I wanted to post this yesterday, but was unable to do so. This is a repost of my first OS post, October 21, 2008. Almost nobody read it.
But the fear that I experienced as a very young man working in the Executive Office of the President on that November 22, 1963, the fear I felt for the then candidate and now President Obama last October is only intensified as the loonies are on the loose and few are calling them out on their vile propaganda.
People are legally carrying assult rifles to Presidential rallies, promoting and making thinly veiled death threats; and not subtle metaphors for the death of this President are the norm in the ranks of the fringe right. We are not, as a nation, safer than a year ago. And the President is not safer either.
What follows is a true account of one young, naive and grief stricken person's experience on the day President Kennedy was killed.
OCTOBER 21, 2008 10:12PM
I moved to Washington DC in July, 1963. A bright eyed and anxious 23 year old, I was nearly overcome by my good fortune to be invited to work in the Executive Office of the President, Bureau of the Budget.
I was the low guy on the totem pole and often got the duty of covering the phones when others went out to eat, or to work at the agencies we reviewed for budget and legislative consistency with the President's goals.
One day in late November I was half listening to some elevator music playing on the radio when an announcement interrupted to say, "The President has been shot!" I was of course stunned, and decided that I had to tell someone so I ran down to the Division Director's Office. He wasn't there, so I ran down the long hall in the Old Executive Office Building, up the stairs and barged into the Office of the Director of the Budget Bureau.
There was a meeting going on in the conference room and I, out of breath and likely hyperventilating, shouted, "The President has been shot!"
Two of the White House political staff were there as was the Budget Director, the Deputy and several Division Directors. The Deputy Director, Elmer Staats, who knew me, looked at me with disgust and said, "Monte, that is not funny. How could you even think to say something like that?"
While that was going on, someone turned on a TV that was in the room and the fact was confirmed. About the same time the two White House staffers were calling across the alley to the West Wing to confirm.
There are certain times when the world turns inside out; times when we will remember where we were and what we were doing when a major event happens. For much younger people than me, and most are, a day that is sealed in their memories, and mine, is September 11, 2001.
Unfortunately, by the time the '60s were over those of us who lived through those years would add the April 4, 1968, assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr, and the June 5, 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.
Those years were years of great political division in this nation, and until now, we have seen nothing like the kind of bitter, hateful rant that fueled the hatred then, and fanned the flames of intolerance.
We would all like to think that we have, as a nation, gotten past all of that. And, had we not been witnessing the fanning of the flames, the desperate acts of spinning a great lie about Barack Obama; a lie about his "otherness," "Un-American," "Socialist," and, today, "Communist" leanings.
These purveyors of hate continue to foment the unrest and play to the prejudices of race and class warfare. The litany of false descriptors piles up, lie upon lie: "Palling around with Terrorists," "Terrorist," and "Traitor."
Mainstream media, even the so-called liberal left media, allow such words to go unchallenged saying such things as, "Well. Its all that McCain has left to do." As if that makes it OK to scream "Fire!" in a crowded theater.
We have succumbed to something we would tell ourselves to our dying day that we do not believe: "that the end justifies the means." In a stupefying attempt to be "fair" we have turned our heads and allowed the intolerant rants of hate to be "tolerated."
If I had not lived through the short few years when three leaders of my hope for our nation were destroyed, when I, and the rest of the nation, had to grow up and realize that there is evil in this world, perhaps I would not feel so uneasy, and could just let it go as "Well, its just the politics of desperation."
Unfortunately, it only takes one nut, one crazy who is sent over the edge by the talk of terrorists, traitors, socialists, communists and the questioning of patriotism, to destroy the best hopes of us all.
It only takes one.