Posts Tagged ‘JFK’

Murder Most Foul

Last week, Bob Dylan released his first original song in eight years. Titled Murder Most Foul the 17 minute song is primarily focused on the 1963 assassination of JFK but uses it more a point of departure for a guided ride on a hazy time machine that moves through the decades that followed.

Over a slow paced backing with piano, drum and strings that gives it the feel of an elegy or requiem, Dylan takes the imagery of that dark November and weaves it together with a long list of wildly disparate references to musical selections and pop culture figures.

It all becomes a mesmerizing drone.

On one hand, it seems to be just a mishmash of words and references with no real meaning.

But on the other hand, it feels like it is pointing us to this moment as an endpoint for an arc that began on that day in 1963, with every moment and event since, large or small, pushing us forward to this culmination.

Like we’ve been on a journey since that day and this moment and situation was our ultimate destination.

And for many whose lives have spanned that time period, that feeling is one that makes a certain amount of sense. For these folks, that day in 1963 has cast a shadow over everything since and there is a constant groping through the detritus of the years to find the connecting strands that will somehow make sense of it all. For them, there seems to be something going on, a set pattern of small indiscernible nudges, that is just out of reach or understanding.

And this song somehow feels like it is bringing finality to that pattern’s path.

I can’t say whether that this is true or not or if I even believe what I’ve just written. Maybe it’s an epic. Or maybe it’s just a load of crap. I guess, like all art, it’s a subjective opinion.

For me, it’s just oddly compelling. I’ve probably listened to this song forty times or more in the past week, sometimes playing it on a loop while I have been stretching canvasses or working at some other simple physical tasks. I find it oddly soothing, especially after listening to it immediately after watching the news reports on the current situation. I find myself pausing at certain recurring moments in each playing of the song and catching a few of same couplets, out of the many that make up the song, again and again.

Maybe I am trying to find the pattern in this song that might somehow bring to light the pattern that has possibly spanned the past 56+ years.

I don’t know.

I’m sharing a version with lyrics so, if you have the desire and 17 minutes to spare, give a listen. It will give you something to think about in your time of isolation. Have a good day.


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On this road there are no godspoke men. They are gone and I am left and they have taken with them the world. 

― Cormac McCarthy, The Road


You know you feel bad when you take to the awful beauty of Cormac McCarthy for comfort. But when you get the sense that the world is about to be set on fire, if it is not already ablaze, he seems like a natural choice.

I would much rather be referencing another book, like JFK’s Pulitzer Prize winning Profiles in Courage. that describes the brave stands taken by Senators which changed the course of our history. But as we now know Senatorial courage is only a myth now, some form of mythical quality from a long lost time.

The idea of someone with the power to affect change stepping forward to so without regard to their own personal benefit is something we may never see again. And what a lost opportunity it has been for someone to cement their place in history, to speak truth to the rampant dishonesty and corruption we are witnessing.

Instead we see cowering and mealy mouthed half explanations or full-throated deceptions that are disingenuous at the very least. No, there will be Profiles in Courage written from this time about those who sit in the majority. So long as they believe they have shelter, they would rather see the world burn than stand against the illegitimacy they helped create.

Like the fools they are, they somehow think that the flames won’t reach them, even as they stand among the fury of the fire.

And the world begins to smolder…





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“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

― John F. Kennedy, Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, 1963


JFK said the words above just three days before his assassination in 1963 and it is as a good reminder now as it was then that words of gratitude mean little unless we express our gratitude with meaningful action. I thought I would share a Thanksgiving post that was written in 2009. Little has changed in the time. There’s still terrorism, war and greed beyond comprehension–I could add a few more bad things but let’s leave that for another day. But the message here echoes the words of JFK from 1963, that gratitude is best expressed in action. Have a good and peaceful Thanksgiving.


It’s Thanksgiving 2009, the last one of this first decade of the new century. It has been a decade that many would like to put well behind us.  A decade of terrorism, non-stop war and unabated greed.

But there are still reasons for giving thanks. Friends and family and the love that is there. The moments of joy that brighten many dark days. A kind word from a stranger. The sunshine and the rain that nourish us. The food we eat.

It’s simple. It’s anything and everything.

In a universe that is seemingly infinite, we are riding the tiniest clod of  soil and water. We have consciousness,  aware of the world around us.

We are alive.

So, on this last Thanksgiving of this decade, look around and be thankful but remember that Thanksgiving is a word of action. It is not static. Be active and express your thanks to those around you. If you have the ability, show your thanks to the world by helping those who have not been quite so fortunate in worldly terms. Or by extending a hand in some way to those who sacrifice on our behalf, such as the soldiers who are spending their day away from those they love.

Volunteer at your favorite charity. Write a check to your local food bank.  Just do something to help someone besides yourself.

Thanksgiving is a word of action, after all.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving…

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Aaron Shikler-  John F Kennedy -Official PortraitHistory often turns on certain points in time, with dramatic  events that send us on a course that seem drastically different than the one we imagined ourselves to be on beforehand.  Perhaps it’s an exercise in futility to wonder what the world might look like had these events not taken place but one can’t help but imagine, if only for a moment,  an alternative history.  For instance, how would our country look today had Lincoln not been assassinated or if the events of 9/11 had been averted?  Pearl Harbor?

Of course, I’m writing this today on the day marking the 50th year since President John F. Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas back in 1963.  That day seemed to mark a swing in our consciousness from which I don’t think we’ve ever fully recovered, leaving me to wonder how the last 50 years would have differed had not JFK been killed.  Where would we be now?

The ripples from this event are many.  How would Viet Nam proceeded?  Would there have been the same escalation and would there have been the same sense of outrage from the youthful protesters of that era?  Would the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr and Robert Kennedy taken place?  Did JFK’s killing somehow enable these other assassinations?

I find my head swimming with what-ifs and coulda-beens when I ponder this.  More than my simple mind can handle.  But sitting here this morning, fifty years after that day in Dallas, I can’t imagine a scenario where our world is better now than it would have been had that day not taken place.  I know there is no room for such regrets, that we are where we are and no amount of despairing  will change the course of history we’ve followed to this point.  But, if only for a moment on this single morning, I would like to think of what might have been.  Perhaps, if string theory somehow applies, there is a parallel reality where the events of that day never happened and our arc through history was much different.  I know that I would like to see that …



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I saw a news analyst yesterday discussing the ongoing Republican presidential primary who was discussing the general lack of enthusiasm for this group of candidates, both within the party and across the country as a whole.  None of these characters had sparked any real fires in the hearts and minds of the populace. The analyst admitted that he was a Democrat so he was somewhat pleased but he then made a point that really stood out for me. 

 He said this group of candidates’  lack of imagination and the ability to produce a single big idea were the most disturbing aspect of this whole fiasco.  They had not given us, the citizenry of this country, anything that made us dream forward, made us want to rally behind them.  They had not challenged us in any way, save for one feeble effort from a damaged and bitter Newt Gingrich who pandered to the Florida space community by proposing what I think amounted to senior citizen housing on Mars.

This lack of vision and imagination is not only bad news for the Republican party effort but is detrimental for the entire country.  It allows the Democrats to not have to respond with an even bigger vision of their own, lets them run simply on a smaller scale, missing a grand opportunity to unite the citizenry behind the type of grand idea that might define us as a people.  Think of JFK proposing the Peace Corps as a candidate in 1960 or his challenge to us to  put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.  Or FDR and the sweeping New Deal porposals of his 1932 campaign.  Ideas that put our vision forward in a united way instead of focusing on the divided present.

I don’t see any of this group of clowns coming up with a grand vision of where they wish to steer this country.  They offer the same old proposals of  trickle down economics and tax cuts for the wealthy that have been a drag on this country for over 30 years.  They offer no hope, no inspiration for betterment  for anyone trapped in the lower classes of our society.  They certainly don’t give us a vision of the future that unites us as a people, bound together by a single large goal. 

I know that it may be asking too much for someone running for president but I  wish they would come up with a single  big idea.  Perhaps I couldn’t get behind it but at least it might spur an even bigger and better idea that would excite me and millions of others to action. 

 And that would be something to see.  Just imagine what we might accomplish…

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John Dingell

There was a short article on the Huffington Post this week from Amanda Terkel that has stuck with me.  In the light of this being the 50th anniversary of JFK’s inauguration, Terkel spoke with Rep. John Dingell to compare the rhetoric of that time with that now swirling around the Obama presidency.  Dingell has been a congressman (Democrat serving from Michigan) since 1955– 55 years- and has seen much come and go politically over that time.

He spoke of the harsh tone of the opposition against JFK in the weeks before his assassination in Dallas in 1963, which included an infamous handbill that circulated in the Dallas area in the form of  a wanted poster, portraying JFK as a criminal wanted for treason for imagined crimes against the American people.  Reading the charges on the poster, I am reminded of the current rhetoric and the way it makes baseless claims in a nonspecific manner, using catchwords to incite the willing mind.  It also brought to mind the hate-filled caricatures of Obama that are pushed forward by the right-wing media of the president as a fascist or Muslim socialist.

This constant incitement by a willing, partisan media was one of the differences that Dingell cited between then and now.  Polarized cheerleaders openly pushing there adherents further and further along on a 24 hour newscycle ,  all the time demonizing the opposing side, were not as visible then.  No Fox News nor MSNBC.  No Glenn Beck or Limbaugh .  No Olbermann.  Well, there’s no Olbermann now either since he announced that last night’s show was to be his last.

The point here is that we have become so ignorant of our recent history that we fail to see the patterns and cycles of history that occur, forcing us to possibly relive history over and over like someone with short-term memory loss repeating the same mistake again and again, thinking that this time the results will be different.  We are at a time of change, much as JFK’s term was a time of change for this nation, and there will always be great fear and opposition to even the most needed change.  However, if we look to history we can see that we will endure and emerge better if only we do not succumb to these fears and embrace change.

John Dingell is a bit of living history for us.  Heed his words and learn from his experience, which is our own history.

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