Friday, November 22, 2013


“Think of all the hate there is in Red China
Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama
You may leave here for 4 days in space
But when you return, it's the same old place.”
    “Eve of Destruction,” P.F. Sloan (sung by Barry McGuire)

In 1960 Mexican Americans adopted the slogan “Viva Kennedy” –or Long Live Kennedy – in support of his bid to become president.  The Latino vote was a crucial factor in Texas, New Mexico and Nevada.  The day before his assassination JFK spoke to Mexican-American activists at a LULAC function held in Houston.

James Patterson's “The Eve of Destruction: How 1965 Transformed America” begins with LBJ saying at the Christmas Tree lighting 1964 that “These are the most hopeful times in all the years since Christ was born in Bethlehem” and ends with bloody Vietnam fighting.  I like to call 1965 the "Wooly Bully Year" from the Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs song.  Journal of American History reviewer Michael Kazin, author of “America Divided,” asserts that despite the title Patterson seems not to know much about pop music since he calls "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" and "Stop! In the Name of Love" feel-good songs.”

A nice crowd, including Chancellor Lowe, Ron Cohen, and most of the History Department showed up for Nicole Anslover and my Brown Bag talk on “Teaching the John F. Kennedy Assassination.”  I mentioned how the emphasis regarding conspiracy theories has changed over time.  As LBJ became unpopular due to Vietnam, opponents called him “McBird” and tried to implicate him.  During the 1970s, when revelations about the CIA were publicized, some thought that agency (or maybe a rogue agent) played a role.  In the 1980s the focus was on the Mafia, in particular the Chicago Outfit.  Oliver Stone’s JFK blamed a shady cabal of New Orleans businessmen and mobsters.  The simplistic docudrama “Killing Kennedy,” based on Bill O’Reilly’s book, emphasizes Oswald’s Cuba connection and pro-communist views.  According to William Manchester’s “The Death of a President,” Jackie told her mother just hours after the shooting, “He didn’t even have the satisfaction of being killed for civil rights.  It had to be some silly little communist.”  Or was it?

Zoran Kilibarda mentioned how much Europeans loved Kennedy and his surprise that the feeling among many Americans was quite different.  I made comparisons to Obama in 2008 and JFK visiteding Catholic neighborhoods in Philadelphia during the 1960 campaign.  The nuns were almost orgasmic, the Polish sisters as well as the Irish.  Afterwards I emailed Nicole: “We're getting to be quite a team.”  She replied: “I agree, quite the team! I was telling Diana today how much I really enjoy having you come to class and how much the students enjoy it, too. Today's session was a lot of fun, and caused me to think differently about teaching Kennedy. Thank you.”  

Senate Democrats took the so-called “Nuclear Option” and changed the rules to prevent filibusters of Presidential appointments except for Supreme Court nominees.  Republicans are railing that it will lead to the destruction of the republic, but they created the crisis by sitting on any number of cases involving regulatory agencies and lower court judgeships.

I made plane, hotel and rent-a-car reservations to visit Palm Springs, California, the third weekend in January. In addition to seeing Midge, I’ll go to a Parquet Courts concert at Pappy and Harriet’s.  A punk band fronted by Andrew Savage, Parquet Courts has a cool song called “Stoned and Starving” on a CD titled “Light Up Gold.”  Nephew Bob in San Diego, off to see Pearl Jam in concert, said, “Count me in.”
Daniel Flores with Beto, Vanessa and Raquel Hernandez at El Real Taco; NWI Times photos by John Luke

The Times ran a great article by Steve Hanlon entitled “E.C. Central kicker Daniel Flores is a true All-American story.”   Flores came to East Chicago from Mexico City three years ago to live with an aunt and uncle not knowing a word of English.  Now he is an honors students and, according to Dave, really a nice guy.  When Coach Stacy Adams sent Flores in to attempt the game-winning extra point against New Prairie in last week’s Regional, Flores said that his legs were shaking, but he came through in the clutch.  His cousin Vanessa Hernandez told Hanlon, “It was E.C. at its best.  When you win here, everyone loves you.  Everyone in this town talks about the ’71 Washington basketball team.  Now Daniel has gone down in history, too.”  His Uncle Beto joked that if the kick had missed “I would’ve put him on the next bus back home.”  David went on the student bus to Fort Wayne for the East Chicago football game against Dwenger, sadly a 38-0 loss.

The Nation devoted an entire issue to “Dope and Change: Why It’s Always Been Time to Legalize Pot.”  On the cover is a group of pot-smoking Punahoe High School Class of 1979 “Choom Gang” students, including “Barry” Obama.  Articles include “The Scandal of Racist Marijuana Arrests” and “Prescription: Cannabis” about pot’s “astonishing medical potential.”  Once, admitting they smoked disqualified Supreme Court nominees and other seekers of high office. Now the issue doesn’t even come up.  The last three presidents have admitted partaking, at least in the past, though Clinton claimed he didn’t inhale and Bush said he was young and foolish.  Obama, admitting he inhaled frequently, added: “That was the point.”   Unfortunately the Controlled Substances Act is still on the books, and Obama’s Justice Department is still prosecuting people.

On the “Mike and Mike” sports talk show the Kennedy assassination came up in reference to NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle having the Sunday games take place two days later.  Rozelle later said it was the worst decision he ever made but claimed that JFK press secretary Pierre Salinger told him that Kennedy would have wanted the games to be played.  The Bears, who went on to win the 1963 championship, played in Pittsburgh that Sunday.  CBS did not telecast that game (or any other), which ended in a 17-17 tie.

It was another Friday full house at the Archives.  Maurice Yancy was working on the Post-Trib negatives; Pat Wisniewski was listening to audio tapes having to do with the “Duel for the Dunes.” Jack Bloom brought in a large box of matgerials from Jean Shiras, mainly about her involvement in peace groups.  Anne Balay and attorney Roy Dominguez, wearing a “Viva Kennedy” button from the 1960 campaign, also put in appearances.  Anne had Roy autograph her copy of “Valor” and promised to give him a copy of “Steel Closets” when it comes out.  They really seemed to hit it off.

Because Bob Mucci keeps the Anthropology Club dollar sale books near my cage, I borrowed Philip Caputo’s DelCorso’s Gallery,” about a war photographer.  Caputo’s “A Rumor of War,” one of my favorite books, is a memoir about the author’s service in the marines at the time LBJ was Americanizing the Vietnam War.  He started out an idealist and became disillusioned by the senseless killing.

Season six of “The Sopranos,” now on HBO started out with several shocks.  Frankie Valli, formerly of the Four Seasons, is back in a supporting role.  I should have mentioned that when discussing Vee-Jay groups with Steve McShane’s class.

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