President Kennedy was murdered at a time when the United States of America was asserting its political, military and economic might over the post-World War Two world. The Vietnam War was to be the greatest flexing of US muscle since the world war. But it was also a time when an alternative vision of the world was born personified on the one hand by the hippie and free love movement of the 1960s and the flowering of Kennedy’s Camelot on the other. While the most powerful families in the country were planning a global economic empire propped up by an invincible military machine other Americans, less powerful ones of course, were nurturing the country in another direction away from military might and economic hegemony and towards something more peaceful, humane and social-minded.
The conflict between these two forces, of war and peace, or aggression and pacifism, has continued right up to the present day. We still struggle between what some term the forces of the right and the left and seem unable to find compromise and peace amongst us, or amidst the larger world around us that we so often belittle and ignore at our own expense. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 represent not so much a maniacal assault on innocent victims but a violent global backlash against the doctrines most of our leaders have espoused since Kennedy’s era and which to the simple-minded perpetrators was concentrated on New York City’s twin towers as a symbol of American economic and cultural domination of the world.
The forces of peace and humanity have not prevailed over the last 50 years. War, famine and climate change have. The less powerful and less affluent amongst us continue to clamor for a more just society and a more just world. The more powerful nations on earth bore ahead with plans of economic might despite the collateral damage suffered by those who are cast aside or who are unable to participate. Oil might be replaced by biofuel for the mighty while biofuel replaces food for the rest. Around the world, as illustrated in the events of the so-called Arab Spring, for example, we are being reminded (or warned) that the American model will never sweep the world any more than our leaders at home should take their citizens for granted and assume they can control them. Within and without the United States people yearn for positive change, and for social and economic justice in particular. Our country and our world cannot continue to develop in a way that favors only the richest and most affluent, while degrading and ostracizing the rest.
Twice in the last decade the American people have voted for positive change. What needs to be promoted is the dialogue amongst ourselves born of these elections, specifically the need to consider and weigh the opinions of those who would at first seem different from us, but who are not at all deep down. Without dialogue we will continue to see strangers around us, and not brothers and sisters. Without dialogue we will be unable to plan for a better world. Without dialogue there will be no bright future to share with our sons and daughters.
The turbulent 60’s were highlighted by great struggles and sacrifices. But we are still a long way from the peace and security we all desire. Dark forces continue to plot and manipulate us from below. Darker forces have chosen other ways to combat our insolence and arrogance. If anything the human situation is more complicated today than it was 50 years ago. Now it is more difficult to separate the good from the bad as opposing camps use the same arguments against each other, each convinced of his agenda over the other. If nothing else the year 2013 should serve as an opportunity for us to look back to a simpler age and attempt to acquaint ourselves once more with the values and needs that make us truly human. The year 2013 should also serve as a year for us to celebrate the struggles of John F Kennedy and assist us in finding our way back upon the path to truth, justice and what truly should be the American way!