November 22, 1963

 

From the National Catholic Register:

On Nov. 22, 1963, three award-winning writers died: one in Dallas, one in Los Angeles and the other at his home just outside Oxford, England

John F. Kennedy, Aldous Huxley and C.S. Lewis all died within hours of each other.

All had been award-winning writers. However, when they died, they had become more than that, and, subsequent to Nov. 22, 1963, their lives gained even greater significance.

I’ll never forget the Kennedy connection. My family had been in the United States only a little over three weeks (arriving, documents in hand, at Boston’s Logan Airport on October 29, 1963.  I know that’s true, because my Green Card says so).  Dad was a Fellow at Harvard (when those who were such were reliably named as such), and I was a fourth-grade student at Edward Devotion Elementary School (since renamed because–you know–slaves!) in Brookline.  The same elementary school that JFK himself had attended several decades previous.  We were living in a rather insalubrious apartment building.  The grief, upon news of the President’s death, was palpable.  Overwhelming, in fact. One of those lifetime, “I’ll always remember where I was when I heard…” moments.

It took me many years (perhaps too many years) to appreciate the other anniversaries of that sad day. Of course, I knew C.S. Lewis from the “Narnia” books.  And (although I was 9 1/2 years old at the time), I’d heard of Aldous Huxley, too. But with life, and time, came perspective. And today, I wonder which of them really–when it comes right down to it–was, in the context of history–the most important.

What say you?

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  1. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Had Kennedy lived, he would not have been as beloved.

     

    • #1
  2. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    I had no idea that Huxley and Lewis also died on Nov 22nd of ’63.

    I remember the Cuban /missile crisis very clearly, so I’d have to say JFK.

    In the middle of that crisis, when my southside Chicago’s neighborhood churches were all  overflowing  with  people praying in the middle of the day, I went off to get my mom some Folger’s coffee, a loaf of bread and milk.

    There standing on the corner of 90th and Loomis, 30 yards from the Hi Lo grocery, a trio of elderly men stood talking. They looked gobsmacked.

    One of them raised his arms up and made a swooping motion. “If a single thing goes wrong, none of this will be here.”

    To me, it seemed like the entire Universe shuttered in response.

    Prior to that crisis, we kids would play at war games. We would race thru our alley, and lob imaginary grenades at the other side. Some of us were chosen to have the few toy rifles we had, and assume sniper positions in trees, shooting our friends who were the enemy.

    After those dark days, we never played war games again.

     

     

     

    • #2
  3. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Had Kennedy lived, he would not have been as beloved.

    Yeah.  There’s something to  be said (rather perversely) for dying young, or–at least–at the height of one’s popularity.

    • #3
  4. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill (View Comment):
    After those dark days, we never played war games again.

    You kids might not have played them, but others did, not always to the country’s advantage.

    • #4
  5. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    C. S. Lewis has had a tremendous impact on my life as a Christian. Mere Christianity has been my standby book, other than the Bible, of course, for introducing unbelievers to Christ.

    • #5
  6. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    She: The grief, upon news of the President’s death, was palpable.  Overwhelming, in fact. One of those lifetime, “I’ll always remember where I was when I heard…” moments.

    Directly across the hall in the aforementioned rather insalubrious apartment (we were on the third floor) were three bachelors sharing a space together: Larry, Dick, and “Myndie.” I don’t expect I’ll ever remember anything else about them other than their names, or that when news came that JFK had died, they adopted my mother like–well–their own.

    I’ve not heard from any of them for decades.  But, at least annually, I remember.  Hope they’re OK.

    • #6
  7. WiesbadenJake Coolidge
    WiesbadenJake
    @WiesbadenJake

    I was in 2nd Grade in California; they sent us home from school early since the nearby AF base went on alert. I am not sure I had a concept of the reality of the loss of a president–I was mostly mad the next day because my Saturday morning cartoons were canceled. I think the myth that sprang up because of the premature death of the president trumped the death of Huxley and Lewis. Kennedy certainly had more of an effect on our popular culture as a whole; Lewis had the more profound positive effect on individuals worldwide.   

    • #7
  8. Chris O Coolidge
    Chris O
    @ChrisO

    Tough one, but I’ll go with Huxley. He stood against the tide of elite popular opinion, represented particularly by his father and the advocates of eugenics, selective breeding, etc.

    Aldous Huxley saw the dangerous possibilities of weaponized science and cloaking atrocity in the guise of progress. Orwell would see a similar danger in the misuse of language and media, but that was nearly 20 years later.

    We cannot return to the context of the times, but Huxley sounded a warning. This is a man who grew up at the feet of some of the leading minds of the age, and yet, the way their words stirred him must have been to discomfort rather than inspiration.

    He wasn’t the first, but I think we can fairly say he led a select wave of authors to examine the dark possibilities of the modern age. Always a lone misfit, Winston, Dagny, Harrison, Montag, and others show us their worlds and resist the irresistible destruction of the last vestiges of culture as we know it. We desperately root for them.

    Finally, the title of Huxley’s magnum opus continues to serve as a warning. People who have never read Brave New World nonetheless are aware of its meaning. After nearly 100 years, the warning is still apt, the danger still there, and Aldous Huxley’s writing maintains its relevance.

    • #8
  9. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    I’m not a professional Kennedy-hater but I’m not sure how much stock I’d put in Kennedy’s status as an “award-winning writer.”  Most sources make Ted Sorensen out to be the true author of Profiles in Courage.  As to whether or not Kennedy was an “intellectual”, I suppose that’s in the eye of the beholder.

    Like Bryan, I’m a bit skeptical as how Kennedy would have been viewed; had he lived.  Like many others who made that trip to Vietnam, I found myself asking, “Would I still have been up to my a** in mud if JFK were the President instead of LBJ?” From everything I’ve read, I believe the answer would be “yes”.

    No doubt about it, JFK was charismatic as h*ll; beautiful wife and had a fairly intelligent cabinet.  (Oh, did I mention he also had an adoring press?)

    All things considered, I’m not sure I’d put JFK in the same company as the other two gentlemen but, of course, that’s a matter of opinion.

     

    • #9
  10. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Chris O (View Comment):

    Tough one, but I’ll go with Huxley. He stood against the tide of elite popular opinion, represented particularly by his father and the advocates of eugenics, selective breeding, etc.

    Aldous Huxley saw the dangerous possibilities of weaponized science and cloaking atrocity in the guise of progress. Orwell would see a similar danger in the misuse of language and media, but that was nearly 20 years later.

    We cannot return to the context of the times, but Huxley sounded a warning. This is a man who grew up at the feet of some of the leading minds of the age, and yet, the way their words stirred him must have been to discomfort rather than inspiration.

    He wasn’t the first, but I think we can fairly say he led a select wave of authors to examine the dark possibilities of the modern age. Always a lone misfit, Winston, Dagny, Harrison, Montag, and others show us their worlds and resist the irresistible destruction of the last vestiges of culture as we know it. We desperately root for them.

    Finally, the title of Huxley’s magnum opus continues to serve as a warning. People who have never read Brave New World nonetheless are aware of its meaning. After nearly 100 years, the warning is still apt, the danger still there, and Aldous Huxley’s writing maintains its relevance.

    I agree it’s Huxley. JFK’s presidency was  in trouble.  That’s the entire reason he was in Dallas. A good will PR tour.  I think his legacy profited from his early demise even if he didn’t.

    • #10
  11. David Pettus Coolidge
    David Pettus
    @DavidPettus

    All three had tremendous influence on our culture and it’s impossible for me to say which had more over the course of the last century.  I can only answer that on a personal level. 

    That would be Lewis.  I wouldn’t be who I am today without Lewis.

    • #11
  12. MiMac Thatcher
    MiMac
    @MiMac

    Two award winning writers, the other paid a fellow to write his award winning book….

    • #12
  13. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Had Kennedy lived, he would not have been as beloved.

    The same is true for Lincoln. He would still have been beloved, but not as beloved.

    I’m not sure whether that holds for McKinley or Garfield.

     

    • #13
  14. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    I’m not a professional Kennedy-hater but I’m not sure how much stock I’d put in Kennedy’s status as an “award-winning writer.” Most sources make Ted Sorensen out to be the true author of Profiles in Courage. As to whether or not Kennedy was an “intellectual”, I suppose that’s in the eye of the beholder.

    Like Bryan, I’m a bit skeptical as how Kennedy would have been viewed; had he lived. Like many others who made that trip to Vietnam, I found myself asking, “Would I still have been up to my a** in mud if JFK were the President instead of LBJ?” From everything I’ve read, I believe the answer would be “yes”.

    No doubt about it, JFK was charismatic as h*ll; beautiful wife and had a fairly intelligent cabinet. (Oh, did I mention he also had an adoring press?)

    All things considered, I’m not sure I’d put JFK in the same company as the other two gentlemen but, of course, that’s a matter of opinion.

     

    I was a sophomore in high school. When the superintendent came into our classroom to announce that the president had been shot, I waited a second for the news to sink in and then turned to the kid next to me and said, “If he lives, he’ll win re-election for sure.”   Yes, I was that callous.   But his re-election was not a sure thing at that point.  

    • #14
  15. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    I’m not a professional Kennedy-hater but I’m not sure how much stock I’d put in Kennedy’s status as an “award-winning writer.” Most sources make Ted Sorensen out to be the true author of Profiles in Courage. As to whether or not Kennedy was an “intellectual”, I suppose that’s in the eye of the beholder.

    Like Bryan, I’m a bit skeptical as how Kennedy would have been viewed; had he lived. Like many others who made that trip to Vietnam, I found myself asking, “Would I still have been up to my a** in mud if JFK were the President instead of LBJ?” From everything I’ve read, I believe the answer would be “yes”.

    No doubt about it, JFK was charismatic as h*ll; beautiful wife and had a fairly intelligent cabinet. (Oh, did I mention he also had an adoring press?)

    All things considered, I’m not sure I’d put JFK in the same company as the other two gentlemen but, of course, that’s a matter of opinion.

     

    I was a sophomore in high school. When the superintendent came into our classroom to announce that the president had been shot, I waited a second for the news to sink in and then turned to the kid next to me and said, “If he lives, he’ll win re-election for sure.” Yes, I was that callous. But his re-election was not a sure thing at that point.

    True.  A lot of things going on in the South.  Another thing I didn’t mention is that JFK’s death greased the skids for the Great Society.

    • #15
  16. Headedwest Coolidge
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    If you really want to cure yourself of any residual affection for John Kennedy (and indeed the whole family) I suggest reading Kennedy Babylon by the longtime Boston news and opinion writer Howie Carr. There are two volumes, but the first one is all you need to read.

    • #16
  17. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    She: I wonder which of them really–when it comes right down to it–was, in the context of history–the most important.

    C. S. Lewis!  Hands down.  Politicians come and go.  Huxley was an ok novelist, but hardly a giant.  Lewis’ work will be remembered for centuries.

    • #17
  18. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    Chris O (View Comment):
    Finally, the title of Huxley’s magnum opus continues to serve as a warning. People who have never read Brave New World nonetheless are aware of its meaning. After nearly 100 years, the warning is still apt, the danger still there, and Aldous Huxley’s writing maintains its relevance.

    And of course his title reaches back to Shakespeare, for extra added oomph.  

    We seem to have the worst of both worlds: Huxleyian techno-topia,  and Orwellian surveillance, thought-policing, and malleable history. How many of you grew up thinking Oswald was a right-winger?

    I think there was a quiet consensus among the liberal establishment media that it was simply too dangerous to describe Oswald as a Marxist dupe, and inevitably helpful to let people think he represented the rabid, stewing, boiling hate of the right. Don’t get me wrong – right after the assassination, papers called him a Marxist. AP used the term, quoting his interviews and declarations. 

    Somehow, though, it didn’t stick. Did it.

    • #18
  19. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    In the end, though, I think the death of JFK trumps the others. They were men of letters and philosophy, who passed. Five years before, five years later, it wouldn’t have mattered.  JFK was whacked at a particular time when the country was navigating the second decade of the post-war era, going toe-to-toe with the Rooskies all over the globe, and steaming into a generational transition while still carrying a cargo-hold loaded with cultural confidence. JFK may have been glib and outmatched at times, but he projected an image of confidence and optimism. Downright Reaganesque, in its own way.

    Compare what followed: jug-eared Texan scrotum-twister, dour wonk who walked the beach in shiny shoes, football hero, Dukes-of-Hazzard regional branch manager. JFK had style and swank and cool. It was an archetype that could mediate between the old guard and the new. It would be soon swamped by the hairy minions in any case, but losing it all at once was like a signal. Cry havoc, man, and, like, let loose the dogs.

    • #19
  20. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Chris O (View Comment):
    Finally, the title of Huxley’s magnum opus continues to serve as a warning. People who have never read Brave New World nonetheless are aware of its meaning. After nearly 100 years, the warning is still apt, the danger still there, and Aldous Huxley’s writing maintains its relevance.

    And of course his title reaches back to Shakespeare, for extra added oomph.

    We seem to have the worst of both worlds: Huxleyian techno-topia, and Orwellian surveillance, thought-policing, and malleable history. How many of you grew up thinking Oswald was a right-winger?

    I think there was a quiet consensus among the liberal establishment media that it was simply too dangerous to describe Oswald as a Marxist dupe, and inevitably helpful to let people think he represented the rabid, stewing, boiling hate of the right. Don’t get me wrong – right after the assassination, papers called him a Marxist. AP used the term, quoting his interviews and declarations.

    Somehow, though, it didn’t stick. Did it.

    What I remember is that for a decade after the assassination, the news media blamed JFK’s death on the “spirit of Dallas,” i.e. on the right. 

    • #20
  21. Headedwest Coolidge
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    We seem to have the worst of both worlds: Huxleyian techno-topia,  and Orwellian surveillance, thought-policing, and malleable history

    I’ve read this before, and I find it persuasive. Both books describe a very different dystopia, and somehow we have acquired the worst parts of both.

    • #21
  22. Chris O Coolidge
    Chris O
    @ChrisO

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    Dukes-of-Hazzard regional branch manager

    This bomb fell square on target. 

    • #22
  23. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    What I remember is that for a decade after the assassination, the news media blamed JFK’s death on the “spirit of Dallas,” i.e. on the right.

    They love to do this. The new season of American Horror Story has the Republicans killing Marilyn Monroe. It’s hard to stop laughing sometimes

    -edit typo

    • #23
  24. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    In the end, though, I think the death of JFK trumps the others. They were men of letters and philosophy, who passed. Five years before, five years later, it wouldn’t have mattered.  

    Yes, I think that’s certainly true in terms of their deaths.  In terms of their lives, though,  I think the calculus may be different.

    • #24
  25. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    I’m not a professional Kennedy-hater but I’m not sure how much stock I’d put in Kennedy’s status as an “award-winning writer.” Most sources make Ted Sorensen out to be the true author of Profiles in Courage. As to whether or not Kennedy was an “intellectual”, I suppose that’s in the eye of the beholder.

    Like Bryan, I’m a bit skeptical as how Kennedy would have been viewed; had he lived. Like many others who made that trip to Vietnam, I found myself asking, “Would I still have been up to my a** in mud if JFK were the President instead of LBJ?” From everything I’ve read, I believe the answer would be “yes”.

    No doubt about it, JFK was charismatic as h*ll; beautiful wife and had a fairly intelligent cabinet. (Oh, did I mention he also had an adoring press?)

    All things considered, I’m not sure I’d put JFK in the same company as the other two gentlemen but, of course, that’s a matter of opinion.

    Very little fuss was ever made about this action Kennedy tried to bring about in the months leading up to his death:

    On June 28th, 1961, Kennedy wrote   NSAM #55 :


    NATIONAL SECURITY ACTION MEMORANDUM NO. 263

    This document changed the responsibility of defense during the Cold War from the CIA to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and would have (if seen through) drastically changed the course of the war in Vietnam. It would also have effectively removed the CIA from Cold War military operations and limited the CIA to its sole lawful responsibility, the collecting and coordination of intelligence.

    By Oct 11th, 1963, NSAM #263, closely overseen by Kennedy[14], was released and outlined a policy decision “to withdraw 1,000 military personnel [from Vietnam] by the end of 1963” and further stated that “It should be possible to withdraw the bulk of U.S. personnel by 1965.” The Armed Forces newspaper Stars and Stripes had the headline U.S. TROOPS SEEN OUT OF VIET BY ’65.

    ####

    Whether he would have stuck it out and kept true to this policy of avoiding the quagmire of Vietnam, who knows? The press was held hostage by the Military/Industrial complex in that era, just as it is held hostage by Big Pharma in our own. Would he have caved to retain the Oval Office for another four years, or kept true to his ideal, and perhaps gone on to lose the WH in the end anyway.

    • #25
  26. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    I’m not a professional Kennedy-hater but I’m not sure how much stock I’d put in Kennedy’s status as an “award-winning writer.” Most sources make Ted Sorensen out to be the true author of Profiles in Courage. As to whether or not Kennedy was an “intellectual”, I suppose that’s in the eye of the beholder.

    Like Bryan, I’m a bit skeptical as how Kennedy would have been viewed; had he lived. Like many others who made that trip to Vietnam, I found myself asking, “Would I still have been up to my a** in mud if JFK were the President instead of LBJ?” From everything I’ve read, I believe the answer would be “yes”.

    No doubt about it, JFK was charismatic as h*ll; beautiful wife and had a fairly intelligent cabinet. (Oh, did I mention he also had an adoring press?)

    All things considered, I’m not sure I’d put JFK in the same company as the other two gentlemen but, of course, that’s a matter of opinion.

    Very little fuss was ever made about this action Kennedy tried to bring about in the months leading up to his death:

    On June 28th, 1961, Kennedy wrote NSAM #55 :


    NATIONAL SECURITY ACTION MEMORANDUM NO. 263

    This document changed the responsibility of defense during the Cold War from the CIA to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and would have (if seen through) drastically changed the course of the war in Vietnam. It would also have effectively removed the CIA from Cold War military operations and limited the CIA to its sole lawful responsibility, the collecting and coordination of intelligence.

    By Oct 11th, 1963, NSAM #263, closely overseen by Kennedy[14], was released and outlined a policy decision “to withdraw 1,000 military personnel [from Vietnam] by the end of 1963” and further stated that “It should be possible to withdraw the bulk of U.S. personnel by 1965.” The Armed Forces newspaper Stars and Stripes had the headline U.S. TROOPS SEEN OUT OF VIET BY ’65.

    ####

    Whether he would have stuck it out and kept true to this policy of avoiding the quagmire of Vietnam, who knows? The press was held hostage by the Military/Industrial complex in that era, just as it is held hostage by Big Pharma in our own. Would he have caved to retain the Oval Office for another four years, or kept true to his ideal, and perhaps gone on to lose the WH in the end anyway.

    Yeah, he tried to rein in the CIA, but by then the CIA was in control of his daily briefings anyway.  I believe the other thing he did months before was start to disenfranchise the Fed by printing treasury dollars.

    https://www.orwelltoday.com/jfkdollaramerican.shtml

    • #26