A dark day, this, 50 years ago. Three years before I was born, so if it was, as my parents have said, the end of a world, I was a baby born into the world that succeeded it.
I have no memory of an era in which assassination was not a realistic threat, a thing that happened to people I knew about--Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, and, of course, the martyred President whose murder began the strange fermenting, tumultuous time in which I was born, and had my childhood.
Vietnam, Watergate, the domestic strife and extremes of the 1960s and 70s--they were my matrix. When Ronald Reagan was shot, and it was announced in school, I remember thinking, "not again," not "how can this be?" I didn't like Reagan, but I felt my heart sink anyway.
Fifty years ago today, the New Frontier died.
Despite the manifold flaws of John Kennedy, that was a great loss--it's hard to imagine any politician saying this today:
Also on the same day, in a little village outside Oxford, Clive Staples Lewis died. I have described elsewhere how I met his books in high school, and praised (with some qualification) recent scholarship of those works, but let me reiterate one thing: I love C.S. Lewis: Reader extraordinaire who can make Spenser sound more exciting than any Hollywood blockbuster, creator of Screwtape, and through it all a man who was always seeking to build up in a world that so often seems geared only to tear down.
That's one thing that links the two, I suppose: a passionate desire to leave the world better than they found it.
And in that way, they are both with us still.