Was JFK such a wonderful president?

I used to idolize Jack Kennedy. I recall spending all night standing in long, long lines that wound their somber ways around half of Capitol Hill, waiting to pass by his coffin and pay my respects, after his assassination. I was 13 and in junior high school; dawn’s early light was beginning to show when we left after viewing the funeral bier.

A bit later, I remember reading some mild criticism of the Kennedy family during the 1960s and being appalled.

Still later, as I moved to the left during the Vietnam War, I realized that JFK had played a major role in continuing to escalate that unjustified, colonial, and, yes, imperialist war. Reading Sy Hersch’s “The Dark Side of Camelot” indicated that — if Hersch was right (and there were those who cast doubt on some of his claims) —  JFK was a serious sex addict.

A more recent article in the Atlantic indicates that Hersch was essentially right. JFK was not only an exploitive sleazeball as far as women were concerned, he was an incredibly reckless sleazeball. I mean, trying to invade Cuba for the crime of throwing out the Mob-corrupted Batista regime and adhering to socialism and communism? Threatening to blow up the whole world over that? Having the same mistress as one of the heads of the Mafia? Just think of the opportunities for blackmail if someone had wanted to do so. And supposedly only homosexuals were liable to get into compromising situations like that. (Of course, just about all of our presidents have had mistresses and so on, while proclaiming their love for monogamy; but for quantity, JFK seems to have beat them all.)

You can read the Atlantic  article about Jackie Bovier Kennedy Onassis, and its ramifications to JFK,  here. 

I’m also reading the New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. She points out that there was no real reason for the ‘War on Drugs’ other than providing an excuse for harrassing, arresting, stigmatizing, and excluding black males. There was no epidemic of drugs when it was begun under Reagan, or under Bush 1. Funny that the crack epidemic had origins similar to the heroin epidemic of the 1960s: deliberate and successful attempts at squashing a movement and attacking African-Americans. I recommend reading also The Politics of Heroin. Alexander points out that Clinton vastly expanded the imprisonment of blacks during the War on Drugs.

Thing is, most of the arrests and convictions and withdrawal of all civil rights are for marijuana — a drug which has never by itself caused a single fatality. Unlike alcohol, tobacco or any of the painkillers we take when we suffer serious injuries or are undergoing surgery. People who get addicted to those painkillers and things like methamphetamine need medical and psychological help, not incarceration and removal of all of their civil rights. They can’t live in rent-assisted or public housing; can’t collect welfare, can’t vote, can’t take out student loans or apply for post-secondary grants, and, most likely, can’t get a job unless they lie on their application — and when they are found out, are likely to be jailed again. I mean, where are they supposed to live?

And it’s all so racist. None of those horrible things happen to white folks who do lines of cocaine or smoke a little weed – or lots of it. Did Rush Limbaugh get put away for five consecutive 30-year sentences, as would have occurred had a black man been caught doing what he did with all that oxycodone? Of course not. Do they use helicopters and SWAT teams to shine lights into the windows, and break down the doors of country clubs, where kids who just won a soccer or lacrosse game light up or snort their joy in victory? Of course not.

Actually, I say, legalize all the recreational drugs, and provide real medical help and psychological assistance if they get addicted to the ‘hard’ stuff like meth, coke, oxycodone, opium, or heroin. Give them other drugs that will weaken their addictive urges so they can wean themselves. Stop destroying people’s lives here in the US, south of the border in Mexico, and so on. Stop treating every Black male as a criminal. Eliminate the whole “stop and frisk” business. Bring back our Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Alexander points out that as a nation, instead of spending money to help the poor in general, and African-American poor in particular, we spend vast sums of money locking them up. What’s more, police departments not only get lots of military-grade weaponry for free, they are bribed by the Federal government to go along with these police-state tactics, and they get to keep about 80% of the money and valuables that they seize.

Some democracy. It really is as bad as Jim Crow — and if you don’t know how bad that was, then read Slavery by Another Name.

We have had the worst presidents that money can buy — Republican, Democratic, doesn’t really matter.

Published in: on July 11, 2012 at 7:18 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. I have another suggestion for reading about the true nature of the criminal justice suystem: “The Rich Get Richer; The Poor Get Prison” by Dr. Jeffery Reiman of AU. I use it in one of my criminal Justice classes focussing on conflict criminology.

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