I just finished “Killing Kennedy” by Bill O’Reilly and found it a very good book. One of my presents yesterday from Jennie and Gracie was a Time Magazine solely focused on the time from Kennedy’s run for President, through his days in office, and ending at his assassination. The O’Reilly account was a good look at one side of the enigma of JFK, while the Time narrative was an excellent look at the more public side of Kennedy.
Kennedy was, and is, many things to all of us! O’Reilly seems to be focused on his philandering. In fact, O’Reilly notes that LBJ was as big a philanderer as Kennedy, just most discreet. I know that LBJ was a womanizer because a golfing partner of mine was part of his Secret Service detail and he told me LBJ liked the ladies.
Time Magazine, during the first chapter, focused on what it felt was important for us to know; that Kennedy was meticulous about his image. Joe Kennedy, JFK’s father, was a Capitalist and a pragmatist. He told his children that the most important thing was not if they were a good person, but if people thought they were a good person. For the Kennedy clan image was everything, which was what Joe told them was important.
To most of us though, we saw a forty year old man who was the hope of a nation. We saw in Kennedy what could be. Our nation was embroiled in a Cold War with the Soviet Union. I was very young when Kennedy was elected, but I do remember our exercises of climbing under our desks in case of Nuclear Attacks. As if getting under our desks would make any difference if a Hydrogen bomb dropped. Many families built bomb shelters in their basements.
Economically things were tight. My Dad had a good job, and my mom was a stay at home mother. We did not have a lot, but I do remember we had what we needed. I had a paper route, which provided me with spending money. And I even bought some of my own clothes.
Our country was embattled on all fronts with civil rights. Women were seen as second-class citizens, and we were all confronted on the news with racial inequality. Gloria Steinem published her work “A Bunny’s Tale.” It exposed the exploitation by the Playboy club of its bunny’s. Promising the young girls $200-$300 per week, but nickel and diming them each week to keep their pay at a minimum. Basically, according to Gloria Steinem defining the sexual revolution in male terms only. Her work fell in line with Betty Friedan and other women’s leaders of the time fighting for equality.
While Martin Luther King Jr. was mesmerizing the nation by “Having A Dream,” we were confronted with the hateful actions of George Wallace keeping blacks from enrolling in college, and others killing leaders in the civil rights movement. And who can forget the picture of the young man and the German Shepherd dog barking at him.
The 60’s were turbulent times, but JFK gave us hope. He was a man who was loved by many and hated by so many more. So much so that a young man bought a $21 rifle and shot at him from a book depository window in Dallas, Texas. Killing the hopes of many people.
Here we are today. The political situation is atrocious; our politicians are almost incapable of making collaborative decisions. Our economy seems to be recovering, but it is tenuous at best. Large multinational corporations are pushing their weight around to get the best deals from local governments because they know they have the jobs. The middle class, that usually caries the burden of paying most of the taxes, is under attack and shrinking. Unbridled corporatism is becoming more of an issue today as big box stores destroy the small businesses that used to be supported by consumers. Airlines are merging to gain economies of scale, creating large barriers to entry into the market. Now we buy our goods and services from a few large entities.
These large corporate entities have become rent-seekers. Rent-seeking involves the process of trying to increase one’s share of value without creating value. By lobbying, or other political manipulations, large corporations are creating oligopolies where the few large entities eliminate the ability of small practitioners to compete. This does not mean that these large entities cannot compete, they can, but the ability of these large entities to control input costs through political means and supplier pressures, eliminate the small to medium enterprise from holding its own against the large corporation.
Through the process of rent-seeking these few large corporations create partnerships with political leaders through gift giving, etc. This process then leads to cronyism. The political pie is distributed to the few oligarchs they play golf with.
The large-scaled corporatism, enhanced via rent-seeking, and fueled by the power brokers in a cronyistic fashion has led to a consumptive environment of excess. 70% of our Gross Domestic Product is based in consumption. We spend, and to spend we need to work, and because we like to spend a lot we have to work a lot, and the spiral is in place. All fed by the marketing we are confronted with all around us.
The question is in this time of craziness who is the light in this darkness? Who stands out as a leader in this time of consumptive excess? Who is the leader who can lead us back to sanity, and encouraging us to care for our fellow human being? That person is whose birth we celebrate today. Jesus began with humble beginnings. There was no room for him in the Holiday Inn. He tells us there is a more simple way to live than needing a Mercedes Benz. We can get off this Nautilus Treadmill of consumptive craziness fueled by Starbucks Coffee and other large corporate entities telling us that we won’t be happy without the latest Microsoft Xbox. I want you to know I am using my MacBook Pro to write this, while researching with my IPad.
Today is Christmas. It is the day we celebrate the birth of a savior. JFK was an imperfect man, but he stood out as a light to a crazy time. He was killed, and he is still in his grave. But there was another light who stood out during the 60’s, and He is still shining out to us. The man Jesus Christ was killed, but He rose from the dead. He is the light we need to turn to today in this time of greed. May we all see how the simplicity of the little child Jesus is the path we need to seek. Merry Christmas!
And that is my thought for the day!