Archive for Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Assassination illustrates reasons to give thanks this November

November 26, 2008

It’s been 45 years since John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, yet the day remains as clear in my mind as if it were yesterday.

I was a senior on the campus of Kansas University and was on the brink of deciding what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It seemed everything in my personal life was in a state of flux. I had moved on from several old relationships and friends and was about to change my field of interest in college.

Then, with no warning, the world stopped and the sun stood still. The President of the United States, a young and handsome man with a beautiful and glamorous wife, had been slaughtered in the street and died with his blood staining the clothes of his spouse.

The campus seemed to be in mourning as we all became transfixed by the real-life drama unfolding on television screens in black and white. I was with friends as the surgeon appeared before the camera with a stunned expression on his face to tell the country and the world that the young and vital head of the most powerful nation on Earth was dead by an assassin’s bullet.

His beautiful wife faced the same cameras with blood on her designer suit and an expression of unfathomable grief and anger on her face. She wouldn’t change her clothes because she wanted the world to know what had been done to her husband.

We all looked at each other in silent fear. Nobody knew just what had happened, who did it and what the consequences were going to be. Some speculated that nuclear war would ensue. Others wondered if an invasion by the Soviet Union was in the immediate future. We wondered if we were going to be immediately embroiled in war.

Those thoughts subsided as the long week progressed. Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as president on a plane in transit; and the nation entered a time of mourning for its dead president. I talked to a former roommate who lived in Baltimore, and she told me she had gone to Washington, D.C. and stood in line for hours to view the body of the president. Images of the funeral procession were aired in real time showing the riderless horse and the veiled former First Lady and her two young children as they appeared in the funeral procession.

It made me sad to think about those young children and how they would miss their father, but my fears about a possible coup were calmed by the quick succession of the vice president to office and the resumption of government business as usual.

And that was one of the things that made me most thankful for Thanksgiving. For many governments, an assassination of the head of state would have meant violent and sudden change, but our government institutions are too stable and well-spelled out to collapse with the death of any one individual.

So, it is for having the good luck to live in this country with freedom to follow my conscience in religion and thought and with its stability so that I can be reasonably assured that my children and grandchildren can live out their lives with liberty and justice that I give the greatest thanks this year at the Thanksgiving table.

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