Posts Tagged ‘Civil Rights’

For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been’.  ~John Greenleaf Whittier

Today on the fifth anniversary of JFK’ assignation, I found myself glued to the television watching the heartbreaking events of JFK’s death and remembering. It seems like yesterday rather than fifty years ago. The pain is still fresh and the vivid images on television instantly take me back to that searing moment when first told of JFK’s death.

I was a young woman then, working for a wonderful employer who naturally treated me more like a daughter than an employee.  Being Jewish and true to his cultural values, thankfully he saw me as a person rather than a poor colored child, which made all the difference.  Though I would never allow myself to feel subjugated per se, still it was great not having to fight for his respect.

In fact, during segregation (Jim Crow) the Jewish people were known to treat us African Americans quite well; thus, many in the Jewish community joined with a group of multi-racial activists and helped found the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, c.1909) and later marched with Martin Luther King of course.

Being one of those small businesses that President Obama glowing speaks of, their wholesale fabric company was founded by two very generous brothers. Morty and Norman who generally treated all of us like family.  Much to their credit, the brothers maintained an employees’ profit sharing trust fund, which came in handy when I left the company.  And much like Mr. Fezziwig in the Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol, who always ordered a great Christmas feast for his employees, Christmastime there is still one of my fondest memories.

Also being a company of multi-racial employees, we jokingly referred to ourselves as “the Little UN” (United Nations). Yet, being young and more concerned about the latest movie and partying on the weekend rather than politics, we rarely spoke of the young, dashing JFK, until that day!

“Hey, Somebody Just Shot Kennedy in Dallas!”

Unlike his brother Norman who walked and talked rather fast and generally yelled when exasperated, though he never fired anyone and we knew that, Morty was the cool one.  Having all the wit and charm of the gifted salesman he was (which reportedly started the company) and likely quite the ladies’ man before settling down, Morty, being tall and lanky, generally walked slowly and deliberately, yet ready to chat and trade jokes with the best.  Now semi retired due to a heart condition, Morty stayed around the office most of the time much to the chagrin of the other ladies there, though I thought he was quite funny and would typically laugh at his jokes and funny stories most of the time.

Of course, unbeknownst to us, that day would indeed be different in the office. As America would never be the same, which would affect all of us in ways not yet imagined.

Being their PBX Receptionist (then a glorified telephone operator, now an obsolete term given our advanced technology), my desk was right outside the entrance to their offices.  So I was the first to see Morty uncharacteristically rushing through the office, and quite shaken by what he had just heard on the radio.  Soon he would sadly announce that Kennedy was dead!

With that, most of us working up front burst into tears. That day, race or ethnicity, or whether one was Democrat or Republican just did not matter. We simply were reacting to that which hit us in the deepest part of our humanity.  Our beloved president was dead. Some fool, some idiot had just killed him.   We were deeply wounded, plain and simple!  And just could not stop crying.

“Your People Have Lost A Friend.” 

Soon, as with the rest, once started, I too could not stop crying.  In fact, I am in tears even as I now write, and that was over fifty years ago.  After telling us, Morty immediately heads to the warehouse out back so as to deliver the sad news to the rest of his employees.  Sitting at the receptionary stunned and typically trying to make sense of it, eventually I look up and see a more somber Morty headed for his office.

He stops by and quietly says something that I shall never forget, as no true words were ever spoken at that moment: “Your people have lost a friend.”

With that, it seems everything came into focus; the flood gates opened and as the words began to sink inwardly, I cried and could not stop crying.  And, of course, would never forget this day!  Thus every November 22 since, I would prayerfully remember JFK and that fateful day.

Actually, even as I write today, I think this is what lies at the heart of our so-called “fascination” with the assassination of JFK.  For the world had truly lost a great friend.

Morty said it best that day, and thus he was feeling it too, which simply means that humanity had, indeed, lost a great friend.  Once our collective humanity wakes out of its materialistic stupor and find that a true friend is all that we ever need both near and afar, together we have taken a giant step toward lasting world peace for sure.  Meanwhile…

A National Day of Mourning Was Declared

As we know, JFK was assassinated on a Friday so we go home and virtually mourn all weekend. Monday, the day of his funeral, would be the national day of mourning.  My sister and I shared an apartment.  And I clearly remember both of us being glued to the television watching whatever was on.  Of course, fifty years ago television, as we now know it, simply did not exist, neither did VCRs or DVDs.  So we virtually had little to distract us from our deeply felt sorrow. Besides, who felt like getting with friends playing cards, going out partying, or reading a good book.  Sadly, watching television, though depressing, was all that we could do.

And so, forever etched in my mind are the endless stories of Abraham Lincoln, the solemn comparisons of JFK to Lincoln and of course the funeral cortege with its haunting images: the Kennedy family, the beautiful and always fashionable Jackie Kennedy even in mourning attire, little Caroline kneeling at her father’s casket and, of course, little John-John (as his dad use to call him) saluting his beloved father as the historic, horse-driven caisson rolled by.

Afterwards, it would be a long time before these following words, respectfully whispered by media reporters, or the key music played during the funeral procession, would cease to bring back the very vivid and emotional recollections of JFK’s death: the grassy knoll, the cortege, the caisson, the White House rotunda, the heart wrenching symbol of a fallen soldier (a lone black horse with an empty saddle and boot attached); and, of course, the iconic music of Hail the Chief, Taps, and Chopin’s Funeral March (now played at state funerals), which is still quite beautiful as it both soars and ennobles the human spirit.

Today, now I understand the importance of reliving tragic events, for until we reconcile the feelings that are still haunting us we miss the lesson of forgiveness that it came to teach us.  And so after having done much research these past few days, I’ve come to the only conclusion…at least for me, that is.

Not Who but What Killed JFK is the Better Question

Rather than being consumed by who killed President Kennedy, which we will never know for sure, I’ve made peace with considering what killed JFK, which is far more practical and much more edifying in my opinion.

Sadly, it is most likely that a confluence of envy, materialism and primal fear in certain high places is the real culprit behind the conspiracy that foolishly murdered our beloved President Kennedy.  Was he perfect? Of course not!  Did he deserve to die like that?  Hell no!

For those given over to resentment of President Kennedy’s wealth, eloquence, good looks and a winning smile, along with his wife, Jackie Kennedy’s great beauty and regal bearing, envy was their motive.  For those blinded by the unnatural love of money and world power, material gain was their motive.  And for those wrongly misguided by the primitive notion of survival of the fittest, immediate war was their objective.

Of course, as with most badly conceived strategies, we ultimately loss that war and with grave consequences, no less!  Sadly, today the envious voices and various national and international crooks are still among us, and thus are still trying to rule the world.  Yet, thankfully, the ever glorious legacy of JFK forever lives for those of us willing to see its light!

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s Living Legacy

Wisdom has taught me to never take lightly the kindness of a good friend, for such will ever shine long after leaving our world. And, most of all, never expect too much from another human being, which I am still working on, for we are not that perfect.  Yet friendship surly abounds, there to bless and support us when needed.  Such is the law of Universal Love.

Of the major things either started or completed by JFK during his thousand-day presidency, which are well documented: the Peace Corps, the Space Program, solving the Cuban Missiles Crises; and the proposed Endowment for the Arts, Civil Rights and Medicare bills that his successor, President Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) later signed into law, to which we are grateful, it was JFK’s innate goodness and vision for world peace that is most inspiring, in my opinion.

Thus, President Kennedy continues to inspire us through the gift of his noble thoughts:

As to the presidency: “I would say that the problems are more difficult than I had imagined them to be. The responsibilities placed on the United States are greater than I imagined them to be, and there are greater limitations upon our ability to bring about a favorable result than I had imagined them to be. And I think that is probably true of anyone who becomes President… It is much easier to make the speeches than it is to finally make the judgments, because, unfortunately, your advisers are frequently divided. If you take the wrong course, and on occasion I have, the President bears the burden of the responsibility quite rightly. The advisers may move on to new advice. (JFK during an interview for radio and television on December 17 1962).”[1]

As to the great responsibility of every able American citizen, once heard, who can forget these immortal words spoken by JFK during his inaugural address on January 20, 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Least we not forget.  Peace to all and do Keep the faith!

© Delores L. Adams and The Aunt Jemimah Post 2012-2013. All rights reserved.

[1] John F. Kennedy: “Television and Radio Interview: “After Two Years – a Conversation With the President.””, December 17, 1962. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=9060.

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