of the United States, narrowly beating Republican Vice President Richard Nixon. Kennedy was probably the first and last Democrat I voted for; chalk it up to my youth. On November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas, Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. The country was in shock. We stayed glued to our TV sets (much like on 9/11/01) and listened to newscasters tell this unbelievable story. When Oswald was killed by nightclub owner Jack Ruby a few days later, the conspiracy theorists got busy and remain so to this day. Camelot was in ashes, and Kennedy was practically canonized. His halo has been tarnished a little since.

On a recent episode of Mad Men, they reprised the events surrounding what came to be known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. In October 1962, President John Kennedy went toe-to-toe with Russian premier Nikita Krushchev over offensive missile silos that Russia was constructing in Cuba, just 90 miles from the United States. Thankfully, Krushchev blinked and the crisis was over, but not before it scared the bejesus out of us. My wife remembered the event better than I, and how frightened Catholics were lining up for Confession in the belief we might all be blown to kingdom come like some prequel to the movie Dr. Strangelove. That was, as far as the government tells us the truth, the closest we ever came to the "Big One".

In late 1969 a three-day music festival was held near the town of Bethel, New York. Woodstock is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most pivotal moments in popular music history. It may have been that, but in the opinion of this old guy, it was the beginning of the decline in American morals and values that continues to this day. Woodstock was the opening salvo for drugs, premarital sex and rebellion against any and all authority. I know, I know, we were considered by younger people to be living in "repressive" times, but you know what...that was just their bullshit excuse for not wanting to get a job and take on any responsibility. Don't fight me on this one because you'll be wrong.


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS:Children's Craniofacial Association

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