I have always had enormous respect for the Office of the President of the United States. Why? Well, because I was taught to. That’s where god and jesus and the golden rule slipped into my worldview, too.
When I was a kid, when my grandmother was still alive, her point of view on politics was this: Republicans are for rich people. Democrats are for the rest of us. That’s as far as she went into politics says my mom.
I know, too, that both my mother and her mother loved JFK. Like everyone else, they were devastated when he was assassinated. It was the end of the innocence in so many ways.
Growing up where I did, when I did and around whom I did, I can say that compared to most, my own innocence—a kind of ignorance about the real world “out there” that permitted a strong sense of optimism to take hold and remain—lasted longer than most my age. Even so, my innocence bit the dust much earlier and more gradually than it did for my forebears.
And speaking of age, I am as old now as JFK was when he was elected. There’s some perspective; quite sobering, in spite of the fact that his name shines a broad-yet-specific light on the beneficent potential of the Office of the President.
They called it Camelot. There was wonder to the world, promise of bright futures here and above even the skies. Today is darkness. The darkness that exists in the long, cold shadow of the dogmatic. Those who’ve violently grabbed hold of certainty have forgotten that doubt is good. Questions are important. Challenge to authority is not only healthy, but necessary. Respect can thrive even against doubt, inquiry and challenge, when humility and uncertainty drive us not towards consolidation of power, but towards solutions and betterment.
Put another way: when you have no doubt about your abilities, your decisions, your place in the world, there can be no betterment. What impetus for change when you’ve settled in your own mind that you are perfect and unassailable?
JFK spoke at a Yale commencement ceremony. A quote from that speech:
The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived, and dishonest—but the myth—persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic … Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.
“The comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” Did JFK predict the Right Wing Christian movement?
Nice to think so, but societies over the ages have been poisoned time and time again by the intrusion of religion in the affairs of state. Dogma breeds impatience, a twisted irony if there ever were one.
The current occupier of the Office of the President has no doubt that Texas only executed genuinely guilty people, that Sadam Hussein was a “gathering threat” to the rest of the world, that invading and occupying Iraq as the right thing, that warrantless surveillance is legal.
Confidence? No, dangerous hubris. There is no debate, no questioning, only choosing between black and white, right and wrong, good and evil. I have had doubt about each president that has occupied the Office throughout my life. Doubt is the necessary first step, but only a first step. I have come to conclusions about each one, and changed those opinions as needed. This President has no doubts about his own righteousness and correctness. That leaves no room for the rest of us to doubt, and so I use my lack of doubt and make a simple charge: this man is dangerous; he hates our freedom.