Innocent Schoolboy No More

The date November 22 became infamous 50 years ago when President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. I remember the panic that spread like wildfire that Friday morning through the elementary school I was attending.

There was an awful lot of crying, and not just by us schoolchildren. Seeing so many adults weeping freely and openly without shame was very unsettling to me. I never forgot the feeling that something so overwhelming in real life had trapped me in shock and terror far deeper than any book or movie I had ever experienced.

And yes, for me and countless other young people, what we experienced in late November 1963 brought about a sudden end to our childhood innocence. I was just 13. There was no way I could remain sweetly innocent after I watched Lee Harvey Oswald shot dead on live television that weekend.

More importantly, there was no way I was going to continue believing what grownups had taught me. Many adults from my parents to my teachers had taught me that American society should be considered civilized and sane. After JFK died, I started thinking for myself and seeking my own answers in this life. I lost faith in grownups as far as providing answers that I could believe.

The process of my maturing into an adult suddenly accelerated just five years later. At age 18 I became a volunteer in the doomed 1968 presidential campaign of Senator Robert Kennedy. This second Kennedy assassination hurt me far more deeply than the first.

It is no exaggeration that the death of RFK ripped away my hope for humanity.

I was raised within the Roman Catholic faith and education system to believe grownups who insisted that human society should be considered civilized and sane. Now I know better, but I certainly cannot disregard those very soothing and comforting feelings of schoolboy innocence.

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