Friday, November 22, 2013

A 50-Year Memory: 11/22/63

Okay- I'm tired of all this 50-years ago memory dump that's been going on all week. Yes, it was a major turning point in our 20th Century USA history. Yes, it no doubt ushered in the real beginning of the 60s. That awful moment in Dallas 50 years ago is certainly history.

But it makes me kind of glad I won't be around for the 50th anniversary of 9/11.

Earlier I was going to talk about what and where I was on that November day- a Friday like today with everyone going about their daily business. I was a sophomore in HS, 15 years old, a die-hard liberal Democrat and a BIG fan of JFK. My political world was shattered that day for the first of many times.

Other assassinations played a role:
Malcolm X
Martin Luther King, Jr
Bobby Kennedy
Harvey Milk
John Lennon
Anwar Sadat

So did the massacre at My Lai and the Tet Offensive.

Let's not forget Kent State and the invasions of Cambodia, Grenada, Iraq.

There was learning about the Holocaust and listening to Elie Wiesel speak, a man who managed to keep life's reality alive even when it seemed to be floating on the airs of Auschwitz.

What seems to be happening this week is more of a wishful-thinking step backwards in our minds to a simpler time. It feels like if we could just go back and start over, live around it in an alternate parallel universe it would all be better today. We wouldn't have that moment of pain, anger, fear, dread when we see that smiling face with the pink suit and pillbox hat in an open limousine.

Maybe, just maybe it will all turn out better this time.

What I haven't seen- and I admit I haven't been looking- is what younger people think. Anyone under 50 has no real memory of that day. The death of Princess Diana is more real or the O J Simpson slow-speed chase. How do they look at this bit of historical self-pandering? Is it just another example of the Baby Boomers (mea culpa!) seeing themselves as the center of life of the Century?

I am not opposed to learning history and learning from history. We don't do a very good job at it, though. We see it through our own biased lenses, filtering out the stuff that doesn't fit our world-view. We see revisionism happening all the time- sometimes because of new information, sometimes because of the shifting winds of political views.

Maybe the most important thing for me in all this 50-year insanity is that we can never know what history is going to do to us next. We are, ultimately, powerless over many, many things and all the retrospective microscopic investigations will never get us any closer to knowing what the next one will be. We manage to get through them for better and for worse. They are the unpredictable seismic, cosmic or quantum shifts that will forever change us.

In the end we are who we are today because of what happened on Dealy Plaza in 1963, at Pearl Harbor in 1941, Gettysburg in 1863, or your own backyard yesterday. What we do with it is up to us. Nothing will ever change it.

Maybe it's too cheesy and simplistic, but through it all this week I have been thinking of the phrase heard around 12-step meetings:

Yesterday is history
Tomorrow is mystery
Live today- one day at a time.
It's all we have. Let's go with it.

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