Some years ago, I watched an enlightening presentation by Dr. Morris Massey PhD “What You Are Is Where You Were When… Again! With Morris Massey.” Dr. Massey theorizes that major events during your lifetime determine your worldview. Those experiences solidify what you value, what is most important to you, and what drives you. The best example supporting the theory is that if you lived during the Great Depression you are likely more focused on saving money than spending it.
The 1960s were my impressionable years. It is the most influential period for people of my age group, the baby boomers, including those now in corporate leadership, holding professorships, and running our government and its myriad of agencies. Much happened to shape thinking of individuals and groups. Aside what it might mean to you personally, what does it mean for America? Similarly, what do the experiences of other generations say about our future?
The tumultuous decade set American culture on a course from which we have rarely veered. Worldviews firmed for many launching them off into society ideologically fixed yet headed in radically opposite directions. It was a time of political activism, anti-war/anti military protestors, draft resisters, the counter-culture hippie revolution, the drug culture, women’s liberation…. The 60s was a Mount Saint Helens, a giant volcanic eruption blasting us toward a societal tipping point. For me, I knew little of life or the events that would determine my future or that of my country. I was a kid. Politics or political movements did not preempt childhood adventures. For that I am grateful. I did not reflect on it until much later, but some events did shape my future thinking. My thinking solidified possibly much earlier than it should have.
On November 22, 1963, at Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Anyone old enough to retain a memory of the time can tell you where they were when it happened as clearly as they could if it happened today. I was on the outdoor dirt basketball court of Wyoming Elementary School, Wyoming County, West Virginia. Our coach, 6th grade teacher and school Principal Harvey Stoneman was teaching us the fundamentals of the game. Train tracks for coal cars ran past our school. Our little league baseball coach and coal miner Jim Warner, relative of Pineville High School, Penn State, Seahawks and Rams running back Curtis Warner, came walking up the tracks. He yelled out to Mr. Stoneman that someone just shot the President. Mr. Stoneman told him that was a bad joke to make in front of the kids. Jim somberly replied that it was not a joke and someone had shot the President in Dallas. Most West Virginians of the time recall future President Kennedy and wife Jackie visiting the state multiple times including the southern coalfields. For me, that is the earliest recollection of a significant event of the 60’s. There have been other assassination attempts, Presidents Ford and Reagan come to mind each a reminder that the most powerful and protected person in the world is never completely safe. The reality is more worrisome when there is so much media, political and professional protestor hatred directed towards our sitting President. Americana changed that day. Our Presidents can no longer drive through town centers smiling and waving from open automobiles.
Also in 1963, the Supreme Court of the United States declared as unconstitutional school sponsored prayer and Bible readings. I was oblivious. What elementary school child wouldn’t be? Through my first years of elementary school my classroom days began with the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and the Lord’s Prayer. I do not recall complaints about either or anyone claiming offense. I grew up in the Bible belt. Prayer, Bible, Church all a way of life. In the late 60s and early 70’s attending high school on Chicago’s north side there was little emphasis on God and Country. Under God was added to the pledge when I was a toddler nowadays people use that among their reasons for not pledging allegiance to our country. Others, I suppose, simply do not believe in the ideals represented by our flag or in some manner believe they do not apply to them or their identity group. In either case, to them there is no American Exceptionalism.
Copyright © 2017 J. D. Pendry