The Presidency of John F. Kennedy was far from radiant. He had his shortcomings and hesitations. He wasn’t always the bravest or the wisest. But he was sane and sensible and rhetorically progressive, and if he was around today he would almost certainly regard Donald Trump as a “bullshitter”, as President Obama privately muttered last year, if not worse.
I’m not a JFK sentimentalist, but I am a 21st Century surrealist. Ever since Trump’s election (almost eight months ago) and particularly since he took office I’ve occasionally been shook by this rocked-back feeling, a face-slap realization anchored in ghastly darkness. It’s like agents managed to pour massive amounts of brown acid concentrate into the nation’s water supply, and now even the best of us are enveloped a kind of brown-acid mentality or psychosis.
We are stuck in a kind of quicksand — in the midst of the most grotesquely vile Presidency in the history of this nation, a seeming throwback to the psychotic Roman reign of Caligula.
Which is why this 100th anniversary of JFK tribute reel (posted on 5.24.17) seems so moving and yet strange. There’s no sense from listening to Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and her kids — Rose, Tatiana and Jack — that the spirit of the JFK era is dead and gone, that the kind of country this used to be isn’t even a memory any more. They seem to actually believe that those old JFK vibes can make some kind of return. Nor is there even an allusion to the fact that the same office occupied by JFK 55 years ago is now occupied not by a Republican or a man who thinks differently than JFK did or would today, but by a stone sociopath — a lying, salivating, pot-bellied beast.
In the early ’70s Tom Wolfe wrote about the cultural “grim slide” that seemed to be happening. He was more right than perhaps even he realized. We have slid right down since. These are the bad times.