Monday, November 21, 2011

The Day Innocence Died

November 22, 1963 was the day the last vestige of American innocence died. The United States was never the great beacon of liberty it saw in itself (see Slavery, the Philippines concentration camps), but at least we had our illusions. The entirety of the 20th century seemed dedicated to burning away America's goodness.

The Red Scare
There is no time to waste on hairsplitting over infringement of liberty. ~ Washington Post, 1920
The end of World War I saw the American government searching for a new enemy to fight. The chosen target was labor. Foreign Communist anarchist terrorists, the nation was told, were planning on bombing all we hold dear. Workers striking for fair wages were really waging war on the United States. Thousands of Americans were rounded up and imprisoned for attending labor union meetings with no regards for legal niceties like warrants or due process or just cause. Government whim was sufficient. The Red Scare had one lasting effect, it was when a 24 year-old Justice Department lawyer earned his chops; his name was...

J. Edgar Hoover
 I regret to say that we of the FBI are powerless to act in cases of oral-genital intimacy, unless it has in some way obstructed interstate commerce.

Hoover loved to play at being a cop. He never was one. Hoover was a lifelong bureaucrat who built a reputation by claiming other people's successes. But mostly, Hoover loved spying on Americans. He spied on Americans who might be Communist, he peeked in the bedroom windows of the famous and influential looking for dirty, sometimes for blackmail but often just because he was a voyeur.

Hoover didn't blackmail for money but to get more power. He sought power because he was convinced America was filled with enemies. Blacks, gays (even though J. Edgar was a closet fag), entertainers, teachers, and liberals were all possible communist spies who had to be rooted out and destroyed.

Before computers, Hoover invented the concept of compiling dossiers on regular American citizens. A system that continues to be expanded and enhanced to this day.

CIA shoelace code.
If the FBI was a sledgehammer, the CIA was a scalpel. While the FBI searched the US for enemies, the CIA used innocent Americans as lab rats. Even as late as, well now, the CIA has used science to refine and enhance their ability to torture people. There is no law, foreign or domestic, the CIA doesn't regularly break. Including becoming major players in the international drug trade.

Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency? ~ Joseph Welch to Sen. McCarthy in televised hearing, 1954
Senator Joe McCarthy was a drunken lout and a failure as a Senator until he found a way to worm into America's hearts by teaching us to fear each other. The government was filled with traitors; there are Communists under every bed. That little old lady doing her laundry, is she a secret Communist? McCarthyism taught Americans there is nowhere safe from the international Communist conspiracy. It also taught us that anyone can have their lives ruined by a neighbor denouncing him as a spy.

Death of Innocence
All of the preceding century of fear and loathing was brought to a head when the dreams of Camelot were felled by the assassination of John Kennedy. JFK, in many ways, was the last hope of the United States. A dynamic young father with darling children and a glamorous wife, brought a fresh spring to a nation that had grown sour and cynical. That died, abruptly and brutally, on that sunny fall day in Texas.

Whether you believe in the miracle of the Lone Gunman or the more likely scenario of a CIA coup d'etat you have to agree that something more than one man died that day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Whatever we might think of some of JFK's mistake like embroiling us in Vietnam, or listening to those clowns in the Pentagon on Bay of Pigs, the story of PT109 is worth following, including when he and his men swam to an island three miles away, with Kennedy towing one of his injured crew with the strap of his sailor's life vest in his teeth.