Friday, November 22, 2013

5 Decades & the Truth

A funny thing happened on the way to this week's episode of 3 Chords & the Truth.

About half past noon this afternoon, I turned on the CBS News web stream of its coverage from Nov. 22, 1963 -- that day. Uncut, real time, starting at the moment of the first bulletin that shots had been fired at the president's motorcade in Dallas.

Within an hour -- live on TV -- America was forever changed. Over the next three days, television news grew up, making up how to cover the unthinkable, live and non-stop . . . as it covered the unthinkable, live and non-stop.

It did so, by today's technical standards, primitively and without formatic bells or whistles. Television also did so powerfully and occasionally artistically -- and without a surfeit of hairspray.

OF COURSE, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was a powerful blow to a country -- to a people. The death of our young president and the images of his grief-stricken widow -- as well as television's reflection of our own grief -- hardly could fail to affect. Powerfully.

Let me put it this way. When President Kennedy fell victim to Lee Harvey Oswald's deadly aim, I was four months shy of my third birthday. I have memories of that day.

The sense of overwhelming sadness and loss endure after five decades. It comes storming out of the mists of time, as raw and fresh as yesterday. And it wasn't just the loss of what was; it was the loss of what might have been.
Too, maybe it was the loss of what might not have been. We are a greatly changed people from what we were Nov. 21, 1963. In some ways, that is a good thing. In more ways, I fear, that has been a bad thing.

We are a more cynical people since that day.

Great tragedy, should you survive it, can make you stronger. The aphorism to that effect did not come from nowhere.

Great tragedy, however, is just as likely to break you, too. That is a proven fact. Fifty years ago, I think, we were broken -- at least partly. I am 52, and I have lived my life watching the wheels come off a society. Not uniformly, but enough.

I've unfortunately done my part to make that so, Lord knows.

THAT'S WHAT is washing over my mind and through my soul as I find myself unable to pull myself away from CBS-TV, circa 1963. When Walter Cronkite once again -- through the time machine of videotape -- read the flash from Dallas confirming the death of the 35th president of the United States, I reflexively crossed myself.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In retrospect, that's not a bad reaction, even half a century hence. In that spirit, this sad anniversary isn't the time for jazz, rock 'n' roll or even blues in the night. That's what happened today on the way to the Big Show -- there won't be one. It just didn't feel right.

Stay tuned for a few days for a pre-Thanksgiving edition of 3 Chords & the Truth.

God bless us, every one.

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