Tuesday, October 28, 2014
I suppose for all of us -- boy, girl, straight, gay -- there's a moment in adolescence when we see an object, usually somebody we don't know, who crystallizes for us all the lust we have and makes it burning hot. It is a great moment, 'cause from then on we begin to understand what we're attracted to.
For me it happened on a Saturday afternoon in my parents' home, sometime around the age of 11 or 12. I was watching on TV, but not paying much attention to, a colorful 1950s musical called The Band Wagon. About 20 minutes into it, she entered. A Brunette Dream. Eyes like black diamonds, skin clear and golden, goddess-like. Hair jet-black and fine and smooth, glossy as a bird's wing. Long-stemmed, and wearing the sexiest shoes ever created, on the sexiest feet.
I began to pay attention. Toward the end of the movie, there was this -- and my boyhood was gone.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
"I know there is a God -- and I see a storm coming;
if He has a place for me, I believe that I am ready."
-- John F. Kennedy
"There was now the feeling that the noose was tightening on all of us, on Americans and Soviets and Cubans, on mankind, and that the bridges to escape were crumbling. But again the President pulled everyone back. . ." -- Robert KennedyWhen two letters arrived from Khrushchev -- the first agreeing to all United States demands, the second belligerent and escalatory -- Kennedy decided to proceed as if the second letter never arrived. (JFK would later agree, after the crisis was settled, to all the Soviets had asked for, in the second hard-line letter.) In the most dangerous moment in human history, when all force was on his side, he refused all force. As he whispered to his brother as the Joint Chiefs started clamoring for a first-strike against Moscow: "And we call ourselves the human race. . . I think of all the children in the world who have no idea what the United States or the Soviet Union even are. . . Well, better Red than dead."
Better Red than dead. Was this heard by anyone else? James Douglass:
For at least a decade, JFK’s favorite poem had been "Rendezvous" by Alan Seeger, an American poet killed in World War One. Kennedy recited "Rendezvous" to his wife Jacqueline in 1953 on their first night home in Hyannis after their honeymoon. She memorized the poem, and recited it back to him over the years. In the fall of 1963, Jackie taught the words of the poem to their five-year-old daughter, Caroline.
On the morning of October 5, 1963, President Kennedy met with his National Security Council in the Rose Garden of the White House. Caroline suddenly appeared by her father’s side, and she said she wanted to tell him something. He tried to divert her attention while the meeting continued, but Caroline persisted. The president smiled and turned his full attention to his daughter. He told her to go ahead. While the members of the National Security Council sat and watched, Caroline looked into her father’s eyes and said:
I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air-
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.
It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath-
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.
God knows 'twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear...
But I've a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.
After Caroline said the poem’s final word, “rendezvous,” Kennedy’s national security advisers sat in stunned silence. One of them said later the bond between father and daughter was so deep “it was as if there was ‘an inner music’ he was trying to teach her.”
Henry Miller often wrote that each of us are placed here on earth in order to learn one lesson. We then move on. It is hard to appreciate John Fitzgerald Kennedy's life apart from its ending -- a manner of ending surely influenced by his actions during the Missile Crisis. Yet perhaps the miraculous singular purpose of his life was to save us all. For he did.
The Monday night, October 22nd, 1962 television address:
Many actors have played Jack Kennedy in movies and TV, on stage. None have captured the self-effacing, realistic, inner grace of the man. The decency. The isolation. The melancholy and fatalism. Here Bruce Greenwood does. Thirteen Days (2000) itself is merely in the deep end of the theatrically-released Movie of the Week genre and is nearly drowned by Kevin Costner's endless, insufferable presence. (He plays White House Chief of Staff Kenny O'Donnell who had little to do with the Crisis drama.) Greenwood makes it special. A remarkably intelligent actor who gives us the hardest of all things to capture on film: thought. And he embodies Kennedy as not only the center (despite Costner's suffocations); but also as target.
No one has appreciated John F. Kennedy more beautifully and profoundly than Catholic theologian James W. Douglass, in his masterpiece JFK and the Unspeakable and in continuing lectures. Here is Douglass at his most moving, Seattle, Washington, September 2008.
And a wonderful new documentary presented by the JFK Library showing what would have been, without President Kennedy: "Clouds Over Cuba"
Friday, October 17, 2014
Sunday, October 12, 2014
Los Angeles, California, United States of America. On the nights of August 9th and 10th, 1969, Charles Manson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Tex Watson, and Leslie Van Houten brutally murder seven upscale Caucasians in the Benedict Canyon and Los Feliz sections of the city. Three months later, the five killers -- known as the Family -- are arrested and put on trial for their lives. The following year all are convicted and sentenced to death. The death sentences are commuted to life in prison without parole, due to the California Supreme Court's People v. Anderson decision invalidating all death sentences imposed in the state prior to 1972. Forty-five years later, Manson remains incarcerated at Corcoran State Prison; Tex Watson at Mule Creek State Prison; Patricia Krewinkel and Leslie Van Houten at the California Institute for Women at Frontera. At Frontera in 2009, Susan Atkins passed away of brain cancer.
My Lai and My Khe, Quang Ngai Province, Republic of Vietnam. On the day and night of March 16, 1968, in the peasant villages of My Lai and My Khe, over 500 men (mostly elderly), women, and children are killed and multilated; most of the women raped before death. The twenty-six murderers are part of an organization known as the United States Army -- more specifically Company C of the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment. Only one of the killers serves any time, a Lieutenant by the name of William Calley, whose punishment is to be held under house arrest at Fort Benning, Georgia, pending appeal. Three years into this little vacation, Calley is pardoned by President Richard Milhous Nixon.
Posted by EJK at 11:00 PM