With the debut of "The Kennedy's" mini-series on the REELZ cable channel timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's inauguration, it's time to return to Camelot again. While this one does not reveal anything new, it's fun to visit, flaws and all. After all, no one's perfect. The Kennedy family did problems, some of their own making, some not. The period of the early 60's is always viewed with a sentimental eye, blotting out some of the more troublesome things--the struggles over integration and civil rights, the fights over Berlin and Cuba, the latter nearly escalating to nuclear war. Times were not as placid as we think looking back. And having just read "One Minute to Midnight," Michael Dobbs' gripping account of the Cuban Missile Crisis, I realized just how close we came to annihilation. If not for JFK's restraint and insistence on diplomatic solutions in defiance of his generals, none of us would be here today. Yet we do romanticize those times, largely because of the Kennedys' appeal. They represented youth and beauty, grace and style and yes, romance. Beautiful dresses, wonderful culture. They were special times, we believe, innocent times, an era before Vietnam, Watergate, and 9/11 terrorism. Even though, behind the scenes, things were not as perfect as we hoped, we wanted them to be. And still do.
Having lived through those years, but at a very young age, and studying about such mundane matters as the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Aswan dam, we seemed to be insulated from the crises in Berlin and Cuba, but not from the duck and cover drills we all took in stride. When one history teacher suggested a future war might occur in the Middle East, I thought it was nonsense, since everyone in that region was our ally. History can be unpredictable.
And frankly, I wasn't aware of the Kennedys' superstar appeal during their reign. That came later. Since then I've read and re-read every book about the Kennedys and the Kennedy assassinations, (both JFK's and Robert Kennedy's), seen every movie, documentary and mini-series multiple times. I've seen Jackie's dresses up close and personal at the Field Museum in Chicago, I've toured Dealey Plaza and the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas. I've come to believe in the magic of those times, even though I know down deep they were far from perfect. I just want to believe. I've always been a cockeyed optimist and a romantic. And what's wrong with that?
Next week: Memories of the JFK Assassination