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OPINION: JFK: An uncluttered commemoration

A Polaroid taken of that fateful moment 50 years ago. Wikipedia photo

Cable Cartoon Syndicate

In 1971 when Granny Tyree passed away, her belongings included a scrapbook of World War II editorial cartoons, a freezer container labeled (yum!) "strawberries" (but containing turnips!) and a little book in which she had jotted down her own poems and grandchildren's witticisms.

One of the poems dealt with the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy "in Dallas town.” Remembering that book, I relished the prospects of including Granny's poetry in this column marking the 50th anniversary of the event.

Except that I can't find the cursed thing! It's lost somewhere in the last four decades' accumulation of documents, keepsakes and treasures.

But with the "make do" resourcefulness of Granny, I'm switching gears and writing about how to get the clutter out of your own commemoration of the life and death of JFK.

Remember an idealistic era when Americans would choose to send a man to the moon "not because it's easy but because it's hard"? Now we clutter our lives with shortcuts, stopgap measures, stalling tactics and comfort zones.

Commemorate Nov. 22 by committing to something bold, decisive and a little unnerving. Whether you salvage a relationship, take a survivalist excursion, stand up at an AA meeting or write the first line of that Great American Novel, try working without a net.

JFK's "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech has become an iconic reminder of Cold War solidarity. But too often our view of the Big Picture is cluttered by that pot hole on our own street.

Nov. 22 is a good day to increase your daily consumption of international news, get a foreign pen pal, donate to missionary work or otherwise face the reality of being a world citizen.

Historian David Halberstam immortalized JFK's advisers as "the best and the brightest." Unfortunately, quite often we put our brains in neutral and clutter our day with things that are far from enriching.

No need to become an elitist snob, but Nov. 22 would be a good time to reevaluate your reading/listening/viewing options, seek out a mentor, become a mentor, return to college or otherwise stretch yourself intellectually.

Our lives are cluttered with transitory distractions that make life lessons or details of family lore go in one ear and out the other. You can make a small step to change that.

Even if you don't start a full journal of your life, at least write down for your loved ones what you remember about Nov. 22, 1963 -- or what older friends and relatives passed on to you.

(My mother was spending part of her fifth wedding anniversary getting dental fillings, when Dr. Hopper's mother called the office, distraught over the news bulletins. Me? I just remember that some sort of big funeral messed up my Saturday morning cartoons that weekend.)

After the hoopla over the JFK anniversary subsides, our lives will again be cluttered with data about the Next Big Anniversary or the Next Hot Topic or the Next Outrageous Celebrity; but the successes and failures of the era need to remain fresh in our minds.

The JFK presidency, of course, was popularized as the "Camelot" era. In the spirit of that Broadway musical's title song reprise, I hope your activities on Nov. 22 will carry the theme "Don't let it be forgot."

November 20, 2013 - 8:00am


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