Like almost any American who was alive and old enough to realize what was going on, I remember exactly where I was when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I was sitting in a classroom when the principal came over the public address system to tell us the terrible news. Even as a young boy I understood how much the President’s death impacted the country.
I was reminded of that the last few days with all of the news coverage of the 50th anniversary of the assassination. America still remembers and loves her fallen hero. But there’s another side to the Kennedy story that we don’t talk about any more.
No, not the conspiracy theories over Kennedy’s death. Those will go one forever, along with the debates about Bigfoot, UFOs, and whether or not Elvis is still alive. I’m talking about that fact that during his campaign and presidency, many Americans hated John F. Kennedy.
Our country wasn’t that far removed from the days when Kennedy’s Irish roots made him seem like a second-class citizen, and there were many who still felt that way even if they would not say it out loud in public. Sound familiar?
When he announced that he planned to run for office, many established politicians said he was too young and didn’t have any experience, that he had never worked for a living and therefore was unsuited for the job. Sound familiar?
There was a lot of controversy over Kennedy’s religion. Many believed that as a Roman Catholic he would take his direction from the Pope and that his first allegiance would be to his religious faith, not the American people. In a press conference in 1960, the candidate said "I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant, nor Jewish…” and there were those who claimed he was saying America was not a Christian country. Sound familiar?
Many in the South hated Kennedy for his support of Civil Rights and believed he courted the Black vote to win the election, and that by naming Lyndon B. Johnson as his running mate, he was sucking up to the Mexican vote along the border. There were claims that many of both the Black and Mexican votes were rigged or made by those not qualified to do so. Sound familiar?
The election itself was very close and Kennedy beat Nixon by less than two tenths of one percentage point in the popular vote, and when Kennedy was announced the winner, many Republicans claimed that the victory was due to voter fraud. Sound familiar?
And things didn’t slow down after Kennedy took office. He selected a mixture of experienced and inexperienced people to serve in his cabinet, saying "We can learn our jobs together" which caused his opponents to claim he was turning the country over to a crew of fools. Sound familiar?
One of his first presidential acts was to create the Peace Corps, in which American volunteers were sent to underdeveloped nations to help them improve their education, health care, and other needed programs. Many said this was a first step toward world socialism. Sound familiar?
Kennedy called his domestic program the New Frontier and it included federal funding to increase medical care for the elderly. His Republican opponents claimed it would turn America into a welfare state. Sound familiar?
His was the first government budget to top the $100 billion mark and people claimed he was bankrupting the nation and squandering our children and grandchildrens’ futures. Sound familiar?
While many civil rights leaders complained that Kennedy was lukewarm to their cause, even as a young boy I remember people calling President Kennedy a nigger lover. Many said his immigration policy was going to turn America into a Third World country. Sound familiar?
By now I know some people reading this are wondering how I dare compare a (now) beloved man like John F. Kennedy with our current President, but if you are one of them, you’re missing my point.
It’s not about comparing the two men or their performance in office. It’s about that fact that if you voted for the other guy, back then or now, no matter what his background is or how he got there it had to be a conspiracy and no matter what the man sitting in the Oval Office does, it must be wrong. Sound familiar?
Tags: Bigfoot, Black vote, Catholic, Christian, civil rights, civil rights leaders, conspiracy theory, immigration policy, John F. Kennedy, Kennedy assassination, medical care for the elderly, Peace Corps, politicians, politics, Protestant, religious prejuduce, Republicans, Roman Catholic, socialism, UFOs, voter fraud, welfare state