JFK Presided Over the High Mark of Empire

By Bill Johnston

Ten years following the death of President John F. Kennedy, Richard Boeth wrote in Newsweek, “What future historians may well note first about JFK is what they note first about the Roman Emperor Trajan – that he presided at the high water mark of the empire.”

In the immediate years following Kennedy’s death, Lyndon Johnson seemed to be leading the nation to a future of great equality and economic security. But by 1968, with hundreds of GI’s being killed in a pointless war in Vietnam, with Americans battling each other in the streets and Johnson’s War on Poverty bogged down the United States tripped, stumbled and started to fall. That fall has not stopped to this day.

Since 1973 the average income of American workers has dropped by 25%. In fact, every indicator of development in other advanced western nations has dropped in the United States. We are number #1 when compared with European Countries in nothing but the number of our fellow citizens we throw in prison.

Forty-eight years later, I think it has become all too apparent to many historians that Richard Boeth was tragically correct in his assessment of Kennedy’s position in our history. Just look at his successors in office. Criminals – amoral – liars – lacking leadership – swaggering egomaniacs – indecisive and spineless! John F. Kennedy was a leader Americans were proud of. As one senator said semi-humorously of him, “He seems to combine the best qualities of Elvis Presley and Franklin D. Roosevelt. But beyond his “star” power JFK was a thinker. To read his speeches or his books you have to be impressed with his constant flood of ideas. To be amazed at his challenge to the American people – to be better – to be the best. As we move into our next torturous assault of presidential primaries who can imagine one of the latest sorry crop of candidates saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you but ask what you can do for your country!” An inconceivable request and challenge in the crass – lowest common denominator – race to the bottom – reality show we have become as a country.

As we pass another anniversary of President Kennedy’s death, we are a nation in which money dominants our politics and elections.

Our democracy is on life support and we have become an oligarchy.

The oligarchs are now sending in the police to attack and arrest Americans who know their government no longer represents them and make up the “Occupy Movement”.

As the Oligarchy uses police power to clear the streets they might well keep in mind JFK’s thoughts on such matters, “Those,” he said, “who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable.”

Bill Johnston is a retired staff organizer of the United Food and Commercial Workers. Email wfjohnstonehs@wamail.net.

From The Progressive Populist, December 1, 2011


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