John F. Kennedy

Compare and Contrast – Guest Essay


Reading time – 4:39  .  .  .

Immediately following the DNC convention and Joe BIden’s speech, regular reader and sometimes commenter Dan Giallombardo felt the need to put his reactions in writing. He gave me permission to show you his offering in this guest essay. It’s being posted today both so that you can appreciate his message and to see it in contrast to four days of the RNC/Trump hatefest. Keep in mind that Dan is a veteran of decades of political contests, so he knows what he’s seeing. Many thanks to Dan for his essay.

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Over the past three years and eight months a dark, sinister veil has fallen over the United States. Once our prestige in the international community was unchallenged. Now we are viewed as a “has been,” and “fools in the marketplace.” We have a president who is viewed as an amoral clown, a carnival barker for the Big Con.

Tonight, Joe Biden accepted the Democratic party’s nomination for President of the United States and the first small beams of light came through the darkness – the first small rays of light in a long, dark and bitterly cold night. Tonight, Joe Biden reminded us of what hope looks like. In 1972, RIchard Nixon won the election with 60.7% of the vote. Were the election held today, based on his acceptance speech, Biden’s victory would make Nixon’s win a Presidential footnote.

But the election is still 73 days away. A lot can happen in that amount of time. We must not be given to the illusion that because Biden is ahead in the polls that this election will be an easy, dignified one. It’s not going to be. It will be an alley fight wherein we will scratch and claw for every vote we can find.

Donald Trump is not a man of graceful action. He will fight for this, and he will lie about everything. I worry that he and Barr have cooked up some “October surprise” for us. We must be vigilant and guard against that.

Biden’s Thursday night speech reminded me of the title of the  book by President Barrack Obama: The Audacity of Hope; that’s what Biden was offering us. His vision of hope and the confidence he has in the American people—all of us—black, brown, yellow white, red, we are all  members of this Great Republic in which we are so fortunate to live. But Joe Biden also reminded us of the gravity of President Obama’s words the night before: if we re-elect Trump, it will be the end of our democracy. Not an idea to be taken lightly, but neither is Trump.

Like a wounded animal he will try everything to win. And like a wounded animal, he doesn’t care who gets hurt in the process. As long as Donald is on top, which brings up another point.

Over 170,000 Americans have died from Covid-19. Joe Biden mourns with them; he has a far too intimate experience with the kind of grief that comes from having one’s family torn apart. He mourns for them; he mourns with them. It’s called empathy. The current occupant of the Oval Office dismisses these deaths with a glib remark: “It is what it is.” Nowhere near my idea of leadership.

The man who tonight began to show us the light in the darkness, took to task the “bone-spur-cadet” in the White House. For five months the US has battled for its life against Covid-19, as the man in the Oval Office has used braggadocio and lies to con the American people into believing that he’s very effectively dealing with the crisis and “We’re making great progress with a vaccine.”

Joe Biden addressed that issue in his speech; he spoke of what he would do to stop the virus. Biden has a plan; not bragging, not lying; a plan to fight and beat the virus. A virus that has killed over 170,000 Americans; ONE-HUNDRED-SEVENTY-THOUSAND AMERICANS. No matter how you present that number it comes out obscene.

In a speech that pushed back some of  the darkness, Biden rightly raged at the indifference shown by the current administration to the bounties placed on the heads of American soldiers in Afghanistan. He pointedly referred to the current occupant of the Oval Office—just in case there was ever any doubt about who he was rightly accusing.

For those of us fortunate to have been alive during the administration of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, we have the memory of how he made us feel. He brought vigor, vision and leadership to the office of the President, not cheeseburgers and Cokes. When Kennedy spoke the world listened. When Trump speaks the world places its collective hand over its mouth so as not to be seen laughing.

John Kennedy was blessed with eloquence. In his inaugural speech, he made reference to “the torch;” he was referring to the torch of liberty; the same one that is held high by the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. His words still ring out: “Let the word go forth, from this time and place, that the torch has been passed  .  .  .”

Today we are the bearers of that torch. It is incumbent upon us to keep it burning, up to us to pass it on to those who follow us. We are creating their tomorrow right now.

Finally,

Motivational speaker Les Brown used to say, “You have to know what you stand for, or you’ll fall for anything.” He was right of course, and these times are just like all others, in that we are always being tested. The world challenges us to know what we stand for. In these dangerous times, it’s especially important to be clear.

Jacob Blake, a Black father in Kenosha, WI, was gunned down at point blank range; the White officer had a grip on Blake’s shirt as he fired his gun. The cop shot Blake in the back seven times. Blake was unarmed and posed no risk of violence, yet was shot right in front of his three children. What would you do if Blake were a friend of yours? What would you do if you were horrified that one of yours – a fellow human being – had been maliciously gunned down?

The NBA playoffs are ongoing, but the players know this injustice and they just wouldn’t have it. They walked out, refusing to play game 2 on Wednesday night, this as a statement of protest, as well as showing solidarity with the victim of this police violence, as well as with his family and against racial injustice. These men know what they stand for and they’re telling us about it publicly.

Ignore for the moment the galactically cynical, mean spirited comments of presidential whisperer Jared Kushner that somehow managed to conflate the NBA players’ statement of principle about racial injustice with their salaries. And ignore Mike Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short’s whataboutism, whining that the NBA players didn’t protest things China has done. Yes, he really did say that. Clearly we know what those two stand for. Let me put this into proper context for them and all who are objecting to protests by sports figures.

People are being shot and strangled and beaten by cops and vigilantes every day. Some people of principle are speaking out – and you’re whining because you can’t watch a basketball game. Get a grip on reality and try to imagine that the world is not solely about you.

We are each called to know what we stand for and to stand up and be counted over and over. We know that there’s nothing new in cops killing unarmed Blacks. What’s new is video showing the true horror of what goes on regularly. We cannot unlearn what we have learned. George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and now Jacob Blake are real people, not some ink on a newspaper page or a brief mention on the 10:00 o’clock news. It’s time for all of us to stand and be counted, like the NBA players and the crowds of protesters in every city in America and around the world in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, lest we fall for something terribly sinister and awful.

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  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
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JA


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Today


Reading time – 2:09; Viewing time – 3:32  .  .  .

The landing at Normandy, June 6, 1944

Today is the 74th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Nazi occupied Europe. It was carried out on the beaches of Normandy in France and was and remains the largest invasion of anything, anywhere, at any time and was paid for with enormous amounts of blood to ensure our freedom today. If you know one of the few remaining veterans of that day, thank them for making it so that as you grew up you weren’t speaking German. And do it very, very soon. It’s far too easy to wait too long.

There is another event to honor today and that is the anniversary of the day Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. That day deserves our understanding.

The more I learn formally and through simple human experience, the more I see how critically important are the fraternal twins hope and caring. We humans crave them both and with them can do and endure anything and without them all is lost.

You can test the caring part by examining how you feel about someone who plainly doesn’t care about you. Likely, you don’t care much about them, either. You don’t want to be in relationship with them and you certainly aren’t motivated to support them. On the other hand, when someone does care about you, you know it and you care about them and are engaged and willing – even enthusiastic – to support them. That’s the power of caring.

The hope part is perhaps more ethereal, more difficult to pin down, but we know it when we feel it.

In 1968 we were locked in a cold war that threatened to end life on this planet. At the same time, we were bogged down in the endless slaughter of the war in Vietnam, with 500,000 of our military people there. Every day we saw the films of the carnage and got the report of our dead – the “body count.” We deeply needed something to give us hope.

Then Bobby Kennedy was running for President. He didn’t have the charisma of his older brother. He didn’t have the glamour or anywhere near the experience in elective office. But he had something far more valuable: He cared and we knew it and he gave hope to millions.

It was impossible to miss the depth of his caring for Americans, especially the downtrodden, the poor. Even his detractors saw that and his depth of caring was what we needed as we struggled through the horrors of the war in Vietnam, the social upheavals at home and the inept leadership of President Johnson. Bobby Kennedy represented hope in plain sight from our miserable, helpless leadership and from our national feelings of hopelessness.

And that is why the country grieved so when he was killed. We may have grieved more for him than for his assassinated brother; at the very least we grieved in an intensely heartfelt way. When John Kennedy was killed it was a loss of innocence for a generation. When Bobby Kennedy was killed it was a profound loss of hope for the nation. And that is why we remember starkly that awful day in June, 1968.

Bobby Kennedy’s death reminds us always to seek leaders who care about us and give us hope. That caring and hope are what make everything possible.

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Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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