Blog 1296- 03.28.2019
Comfort of Opinion vs. Discomfort of Thought
Today’s picture is definitely one of those that gets the mind turning. I was a boy of ten when John F. Kennedy took the oath of office in January of 1961 to become the thirty-fifth President of the United States. I watched it on my grandpa and grandma’s black and white TV, we called them Paw Paw and Lily. Lily was really my step-grandma but had married my Paw Paw when she was quite young, thirteen I believe, after his first wife had died leaving him with three young girls and a new baby boy to care for. What a brave a beautiful girl my Lily was and together they had four more children, three boys and a girl. Only one boy and one girl were still at home when President Kennedy was sworn in as President.
My dad did not think much of President Kennedy but I loved him and was so proud of our new young President. Though Harry S. Truman was President for the first couple of years of my life, I have no recollection of him being President. I have only memories of him as an old retired ex-President that advised the new youngest President and of his funeral a few years later at which his brother Freemasons resided. So curiously to me at the time the men at the funeral wore aprons. The only President I had really known was Dwight D. Eisenhower, the famous World War Two general who was quite old and sick a lot during his second term.
The young President, closer to half the age of the previous President struck me as someone not so set in his ways, nor so far away from his youth that he could not entertain a few new thoughts. The nineteen-fifties was a very set in stone period in America. Very much a carbon copy, that is an old term now, of the nineteen thirties and nineteen forties. The nine-sixties was a time of radical change in the United States, a time of rejecting the staid and conservative notions of the fifties and it’s continuing marginalization of minorities and women. Bold and radical steps were begun on things like the issue of a woman’s right to reproductive freedom, work on an Equal Right Amendment for Women which would fail in the seventies, and the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Amendments, Head Start for underprivileged children, and other safety net programs begun with Kennedy but passed in memorial to him by President Johnson in his Great Society push. Sadly Johnson’s debacle in South Vietnam overshadowed a lot of his accomplishments in area of social justice.
Still the opinions that my father found so easy, segregation, white supremacy, separate but equal (which it never was), and states right (too long just a code word for racial and sexual discrimination) persist because they are easy. That young President challenged us to “think outside the box of our prejudices ” to “dream” to go to the moon not because it was easy but because it was hard. He had gone to war, hurt his back badly, and was to suffer with that the rest of his short life, but he had become a hero in that war doing some hard swimming even injured himself, saving members of his crew on Patrol Boat 109. We can always use a few more heroes who rather than the comfort of old opinions choose the harder thoughts, new thoughts, and the actions that they lead us to. Ole Saint Paul wrote, “God has not given us the spirit of fear but of love and a sound mind.” The only way to keep our minds sound is to use them to think hard thoughts, challenging thoughts. We should ever challenge the easy and complacent for we are here not just to have an easy time but to make the world a better place, to tackle injustice, to right wrongs. That always starts by thinking bigger, better thoughts.
I am glad and grateful that I grew up in a time when a young President stood for changing some things that did not benefit all the people but only a few. And I know old white folks should not be excluded, heck I am one of those aging white folks but I would like to see some young folks, including women and men of all colors, take up the torch and lead the way. That is from a line our youngest President said in his inaugural speech:
“The torch has been passed to a new generation.”
May those words ring ever true today.
Your friend and fellow traveler,