Martyrdom–Our Path to Decency


    Editor’s note: This is the Skiff editorial that ran Nov. 26, 1963 reagarding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. 

    The man who on a wintry January morning in 1961 admonished the nation to “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” has given his all to the nation, and for this, secured the wrath of an assassin’s bullet.

    John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States, the Boston Irishman who captured the love and respect of the world in life, garnished himself in death with martyrdom Friday when shot down on the streets of Dallas.

    Shocked by the dastardly murder, the people of America sought a motive for the forces that drove the killer to commit such a heinous crime. The answer is attainable for those who seek it; the solution rests on hope.

    For many months in the United States there has been an undercurrent of vituperation and hate spread, by what the fallen President was to call in Dallas, “dissident voices…expressing opposition without alternatives, finding fault but never favor, perceiving gloom on every side and seeking influence without responsibility.” Leaders of the extremists, both right and left, preach the gospel that members of the Supreme Court should be impeached, the President killed, the government violently overthrown if necessary. They teach that it is not enough to oppose, but to oppose with hate and vengeance. These minority elements advocate hate and practice hate. The enemy, they say, is not foreign but domestic; the victory not peaceful, but violent. We have seen their disgusting imprints in the streets, in books and convention halls. We laughed at their ridiculous sideshows making a mockery of political decency and desecrating the flag with their mere presence. We laughed, but no more.

    Our President recognized the dangers confronting America in these radicals. Dallas was to be the city where both extremists and President laid their cards on the table. The freedom the young President was fighting for was also the same freedom that allowed a two-bit punk to purchase a rifle and slay a man that embodied all that is great in the American tradition.

    The battle in America today is between the rational and the irrational, between the thoughtful and the thoughtless. This country can never be truly great, or seek to teach democracy to the world until we have learned to settle political differences in a way that befits a civilized country. When the President can journey through the streets without fear that some crackpot will assassinate him, then we can preach to the world.

    The tragic events of the weekend which made the people reflective on their national character, will, we hope, be the spark that ignites a popular revulsion against the hate and mills and erases this bloody stain from our history.

    For if history can be any guidepost to the future, it plainly tells us that assassinations always bring the opposite reaction desired. It did for Booth, and it did for the murderer of our President.