Saturday, November 16, 2013

Where Were You When Kennedy Was Shot?

Some things get etched into your brain.  One of them was the day John F. Kennedy was shot.  I know exactly where I was.  I still remember the sick feeling I got in my stomach even though I was just a little kid, in a church grade school.

 It came over the radio.  We didn't hear the first announcement and I don't know how the teachers were notified, but afterwards, the two rooms were joined and students hovered around a radio in the room, blasting out the news as it happened.

Parents were called to come get their kids.

 I went to a two room church school.   The teachers were a husband and a wife.  The wife taught the lower four grades, of which I was one of a small number of students and the husband taught the upper four grades.

I knew my father would be happy about it.  He hated the Kennedys.  At first he acted mad.  He thought the Russians were responsible and he hated the Russians. He hated the Nips too and the Krouts.  That's what he called them til the day he died.   He was in WWII, but not until later in the war since he did not volunteer like most men of that day.  I don't know why.  He wasn't the type as the adult I knew later who would want to be a soldier.

 Eventually he was drafted and trained as a B-24 mechanic and stationed in Italy to repair bombers.

He never saw the fighting but he lost a friend who walked into a propeller blade.  I know that isn't hard to do.  I know that because I almost walked into the rear rotor of a helicopter when I was working in Alaska.  I was working at some cabins up near Denali National Park.  Someone knew someone else who knew someone else who was a tourist chopper tour pilot who was giving someone I knew a midnight sun wild ride for nothing in his chopper.  There was one seat unclaimed and I got that seat.

I rarely drank and someone had given me a beer.  Bad idea before a helicopter ride from hell.  It was the ride from hell too.  The pilot dodged and swung that chopper this way and that. He was trying to make us sick.  He did a great job of that!   He'd say into our head pieces, "here comes a bridge over the river, shall we go over or under."  He made like he was going to fly over it, then dropped and dived under the bridge.  He'd piloted in Viet Nam, my friend told me, so he can do anything.  I had great respect back then for Viet Nam chopper pilot skills.  Still do.

The sudden dive, left my stomach somewhere around 2000 feet though, as we dropped to 50 feet, in a split second.   As he lurched it just as quickly back up to altitude, my stomach's contents came up.  There were no vomit bags, so I used my knit hat.

Later, when we landed, I was disoriented and dizzy and inadvertently went the wrong direction upon exit, toward the rear.  The pilot grabbed me and threw me to the ground.  He saved my life.  I was inches from the roaring whirling rear rotors.

So once my father figured out the Russians were not behind Kennedy's death, he gloated over it, said it was good for the country.  I was just a little kid and didn't see how the death of our president could be good for anything.

I used to lay in my bed and think about John F. Kennedy's words:  "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."  I was a serious child.  Way way later on, when Obama was campaigning to be President and coming through Albany, to speak, on the campaign trail, a Corvallis reporter was seeking questions he could ask Obama, since he had been granted an interview.  I suggested he ask Obama to ask citizens what they don't want from a president and what they would be willing to do for their country. I still remembered the words of John F. Kennedy.

 I had tired of campaigns and the people who demand everything of the candidate, promises to do this to make their lives better, of big corporate lobbyists, demanding this be done or that be done, to satisfy their rich ass employers, who had contributed X amount to every campaign to hedge their bets.   I wanted to see a candidate say, "I can't do everything for everybody.  I won't promise to do this or this or this....."  It's so leechy to think one person, the President, can solve every damn problem in this entire huge nation.  It's pathetic.

My question was rejected by the local reporter.  I went to hear Obama speak at the Albany Fairgrounds when he came because I knew it was historic.  But all I could think about as people hollered and cheered over the rhetoric generic speech was how exhausted he looked, and if he even knew what town he was in at this point, and that it was somehow wrong to be part of this.

Later on in my young life, I met Bobby Kennedy. I shook his hand on a campaign run. He came through Coos Bay, Oregon, on his campaign.  Our grade school, despite the fact every damn parent, it being a church school, was a card carrying ultra right winger, went on a rare field trip to the tiny North Bend airport to see him.  We made signs too to hold.  I remember this one older kid, might have been a 7th or 8th grader, Jerry, holding a sign that said "Bobby Baby".  Cracks me up to think of that even now.  I took a photo of Bobby Kennedy with my cereal box camera.   I had earned the camera by collecting the tops from cereal boxes of certain brand and sending them in.

Somewhere I have that photo.  He too was assassinated not long after his trip to Coos County, Oregon.

 Everyone thought the second Kennedy was killed because he waged a war as attorney general against the mafia.  Or because he hadn't toed the line properly under super paranoid control freak FBI director Edgar Hoover, who was one of the scariest people to ever hold a position of power in our country.

Hoover was not as bad as some people have portrayed, in some regards.  Like with his surveillance of MLK.  That was really ordered by the Kennedy brothers, one the president, one the attorney general.  They ordered it because Martin Luther King had two advisers who were communists with ties to the Kremlin.  This made the Kennedy's uncomfortable.  The Kennedy's wanted the civil rights movement to go forward but feared King's involvement with communist advisers would prove fatal to the movement, were it to come out.  So they kept their distance from King but finally invited him to the White House and asked him point blank to get rid of the communists amongst his advisers.  King promised to do so, but didn't.

King was no communist and also no saint.  His friends who were communists, however, were not considered dangerous security threats, only threats to the validity of King himself.  A publicity threat to the cause of civil rights, which needed to go forward.  And speaking of not being a saint, have you ever met a saint?  Kings' extra marital affairs were not uncommon to two powerful brothers either, one at the time, a president. And Hoover's obsessions, in his personal life, well, let's just say cross dressing and man friends were not popular in the age in which he lived.

Given the fact I've never met a saint and seriously doubt they exist, I don't think we should require sainthood of public figures.

So the surveillance continued and wiretaps also revealed Kings numerous extra marital affairs, down to the squeaking bed springs.  The next President, Lyndon Johnson, allegedly just loved to listen to the King wiretap tapes involving his affairs while Hoover hated them.  Hoover involved FBI agents in protecting King, since Hoover believed white supremacists would attempt to kill him at any moment.  King was unaware of this protection.

I remember where I was when Neil Armstrong took the first step on the moon too.  We were crowded into a Florence gas station, with many other gas station customers and people from the street.  The station had a TV mounted up on the wall.  Everyone's eyes were glued to that TV.  We'd been camping at Honeymon Beach state park.

It was Apollo 13, the mission that was nearly a catastrophe, however, that captured me, heart and soul.

History gets very distorted over time.  People rewrite it as fiction, and that becomes incorporated as fact.  Memory gets blurred and tainted over age, and tilted in directions that become.  People deliberately distort history to bend it to their particular beliefs.

I do not, for instance, think we should celebrate Columbus Day.  Columbus was a brute, an absolute monster, in my opinion.  Besides, he discovered America?  Give me a break.  I'm distantly native American.  We're all mongrels, for gosh sakes.  You can't discover something that already existed and was well inhabited by others.  You can only say that he found it for the Europeans, but it was already here and there were already peoples here.

It's funny when people discover they are what they hate, like the recent news of a white supremacist who discovered he's part African.  Christians should be the least race and origin condemning since they believe all people arose from Adam and Eve, which would make us all related very closely.  And extremely inbred.  LOL.

I was in that run down Corvallis duplex when 911 happened.   Someone called me and suddenly went into tirades of swearing.  I said "Are you ok?"  He said, "Turn on your TV."  I did and stared transfixed at images of the second plane slamming into the twin towers.  I didn't know how to react or what to think or do.

Where were you when John F. Kennedy was killed?

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