Friday, 22 November 2013

How do you make sense of the senseless...

That phrase is what best describes what I've heard about today and the events of 50 years ago on November 22, 1963.

How else do you explain the murder of the young, progressive and inspirational president of the United States?

You really can't.

I was only 3 years and 3 months old that day, a little girl living in a small town in northern Ontario in Canada.  People find it hard to believe that I can remember the events surrounding President Kennedy's assassination - yet I do.

I remember my mother's tears.  I remember watching tv and seeing the lines of people paying their respects in the rotunda at the Capitol.  I remember Jackie and Caroline kneeling at the casket and kissing the flag that covered it.  I remember seeing the procession to the cathedral and the clerics conducting the service.

Was it that day?  Something inspired my interest in this president and his liberal politics as I grew to adulthood.

Perhaps it was also the sad fact that I very clearly remember the announcement of Bobby Kennedy's death less than 5 years later.  On that morning, I was on a plane flying from London, England to Dublin, Ireland.  The Aer Lingus flight was packed with Irish-Americans on their way to "The Old Sod" when the pilot made his announcement.  And, almost as one, there were cries and weeping all over the plane.

In my early teens, I began to devour biographies of the Kennedy brothers and their family.  Despite the information that was then becoming available about the president and his dissolute personal life, I did grow to admire him, and his brother.

In spite of their wealth and privilege, the Kennedy family had a strong belief in public service - a belief that continues today in the succeeding generations.  Senator Ted Kennedy, carrying on the work of his older brothers, demonstrated the family's dedication to liberal causes and beliefs, especially in the futile development of a single-payer health care system.

Reading all those books about Jack and Bobby Kennedy, and the amazing words of Ted Sorensen that defined the president's administration and Bobby's run for the White House, coupled with Prime Minister Trudeau's leadership of my country during my teens, shaped my political, ethical, and moral view of the world in which we live.

I believe in the collective good.

I believe in the idealism expressed by John Kennedy; that good citizenship means asking what one can do for one's city, province and country, instead of "what's in it for me?"

As an adult, I had the opportunity to visit Dealey Plaza.  It is one of only two places on the face of this earth where I have *felt* evil.  A year later, I was able to visit the grave site of Jack and Bobby in Arlington cemetary.  And several years after that, I went to the Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston.

In middle age, the words of this president continue to inspire me.  I have recently become politically active again, joining local groups in order to work on our municipal election next year; I suspect it will continue to our federal election the following year.  And I am glad for it.

Do I believe in the conspiracy theories?  I honestly don't know.  When you visit Dealey Plaza and see it for yourself, you have trouble believing in the "Lone Gunman" theory.  And the recently posited theory that a secret service agent accidentally shot the president makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

One thing that I do think is that we will NEVER in recorded history know the "truth" of President Kennedy's murder because of the actions of Jack Ruby and the stumblings of The Warren Commission.

Today I feel for Caroline Kennedy as the only surviving member of her family, as the person who carries the weight of the myth of "Camelot" on her shoulders as the new American ambassador to Japan.

But I wish to thank her father, for being the inspiration to many - for having dreams and vision that seem to be sorely lacking in so many of our public leaders.  It's up to us to continue this work; to not drown in an ocean of cynicism and keep working to make this world a more just and fair place.

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