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On memorial day, when I went to Arlington National Cemetery to visit my father's grave with my mother [...] I thought about a story that made my old man tear up every time he told it. The man didn't shed a tear when he was going through pain wrenching cancer treatments, or while lying on his death bed wondering which breath would be his very last - but every time he told me the story of how his Navy shipmates cheered when John F Kennedy was assassinated because they felt that he was sympathetic to the plight of black folks, I could tell that that experience ravaged his body far worse than cancer ever could have.
I did not know that.
I did not know that there were people who cheered the assassination of JFK out of racial hatred. Active duty military, in theater, cheering the murder of their commander in chief.
I did not know that such hatred existed. I mean, I knew it from an academic perspective, but I’ve never heard a story like that before about this period in our country’s history. All we ever heard about Vietnam is how a bunch of Dirty Fucking Hippies spat on soldiers when they got home.
We never heard this.
I like to think this country has moved past this but I know, too well, that we have not. We still live in a country where in some places, the high school prom is segregated, though the youth are not. A country that adheres to “the way things have always been,” without ever aspiring to the way things might be. It is capitulating to the worst of human nature, when we all know we can be better.
How can you not want to be better?
I’ve been thinking today that there are people who will never be happy with President Obama, no matter what he does or does not do. The folks who want him to fail, who will criticize every twitch of the eyebrow and second-guess every policy decision, who will critique his SCOTUS pick before it’s even been decided, let alone announced--these are the folks more worried about keeping things the way they are than looking forward to how we can be.
How we should be.
These are the people who have a very tiny focus, whose world must fit on the head of a pin because they cannot fathom something larger.
I just don’t get that.