Remembering JFK and a bygone era …

500px-John_F._Kennedy,_White_House_color_photo_portraitOUR MOST BASIC COMMON LINK is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), 35th President of the United States, serving from January 1961 until he was assassinated in November 1963, fifty years ago today.

Like 9/11 and other shared tragedies, John Kennedy’s assassination is branded indelibly on our minds and hearts. I was thirteen years old then, a freshman in high school. The news didn’t reach us until late in the day. Television and radio were not encouraged at St. Joe’s.

It was a Friday and after our last class those of us who lived on the convent grounds scrambled to the rail station to head  home to our families. Unaware, we apparently behaved just the way you might expect silly teenagers to behave when they are giddy with sudden freedom.  We didn’t notice that the adults on the train were somber and perhaps some were teary-eyed. To us, it was just another Friday. We joked and gossiped and one-by-one got off the train when it came to our stops; one-by-one we were met by our shocked and grieving parents. From them we learned the sobering news and wondered who would do such a thing – the communists? – and what were the implications. We all knew that no president in this country had been assassinated since President William McKinley in 1901, our grandparents’ and  great-grandparents’ time. It seemed unreal.

It also seemed unreal to return to school on Sunday night as though everything was normal. It wasn’t. The girls, the nuns, the school and convent, like the country, were in mourning. The majority of our parents and probably virtually all of the nuns, had voted for Kennedy, though not all thought he was a perfect man (who is?) or even a perfect President. I do remember one father speculating (the Bay of Pigs rankled) that Kennedy might have been good for the time and place in history and, after all, he was President of the country we cherished….and still do.  Respect the office if not the man.

Our own sadness wasn’t reserved just for the “President” and the country. It was for the man as well, for the handsome young man who’d fought in the war beside our fathers and uncles, the hero of P.T. 109, the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Profiles in Courage, and the dad whose life was cut short. We were sad for his now fatherless children. We felt for Jacqueline Kennedy too and admired her grace and courage. We wondered what it would mean to have the large, crude and boisterous Lyndon B. Johnson as President.

Those of us who rode the rails home that Friday were taken to task the next week by the nuns for our behavior on the train. Other passengers had registered complaints with the school about our “disrespect.” The nuns didn’t realize we hadn’t known about the murder. None of the other passengers bothered to tell us. I remember standing with our heads bowed while we were lectured. We took our punishment without defense or complaint. Something bigger than this moment of being misunderstood and falsely accused had happened. To this day, my mind can play back the news reports and see the newspaper articles, but I cannot remember what punishment was meted out for our perceived lapse in decorum.

I think after Kennedy’s assassination, we girls began to watch and analyze news and politics more closely than we had before. Among other things the evolution of Robert Kennedy, women’s rights and the growing support for the Civil Rights Movement, the horror of the Viet Nam War, and the murders of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy in 1968, dramatically marked the place and the era as one of growth and grief, triumph and tragedy.

© 2013, essay, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved, licensing for online publications is nonnegotiable and requires permission, attribution, link to this site, my copyright, no modification, noncommercial only and does not imply permission to include the work in the site’s printed collections or anthologies.
Photo credit ~ the Executive Office of the President of the United States and as such in the U.S. public domain

KHALIL GIBRAN, Mystic Poet-Philosopher

I’m going to jump from JFK to Khalil Gibran. Bear with me.This coming Friday, November 22, is the 50th anniversary U.S. President John F. Kennedy‘s (JFK) assassination. The memory of that day is still vivid in the minds of those many of us who lived through it. Understandably there’s been a considerable mention in the press over the past week or so and Kennedy’s most oft-repeated quote is “Ask not what you can do for your country but what your country can do for you.”

511U-rWH1GL._AA160_If you read a lot, you know JFK may have popularized the thought but he wasn’t the first to make the observation. The point was made as long ago as Cicero in the 1st Century and Juvenal in the 2nd Century. The American jurist, Oliver Wendell Holmes, said it. Even another American president, Warren Harding, said it. However the person who comes first to my mind is the Lebanese-American artist and poet-philospher, Gibran Khalil Gibran (1883-1931).  In 1925 Gibran published a book entitled The New Frontier.  In it he wrote:

“Are you a politician asking what your country can do for you or a zealous one asking what you can do for your country?  If you are the first, then you are a parasite; if the second, then you are an oasis in a desert.”

When Gibran came to the United States he settled in Kennedy’s home town, Boston. Perhaps JFK or his speech writers were familiar with Gibran’s work.

19316605Here is an excerpt From The Prophet, probably Khalil Gibran’s most well-know book.

And a man said, Speak to us of Self-Knowledge.
And he answered saying:
Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.
But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart’s knowledge.
You would know in words that which you have always known in thought.
You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.

And it is well you should.
The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea;
And the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.
But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure;
And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.
For self is a sea boundless and measureless.

Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”
Say not, “I have found the path of the soul.” Say rather, “I have met the soul walking upon my path.”
For the soul walks upon all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.

– Khalil Gibran

Photo credit for Washington, D. C. Memorial – Gyrofrog licensed under Creative Commons ShareAlike 1.0 License

 … and thus we begin another week …

BARDO NEWS: What Leibniz Never Learned; Paula’s “three minutes” of fame; Niamh’s new FB page; an opportunity for women poets … and more

Life happens – as you all know too well, I’m sure – and what little time I am able to spend online in this moment is largely dedicated to our collabrative blog, “Into the Bardo,” where lots of exciting things are happening. I’ll be back here within the next two weeks. Meanwhile, this reblog of “Bardo News” provides an overview of events, including some in which you might want to participate. Hope to see you there. Poem on … P.S.: It’s not for women only.

The BeZine

sllwomanreverseVia contributing poet and good friend to Bardo, Myra Schneider for Second Light Network of Women Poets: AN INVITATION TO WOMEN POETS TO SUBMIT TO A MAJOR NEW ANTHOLOGY FUNDED BY THE ARTS COUNCIL ENGLAND and open to contributions from any women anywhere in the world …

The Second Light Network of Women Poets have recently received Arts Council funding to bring out an anthology of poetry by women poets. It will be calledWings of Glass. The book will focus on ambitious writing and be published next autumn 2014 and launched at the Second Light Festival in central London in late November. The editors are Penelope ShuttleMyra Schneider and Dilys Wood. Submissions will be accepted between 15th November and 15th January. Please see full details for submitting :

51rk8frRwfL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Her Wings of Glass (the title a quotation from Sylvia Plath) is to be…

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