Monday, April 7, 2008
Personal Aside: Defining Moments of the `60s: No. 1: The Kennedy Assassination .The `60s Defining Moment No. 2.
No. 1: The JFK Assassination.
The responses to `60s Defining Moment I, the Kennedy Assassination, were all so good I decided to forego giving them grades because all of them were well-written and hugely appealed to the historian in me. Frank Nofsingers contribution told how he was in Dallas and watched the Kennedy procession sweep by on the street: priceless anecdote. Lovies Leather hit the nail on the head, I think, in pointing out that Oswald was a Communist, had made a trip to the USSR as a defector et al. This is the kernel of truth modern media like to sweep under the rug.
Carl Riker is a little overboard in my estimation describing the benign quality of the Birch Society but I forgive him for his priceless anecdote about meeting Gen. Edwin Walker at the home of Julius and Opal Butler adding the delicious detail of how Gov. Otto Kerner caused the tollway to swerve at their command. Matt Nelson says it was a mob hit. This has been surmised but never proven but with which Frank Nofsinger agrees which is interesting. Michael Becker is right on the money by pointing out that the Kennedy trip to Dallas was made to make peace between the warring factions of Ralph Yarborough and John Connally, adding a few good nuggets of his own. Excellent.
John Powers writes saying there was no plot per se. Hes right, of course although he doesnt comment on the fact that there is no doubt Oswald was a Communist sympathizer. Now for my money Leon Dixon is over the top, conjecturing how many of FDRs buddies and Martin Luther King, Jr., he alleges, were also Reds. No application here, if you will excuse my saying so. Its interesting to note that only one of you bought the whitewashed media versionRay McInemy, Sr. who sent me a private email. With only one buying the media-politically correct version, its a lot fewer than I had imagined.
Joseph Pine doubts if anyone now alive knows how and why JFK was killed. No, thats not right. There is considerable proof that Oswald was a Communist or Communist sympathizer and was enraged at Kennedy for his Cold War actions. After some ruminating, Kevin Doran comes to the right conclusion: Oswald was a Communist. Hank is agnostic on any reasons: Oswald decided for reasons known only to himself and God that he would shoot the president. Thats not what the historical record says.
Actually, Im thrilled with your responses and the number who were absolutely correct with the scenario that has been steadily downplayed since Nov. 22, 1963that Oswald was either a communist or communist supporter and thus the Left killed Kennedy. The Schlesinger-Sorensen-Halberstam mythology perpetuated the idea that there was paranoia, far-right anger and Americas so-called fear of the world, worry about social change and pro-violence. There is no doubt that Jackie Kennedy sanitized and romanticized her husbands death by linking his era with Camelot. By steering writer Theodore H. White to the musical play, she led him to write that with Kennedys death America lost its innocence. What rot. The Kennedys tongue-in-cheek knew of a forthcoming assassination attempt against Diem in Vietnam and said nothing--and staged an invasion of Cuba undercover. Innocence my foot.
But see how the music lingers? Let it never be forgot, for one brief shining moment That stuff was Jackies creation with a bit of realism since there was adulterous behavior between Guinevere and Lancelot never let it be forgot. But this is poetry. The record shows that Lee Harvey Oswald was a communist who had previously defected to the Soviet Union and returned here. Fidel Castro was his idol and Kennedy had authorized the Bay of Pigs invasion, had negotiated the removal of the ICBMs from Cuba which Castro hated. Castro was outraged at the pullout of the missiles. Oswald belonged to the Fair Play for Cuba committee, was captured on film distributing literature. Simple as that.
Kennedy botched several tests in the Cold War screwing up the Bay of Pigs by not sending air cover, not responding to the building of the Berlin Wall, winking with Henry Cabot Lodge at what they knew would be the assassination of Diem but nevertheless, JFK was a very definite fatal casualty of the Cold War. This reality was very-very unpopular with the Left in the U.S. to say. They were very skittish about the Left and communism taking the blame for this so they revert to anti-right wing and utilized Jackies Camelot poetry. Conjectures that JFK may have been killed by the Mafia (largely right-wing theories) or the CIA (Oliver Stone and the Lefts theories) are all very interesting but unproven. What we do know is that the man who killed him was a Communist sympathizer if not Communist in toto. Period.
Now to another defining moment of the `60s
No. 2. Griswold v. Connecticut 1965.
Conventional Version. What was more unreasonable, archaic and reactionary than a state law that prohibited the use of contraceptives by married couplesand banned the sale and distribution of these contraceptives in that state? But a Connecticut law, dating from 1879 did this. Sure, it was never enforcedrather like a law forbidding spitting in the street. Nevertheless it was on the books. But it was on the books.
New Haven Connecticuts Planned Parenthood League decided to get the law ruled invalid. Beginning in 1961 their appeal moved all the way up to the Supreme Court but it didnt work. A majority of the Court refused to hear the case. One justice, John Marshall Harlan, wrote an opinion urging the court to take the case, saying that in his estimation a statute making it a criminal offense for married couples to use contraceptives is an intolerable and unjustified invasion of privacy. Invasion of privacy: interesting words.
Harlans invasion of privacy statement interested Planned Parenthood and its top lawyer decided to build a rationale around the invasion of privacy. If it was an invasion of privacy, was there a right to privacy? New Havens PP began again. This time the executive director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, Estelle Griswold, opened a birth control clinic in New Haven in association with Dr. Buxton and strove strenuously to break the law and get arrested.
They distributed and sold contraceptives and after notifying the authorities they were doing so, got themselves arrested which is what they dearly wanted. Accordingly, Griswold and Buxton were fined $100 each. Their appeal again made the circuit up through the system. By the time it got to the Supreme Court once again, it was 1965. This time the Court agreed to take the case and Justice William O. Douglas wrote the majority decision finding the law unconstitutional. But to do so he had to devise a right to privacy. There was no such right enumerated in the Constitution. So Douglas wrote that a right to privacy had evolved from the Constitution in what he called emanations from penumbras which he had deduced from Harlans 1961 dissenting opinion. Everybody looked up the two words. Emanations means emissions so no problem there. Penumbra is an astronomical term describing a partial shadow from an eclipse of a sunspotanother way to say that the right to privacy evolved in an uncertain way. Thus the right to privacy was cobbled together and became part of future judicial interpretation through the decision.
Conventional opinion argues: Well, whats wrong with a right to privacy? Who wants government invading their bedroom telling them how to perform the marital act?
Your Assignment: Either confirm or re-write this version. Was the Supreme Court right in protecting us from the cops rushing into our bedrooms or should it have allowed the law to remain a dead letter which it had been was in Connecticut since 1879? I expect to hear from Frank Nofsinger, Connecticuts correspondent to this website. Tell us what this ruling led to and what in your estimation makes it a defining moment in the 1960s. Good luck. Once more, congratulations to most of you on your perspicacity and to the remainder on giving it the old college try. .