Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Loudoun County: Dallas 1963 Can Happen Again

November, 2011.

We wake up to a news story about a GOP group in Virginia posting a picture on-line of President Obama with a bullet hole in his forehead. And we remember another November.

"We will bear the grief of his death until the day of our own."

Adlai Stevenson said this after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. And he was right. The grief has never gone away among those of us who loved our President Kennedy and still remember that sparkling, courageous, intelligent young man.

Time is supposed to heal all wounds. It doesn't.

Instead, the passage of almost 50 years seems to have brought us back to where we were in 1963 just before the assassination in Dallas. Now, added to our old grief, is the new fear that  -  yes  -  it could happen all over again.

We are afraid even to say so out loud. Perhaps our fear is that, by just speaking of the possibility, we who worry may bring the dread reality upon us.

We blamed ourselves back then when it happened in 1963. Somehow we had failed John Kennedy. We should have warned him. We should have seen it coming. We should have been there for him.

Ambassador Adlai Stevenson did try to warn him after being attacked by a mob in Dallas just a couple of weeks before our president was killed there. I still remember the pictures on TV and in the newspapers of the angry right-wingers spitting at Ambassador Stevenson and hitting him with a placard. It was so startling and extraordinary that it couldn't be meaningful. It must be just an aberration of some sort. It wasn't the way Americans express their politics.

How could we think that? How could we not see?

Almost from the very moment that the Supreme Court handed down Brown v. The Board of Education in 1954, white Southerners had been viciously attacking every "damn nigger" who tried to break the barrier  of "whites only." There had been shooting deaths, heads cracked open, attack dogs, fire hoses, bombings, punching and kicking and spitting and epithets. Some white supporters of civil rights and some newsmen died as well. And it was all fed by Southern governors, racist Senators and grim-visaged white "pastors"of the South. "Respectable" people. Just like now. Major political "leaders."

We mourned the victims and yearned for racial justice. I even tried to help in the Civil Rights movement.

But we didn't make the connection. We could not imagine that violence, seemingly engendered by a specific, sectional, historical issue, could become a mode of expression in other areas of politics.  Naive as we were, we didn't know that the slavering and snarling hounds of violence, like the dogs of war, cannot be controlled once they are unleashed. They go where they will and chose their victims. One day it's four little girls killed in the bombing of a church. Another day it's the President of the United States.

E Pluribus Unum. In the saddest ways we are indeed one nation. We who remember still grieve those little girls and our beloved President. And all the others. Our history is unified over time not just by grief but by hatred as well. The mobs who today attack members of Congress on the steps of the Capitol and the TeaPartyGOP with their vicious signs are the same people who attacked the children trying to integrate Southern schools. I remember their faces. White, snarling, ugly and very well-fed.

President Kennedy and his brother Robert, as Attorney General, were trying to enforce the new anti-segregation rules. Kennedy and Ambassador Adlai Stevenson were trying to avoid nuclear war with Russia, yet contain Cuba's belligerence. These three goals made them enemies on every side. For the liberals, the Kennedys weren't doing enough; for the right, Kennedy and Stevenson were doing too much. To the anti-Castro element, President Kennedy was a traitor. To the pro-Castro element, such as it was, he was a mortal enemy. To the white racists, he and Bobby were Grant and Sherman.

Does this sound eerily familiar? The man in the middle, standing on the ground of sanity in a sea of bitter, ignorant hatreds.

Now compare today's rabid anti-Muslim hatred with the frothing of the far-right back then against the "pinko" Communists they saw under every bed. The far-right then believed Kennedy was secretly betraying America to the Russians. They BELIEVED that. And today they believe Obama is selling us out to the "Muslims". They genuinely believe he is a traitor. Newt Gingrich, among others, has told them so.

And racism? The Civil Rights laws we achieved brought some justice but did not end hatred toward "people of color". We certainly hoped they would, but they didn't. The racists just got more slick and now run their hate campaign under the cover of sellouts Herman Caen and Senator Rubio.

White racism dies hard. It yet sucks its nourishment from the blood of the "Lost Cause" of the South in the Civil War. It thrives among the losers today who NEED someone to put down. It is explosive in those who see an America coming that is no longer "white". It fires the anti-immigrant ferocity the GOP presidential contenders now pander to. And it's so lucrative and empowering to the cynical GOP who exploit it.

And the racist whites can't stand that Obama is the President of the United States. They can't stand that there is a man in the White House who has darkish skin. THEY CAN'T STAND IT!

Driven by the violent language and imagery used by the GOP, one of these racists or anti-Muslim fanatics will pick up a gun and get up on a high building. At least one man brought a gun to an Obama event already. No arrest, as I recall. Instead it was left to Chris Matthews on "Hardball" to chew him out.

Another fanatic has screamed at Obama that he is "the anti-Christ." A Congressman has shouted at him that he is a "liar." Now a GOP group in Virginia depicts him with a bullet hole in his head.

The Secret Service gets more threats and warnings regarding the President's safety than they ever have received regarding any other president. Maybe they can keep stopping the maniacs. Maybe this time we'll get lucky.

But who will stop the GOP inciters who legitimize and stoke the worst impulses of the fanatics? If the trigger men can't get to the President, will they shoot another Congresswoman? Another nine-year-old girl?

Never a November comes but we who remember are back in Dealey Plaza. And our beloved President is dead. We failed him whom we loved. We didn't warn him. We didn't make the connections and foresee. We weren't there for him.

And does this pathetic, hopeless plea make amends now?  Or do any good?   -  "Don't ever go to Dallas, please, President Obama. Or Loudoun County, Virginia."

Please, don't go.

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