From Camelot to Babylon

Today is the fifty-eighth anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I don’t expect much attention to be paid to the occasion; the fiftieth in 2013 was probably the last big fling of the Camelot industry. With the Boomers currently wheezing their way under the sod, the date is passing out of popular recollection and into history.

The image at the top of this post shows the cover of the album “Single Bullet Theory”, by a band of the same name. It’s actually an EP — containing only four songs — rather than a full LP. The cover was too big to put in my scanner, so I had to take a photo of it.

SBT was relatively local to me, in the Richmond area. One member was a friend of a friend, so I actually knew the band a little bit. I heard them play once or twice in the late 1970s.

The image on the album cover was created when irony was just becoming ascendant, so in 1978 it was about as cool and hip as it could get. And at the time it appeared, it would have been instantly recognizable to virtually any American adult.

The original photo — one frame of the 8mm Zapruder film taken in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963 — was iconic. Everyone had seen it. Fifteen years after the assassination, the context of that photo was still totally familiar. It even made its way into an Elvis Costello song from the same period, “Less Than Zero” (especially the “Dallas version”). Everyone knew what the singer meant when he said, “…her husband rides a bumper in the president’s procession” and “calling Mr. Oswald” and “…if you were taking home movies, there’s a chance you might have seen him.”

But forty-five more years have passed since then. How well-known is all that Dallas iconography now? I don’t immerse myself much in popular culture these days, but I suspect the events of 11/22/63 are not as generally familiar as they were two generations ago.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Any kid who was old enough to pay attention to public affairs — say, ten or older — experienced November 22, 1963 as a watershed moment, dividing the continuum into Before and After what happened in Dallas that day.

I was just starting junior high school at the time. Since I was born after World War Two and was too young to remember the Korean War, I had experienced nothing similar in my lifetime. And I experienced nothing like it afterwards until 9-11 came along thirty-eight years later. I was seasoned and jaded by then, however, so it didn’t make as much of an impact, but it was a similar cultural moment.

As far as I could tell, adults were similarly affected by the assassination. I was in band practice that day when the news came in, and I remember the stricken face of our band teacher as he relayed the news to his students.

That was late on a Friday afternoon. The shock and horror on TV continued throughout the weekend, augmented by the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald on Sunday, which meant that the principal suspect would never face a public trial. The solemn, elaborate funeral for JFK took place on Monday, and we watched it live on TV. Kids got out of school for the occasion, if I remember correctly.

In retrospect the Kennedy assassination seems to mark the end of one era — which might be called the Post-WW2 Period — and the beginning of another one, for which a succinct name does not come readily to mind. The attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan in 1981 did not have the same effect, partly because he survived the attempt, and partly because times had changed by then. The next divide might have been 9-11, but that’s still too recent for me to decide.

The death of JFK and the inauguration of Lyndon Johnson ushered in an era of rapid changes — the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, the Civil Rights Act, the Vietnam quagmire, the Summer of Love, 1968, student rebellion, Kent State, Watergate, the fall of Nixon, and eventually Jimmy Carter’s stagflation. After 1980 the pace of change slowed, but by then the devotees of the Frankfurt School had begun their long march through the institutions. For the next thirty years the Marxist termites patiently continued hollowing out the heartwood of our culture until they finally took full control after the election of Barack Hussein Obama.

In 1963 the country wept for the end of Camelot. In 2021 it joyously celebrates the Modern Multicultural Babylon that we are all forced to live in.

My, how times have changed.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

The presidential election of 1960 was the first one I paid attention to. I wanted Richard Nixon to win, much to the amusement of my parents.

By the time of the fateful motorcade in Dallas, however, the media hagiography surrounding President Kennedy had had its effect on me, and I had become a devotee. It was partly because of the Berlin Wall and the Cuban Missile Crisis — my natural patriotism kicked in. But the Camelot president was also a compelling speaker, effective enough to grip the mind of a 12-year-old.

On the day of the funeral I remember how devastated I felt watching Jackie and her children accompanying the slow procession of the caisson bearing her husband’s casket. Those little kids — it was heart-wrenching to see them.

And everyone is gone now except for Caroline — her parents, her brother, her uncles. Numerous cousins are still extant, but the Kennedy mystique thinned out and dissipated when it was dispersed among so many people. Her handlers tried pushing Caroline into politics some years back, if I remember rightly. The media would have loved to see it, but somehow nothing came of the project.

The golden haze of Camelot burned off long ago for me, years before Ronald Reagan was elected. It hung on longer for many liberals, but even for them the glow eventually faded. One reason was that John F. Kennedy’s actual words, as recorded in his speeches and ghost-written prose, were antithetical to the new progressive ideology of the Democrat Party as it moved farther and farther left. By today’s standards, much of what Kennedy said would mark him as a right-wing extremist, if not a potential domestic terrorist.

Times have changed. When I look back on those years, my nostalgia is not for the Prince of Camelot himself, who was eventually revealed to be a posturing, manipulative womanizer. I’m homesick for a time when our country still had a common cultural fabric, before it was shredded and scattered to the four winds. The solemn ceremony of John F. Kennedy’s funeral was a moment that could be collectively shared and understood by millions of people. That sort of moment would be impossible today.

I don’t think it’s just my recollection of my childish feelings that makes it seem that way. American culture really was more cohesive in 1963, but it has since been deliberately shattered by malign forces that have striven to destroy it in order to build the Brave New World we live in now.

I am repeatedly startled to find myself living in this ghastly dystopia of 2021. It’s hard to believe that we could have come to this in fifty-eight years. Tempus fugit.

15 thoughts on “From Camelot to Babylon

  1. ” . . .for which a succinct name does not come readily to mind.”

    It is generally referred to as “The 60s,” as what people generally mean by “The 60s” began with the arrival of the Beatles and the departure of Kennedy. The Kennedy years, as part of an era, were more properly the last of the 50s, rather than the beginning of the 60s.

    I thought the Beatles were OK, for a kiddie band, but I never understood Beatlemania. I favored Harry Belafonte, Bach and Bolero.

    The pattern of the Formica on the kitchen table I was sitting at when I heard that Kennedy had been shot is indelibly imprinted on my mind. Funny little thing that.

    And “The 60s,” as an era, ended in August of 1974 with the resignation of Nixon.

  2. When the Deep State that Eisenhower warned us about consolidated their power.
    The Long March is complete now and the Fundamental Transformation into a third world slime sewer pipe of egalitarian mediocrity.

      • Not quite, he suffered a heart attack at Nixon’s hands in 1956.
        Of course, what did Nixon in was his aid to Israel during the Yom Kippur War when everyone’s fingers were on the buttons was apostate blasphemy. Madame Hillarity, Archibald Cox’s law clerk, saw to his removal by bringing Watergate back from the dead, and I think even used a saw to it.

  3. @ Baron

    I was only two years old at the time of President Kennedy’s assassination, so I only remember that time dimly, if at all, through the fragmented memories of a small child. I remember much better, very vividly in fact, the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in 1968. Our next-door neighbor at the time, their teenaged daughter was baby-sitting my sister and I… I can still remember hearing and seeing Walter Cronkite deliver the news of his death in Los Angeles at the hands of assassin Sirhan Sirhan, on June 4th, 1968. I remember that poor young woman just crying her heart out.

    I know too much about the Kennedy political dynasty and its dirty laundry to ever have bought into the Kennedy mystique to any great degree, but the deaths of John and Bobby, along with the assassination of Martin Luther King, certainly seem to mark a definitive end to whatever innocence our nation still possessed. The tumultuous 1960s and the Vietnam War also put paid to our lost innocence and sense of being naive to the same horrors which had stricken so many other nations and peoples.

    Before JFK’s death, I suppose that Americans then, as a people, still believed in the system and most probably trusted the government to know right from wrong and to do the right thing. After all, isn’t that what Americans had always done? At least that’s what we still believed, many of us. The cynicism that became so pervasive during the 1970s and afterward, had not yet seeped into the mainstream of American life as it did later on to such a degree. We still believed in heroes; we still believed in John Wayne and Gary Cooper and that good would triumph over evil, just as it did in so many of their movies.

    The assassins who killed the Kennedys didn’t just murder two men; they murdered a nation’s belief in itself and its righteousness. Perhaps this had always been, in the end, a myth – but successful, healthy civilizations need myths and heroic stories to survive, to tell who they are and what they ought to value and why. That is what was lost on that sunny day in Dallas so long ago.

    • The JFK assasination was basically a ‘socialist’ coup d’etat, I have read the conspiracy theories, but they are really a hypothesis rather than theory, and yes, there are loose ends and magic bullets; I could not have reliably hit a moving target at 400 yards…..

      Maybe LHO could. But who would base a major political assasination attempt on the ability of a shooter to RELIABLY take out a MOVING target at that range? Grassy Knolls and white picket fences? All sounds like a Hollywood movie plot – too ‘hit and miss’.

      Maybe LHO was just insane, and fired a lucky shot, who knows?

      Much like the Baron, I was pre-teen when it happened, being British, there was a ‘distance’ to the shooting which maybe absorbed some of the shock, but it still sticks in my mind – the BBC news announcing the shooting, and the hope that JFK would survive.

      LBJ took the USA deeper into the Vietnam debacle, and at the same time started his ‘Great Society’ – He laid the foundations for much of today’s trouble and strife…

      Did LBJ build back better? – No, he destroyed what was there and working, and somehow forgot the building back bit, he destroyed the ‘American Dream’ and slammed the door on African-American betterment – handouts embitter reather than embetter.

      The USA grew up from a very bad start, but eventually overcame slavery and Jim Crow, the legacy of its colonial days, it was a long, painful and sometimes deadly process, but it happened. No other nation has managed to do it (except through top down Imperialism and Colonialism). Americans have every reason to be proud of their nation – Especially the minorities…..

      • It was 400+ feet not yards. A little over a 100 yards. An easy shot for a Marine Sharpshooter.
        Though moving the target was moving away in line. The limo came to an almost complete stop just as the final shot hit Kennedy’s head, then sped away rapidly.
        Many attribute this to the conspiracy that the Secret Service was also involved. Careful investigation shows however, that the driver had slowed to allow the Secret Service agent from behind get onto the bumper of the Presidential Limo where he in fact may have saved Jackie from falling off the back.

  4. News of the assassination of JFK left me stunned – literally. I was 19 years old and a local amateur boxer. I was in the gym sparring with the reigning Southern Counties ABA bantamweight champion by the name of Ray Daniels. To say Ray punched above his weight would be an understatement. He could hit and he could hurt so optimum concentration was essential when facing him, even in training. I was already in self preservation mode when suddenly, the gym door burst open and the guy from the main office came crashing through the door.
    “Kennedy’s been shot.” he shouted and that’s the last thing I remember. In the split second I was distracted, Ray threw a short southpaw left hook and out I went.

  5. Am not American, and I wasn’t born at the time, but even though it had a huge impact on the whole Western World, all I can say is that I can’t understand the hype.
    The guy gave me the creeps when I saw him in documentaries and photos and I couldn’t understand why I was supposed to mourn a democrat, a guy who was addicted to copulating with women in every room, corridors, chamber and broom cupboards he happened to walk past and the son of a Mafia-linked man, who owned his accession to the White House to Daddy’s connections. My father said to me: He’s not responsible for his “philandering”, it’s due to the medicine he has to take for his horrendous back pain.
    I raised an eye-brow at that and though to myself: “that’s not an excuse, he was still a philandering whore”. That’s teenage all-high-and-mightiness for you!
    Though I haven’t changed my mind, so I guess I’m still a pouting, contrary teenager at heart.
    PS: History textbooks at school waxed lyrical as well, which left me bemused

  6. Thanks Baron for the comments. I was looking high and low for press to acknowledge the day. I remember playing during lunch recess-freedom reigned back in 1963. Kids all running around, joking, taking swipes at one another and having fun.
    Then…word came out that President Kennedy had been shot.
    The world has certainly changed…and not for the good…IMHO.
    Happy Thanksgiving to all. Americans have much for which to be proud!

    from the sewer of DC…the land of o

  7. Actually, the butler did it, as he advised Kennedy to wear his back brace. The back brace prevented Kennedy from bending over which would have saved his life after the first shot missed and grazed his shoulder. The back brace rendered Kennedy a sitting duck in a shooting gallery that was LBJ’s home turf. It was all set up.
    Oh, and BTW, Vietnam had only two goals: one, the continued funding of the military industrial establishment, and two; the elimination of those pesky black folk who wanted their civil rights that he sent to rice paddies as an open target for the Viet Cong. LBJ cheated his way into office and the stench of his election to the Senate was the same as the 2020 election. The Deep State had already burrowed deep into this country’s government while we were dealing with an engineered economic depression and then a direct assault upon ourselves and our country.
    Sorry about that but the present dystopia began with Woodrow Wilson, or more accurately his wife, and needed 100 years to flower and bear the fruit that we are now condemned to partake of.
    There is a God in Heaven Who has seen all this and does care personally for His children who have received His Son as their Lord and Savior. I have nothing else to be thankful for but that, and as this is temporal and heaven is eternal, being the Lord God’s adopted son through Christ is all that really matters. So Happy Thanksgiving y’all from a native Suthern Californian.

  8. Quit looking back. Eyes front, folks. We are up to our armpits in commies – I told you people back in ’92 that every communist and socialist should be strung up, post-haste.
    Ooooh, the normies said, that’s pretty extreme, Koj. Can’t we all just get along?
    No. We cannot get along with commies and their arschlichts. We are enemies, bitterly, unto the end.
    So. The commies are outted. We know who they are.
    I regret to say there is no nice way out of this, there never was.
    Communists respond only to violence. It is their preferred mode of discourse.
    The 5 year plan is laid bare. Death. Fascism. Concentration camps and gulags.
    Poverty, serfdom, racism, slavery, and death. So much death.
    Your elections are wholly corrupted.
    The Republican Party will not stand with or for you.
    The Bident threatens citizens with nuclear weapons.
    They are planning to exterminate you.
    Lay down and take it, or stand and fight.
    This is going to take a lot of heat and rope to fix; make no mistake.
    It’s them or us.
    I say, it’s time to take the fight to the commies. A real fight, not words. I speak of the [intemperate recommendations redacted].
    The commies are also out-numbered.
    So get the fists up, people. You are fighting for your very existence.
    The commies understand this. You all had better get with the program, or you will be enslaved, punished for whiteness, and murdered out of hand.

  9. Thank you for the pensive, touching memory. Calls to mind the Bill Evans tune, equally elegiac, “Time Remembered.”

    I also hail from the classwomb of 1951, and your recollection matches my own. In contrast with the present moribund state of the state, those were times of unity across families and neighborhoods, when all was underpinned by a visceral tie to the Motherland.

    Speaking of JFK, one of the slew of books that followed in the wake of his assassination I’ll reference in this parting thought on our nation’s requiem:

    America, we hardly knew ya!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.