Yesterday was November 22. According to the vast majority of the news and entertainment media, it was no different from any other day, apparently. In all likelihood, the same was true of most Americans. “Oh, yeah…November 22! Better buy that turkey!”
November 22 is not like any other day in America, however. It is the date in 1963 that John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 46 years old and the 35th President of the United States of America, was assassinated on the streets of Dallas.
Apart from national holidays, there are not an overwhelming number of calendar boxes that citizens of the United States should pause and think about every year. July 4. September 11. December 7, when America was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor. June 6, D-Day. We can argue about others, but there should be no argument about November 22. It was a sudden, unexpected tragedy that scarred a generation, and it changed the course of national and world history in many ways.
Year after year, Americans know less and less about their own country. This makes us incompetent in our civic duties, infantile in our understanding of America’s role in the world, stupid and apathetic on election day, and patsies for our supposed elected officials, who can tell us lies about our country’s mission and heritage as we stand nodding like cows. Most of all, it makes us disrespectful of the brave and brilliant men and women who built, sustained and defined the United States. College graduates go on “The Jay Leno Show” and shamelessly identify the faces on Mount Rushmore as the Marx Brothers or the Beatles, and giggle about it as Jay rolls his eyes. This is becoming the standard level of American appreciation of the nation’s past.
We have a duty to remember America’s accomplishments, triumphs, moments of crisis, leaders and fallen heroes. It is not overly burdensome to expect our newspapers to include a brief editorial, feature or column commemorating defining moments in our history, as part of their own duty to keep the nation inspired and aware. We should expect the same of the major news networks, cable channels, websites and blogs. Yesterday, they failed miserably. A Google news search listed fewer than 90 mentions of JFK’s death yesterday. There were ten times as many stories about Miley’s Cyrus’s tour bus accident, an event that will not even be an important footnote in the history of November 2009, much less our national story. Lindsay Lohan, a sad, unemployed pop celebrity in career free fall, who has added nothing positive to the culture in her twenty-four years and who did nothing noteworthy at all this week, still received more mention in the news media than the tragedy in Dallas, and the death of the inspiring leader who called upon the nation to aim for the stars, both literally and figuratively.
And the result of our warped priorities? On one website, a student queried his peers about the most important moments in U.S. history. A typical response came from “Aurelio 226,” who answered, “Umm well 9/11 and maybe when Obama was victorious mehh” For those of you who don’t talk to a lot of teenagers, Meh, which he even misspelled, is essentially a verbal shrug. A shrug accurately describes our culture’s attitude toward the ideas, inspirations, concepts, visions, people and events that shaped us. This is disrespectful to our past. This is dangerous to our future.
We have a duty to remember.
JFK deserves better than “Meh.”