Friday, November 22, 2013
Where was I?
I'm going off the track today as far as the movie business. 50 years ago today in 1963, President John Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas. As with most of the world, I remember where I was.
For me, I was in high school, Grade 9 I think, and we were just finishing a boy's gym class when someone came in and told our gym teacher, Mr. Riberdy something. He then proceeded to tell us that the President was dead.
I have to point out that I lived in Canada, but across the River lay Detroit, you know, the Motor City. And being so close to America, we felt it just as strong. But later I would discover that the whole world felt it, all the way from a Texas city called Dallas.
I entered the 1960's with hope and excitement, having moved in 1959 to Windsor, Ontario, which sat ironically south of Detroit. It was piece of Canada that was actually south of the United States.
My gym teacher also said that JFK was shot because he was Catholic. Remember this was 1963 and JFK was the first Catholic president ever and there was a lot of flack from the Christians who were afraid of having a president who would have to listen to the Pope. Naturally this was ridiculous but in those days... it wasn't. And since I was Catholic and attended Catholic schools, it was particularly close.
I remember being in a fog for the next few days and when he was buried, my local grocery store put black paper over it's windows. Canada was just as affected, being that it was and still is, the closest country to the U.S.A, both in location and in our hearts.
It took a long time to figure out what happened that day, it was a shooting, but it was so much more. JFK promised a bright future for America and the world, he started the Peace Corp and didn't go to war with Russia.
What happened was a loss of innocence. The 1950's were, at least to me as a kid, the best time. We were the baby boomers, born between 1946 to 1964. Our generation had it easier than any other proceeding us. We grew up on TV and movies and went to school (unlike a lot of our parents), we had homes, schools, families and everything else and nothing seemed to worry us.
But after JFK the world changed. Vietnam came and 50,000 Americans died. Four students at Kent State University in Ohio were shot dead by National Guardsmen and others wounded while protesting the war. There were marches on Washington to stop the war, with the largest being around 2 million people from all walks of life. 2,000,000 people.
Then I got involved in politics when I joined Students For a Democratic Society, or SDS as it was often called and was quite involved with stopping the war. In 1968 I went to Indianapolis to work for Bobby Kennedy in his quest to become President. I ended up in a bad area near downtown where I went from house to house getting African Americans to register to vote.
I was amazed at the reception I got, me with a sportcoat and tie and very Canadian... they treated me incredibly well and they truly had a love for RFK. And I saw the American political machine at work, which impressed me big time. And yes, I shook his hand, even with Colonel Sander's chicken on it. Bobby was shot in L.A. a month or so after I worked with so many others only to see another death.
Then Martin Luther King was shot and killed and in some odd coincidence, a rock concert at Altamont near San Francisco with the Rolling Stones ended when a concert-goer was killed by Hell's Angels. I say coincidence because Altamont finished the 60's with a bang.
After that I joined the Trudeau campaign in Canada, for Pierre Trudeau, a colorful and masterful politican who had the youth vote and was, to my mind, the best leader of our country that we ever had.
So the 1960's started with a boom but ended with a darkness that still haunts this country. The 70's brought us disco, which seemed more like an apology to Americans but turned out to be a fad.
So today, I'll take a moment to remember that day in my high school gym and try to balance all the hours that will contain tons of words about that day and about what it meant.
For me, it was my first acknowledgement of adult life and what it could take from me and how it still weighs in my heart and what could have been.