Tuesday, November 18, 2014

John F. Kennedy: The Song, Never the Singer

"Hey you, doll face - road trip!"
He remains the Don Draper of U.S. presidents. His promiscuity was of gargantuan proportions. His inclination for risk-taking was pathological. He lied and cheated with energetic abandon and shared a family trait for vengeance and a dark appreciation of noblesse oblige.

Arguably —is there any other way? — his approx. 1,000-day reign was potholed with self-induced crises. His decisions surrounding the Bay of Pigs exposed the decomposition of his character. His heedless drive to murder Fidel Castro propelled the world into a U.S./Russian nuclear showdown. His womanizing exposed him to blackmail.

'Hiya girls': Frank, JFK, and, well...
Yet he was brave, handsome, articulate, wealthy and witty. He loved his children and had great taste in clothes. His image alone attracted a generation of bright, educated young people to pursue careers in the civil service, including a cigar-smoking William Jefferson Clinton — a career path that just a few years later Richard Nixon, building on Kennedy’s boneheaded involvement in Vietnam, would napalm into destruction.

Actually, it looks pretty good
Though he kick-started the 1960s, JFK was nothing if not a swingin’ rat-packer, a rich kid slumming with Sinatra and bed-fulls of prostitutes. In fact, his autopsy report indicated the presence of sexually transmitted diseases which, the doctors surmised, must have given him years of grief, let alone the pain imparted to his paramours.

The question arrives: do we wish to know salacious details as means of explaining motivations and judgments, or are we mired, sick with frustration and boredom, in belittling men and women of accomplishment? Is it a combination of the two?

In our sleep comes the song
Anyway, his importance can not be found in what he was, but what he seemed to be, what he could have been, and most importantly, what we wanted him to be. JFK knew his history, and he knew that in our dreams comes the song, not the singer, rounding our little life with a sleep.