Writers naturally want to have an impact on their readers. That’s why we write. Sometimes that impact is lasting, even when it might not be immediately clear.
Tom Wicker recently passed away. He was in his late eighties. He rode in a press vehicle as part of President Kennedy's motorcade when the president was assassinated on November 22, 1963. Wicker was a journalist for the New York Times.
When he penned his memoirs years later, Wicker labeled that day as a turning point for the country: "The shots ringing out in Dealey Plaza marked the beginning of the end of innocence," he wrote.
Really? I know that phrase has become increasingly overused in the last forty years. I saw it written in a news article shortly after the Twin Towers were bombed in 2001. And every time I see it used as a declaration, I wander (in my mind) back in time.
How could a country that lived through World War Two, have any innocence to lose a mere 19 years later when Kennedy was shot? Did we still have innocence after losing 300,000 men in that war?
Was there any innocence left after dropping not one, but two nuclear warheads to end the war? Did we still have innocence after surviving the Great Depression? After living 14 years with prohibition? After seeing the carnage of World War One?
And seriously, how could a country that cut itself in half during the War Between the States—with one segment enslaving its fellow men, while the other fought to free them—call itself innocent? Especially after 600,000 young men died fighting for both of those “causes?”
This country was founded via a war with its British overseers from 1775-83, then before another century had passed, it fought itself in a bloody Civil War. And shortly thereafter, it had its first presidential assassination when Lincoln was killed in 1865. Did we lose innocence then? Or had we lost it during the Civil War slaughter?
Maybe we lost it again in 1881 when President Garfield was assassinated. And again in 1901 when President McKinley was murdered. How much innocence did we have left to lose when we suffered our fourth presidential assassination in 1963?
I guess I just believe that countries cannot have a collective innocence. And they certainly cannot keep losing it every few decades. So Tom Wicker may have penned that flowery homage to our lost purity, but I tend to think it was merely hyperbole on his part. Writers tend to do that also.
If your care to log on to http://www.jimvanore.com/, you’ll find further access to my writing, which, I confess, contains very little hyperbole.
When it comes to that—I’m innocent.