As an American I like many have been remembering the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, watching new documentaries and eye witness reports of old grainy black and white photos and movies. I was only 10 when he died, so it did not affect me much, though the live coverage on TV of his funeral did affect me. What affected me more when i was 13 and a little more politically thoughtful were the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Rev Dr Martin Luther King. I can remember to this day standing at the school bus stop in from my our house and my mom running out telling me the news of Boddy Kennedy being killed, and remembered crying and a great sadness, because he was like a hero to me.
And when Martin Luther King was killed i had a Real Awakening about the underlying racism in my town. We lived on the west shore of the river, otherwise known as “the white shore”, with the capital city and its black population across the river. During the riots that followed i remember going up to the local grocery store, which was also a gun store (yes back then you could buy guns at a grocery store, and Oswald bought his from a catalog for about $13) and watching my neighbors arm up and saying “if those n…..s come across the bridge we are going to start shooting them”. I was shocked out of my moral mind and never saw my white neighbors the same ever again as their dark side had emerged in all its ugliness.
Those events and the escalating Vietnam War with the Friday body counts listed on TV changed my life forever. When I was 19 they still had the draft and i pulled number 16 which meant i was going, even though i was in college. I tried to get a conscious objector status but they told me they only gave those to Mennonites. I told them i would go if i was a medic, but would not be carrying a gun and shooting people, but the Army would not commit to that. As it approached time for me to be drafted i had maps of Canada and was all ready to go, but then at the last minute they cancelled the draft. Whew!
Today at the CNN Belief blog i found an interesting post asking How Catholic was John F. Kennedy? by David Burke in which he discusses JFK’s back and forth commitment to Catholicism and how he became more religious during the awful Cold War and how he kept the true path of believing in the separation of church and state though it all. I think you will find it an interesting read.
Back on a personal note, the reason i never had any children was because i grew up during the Cold War, and we all just assumed we would be wiped out in a nuclear war eventually, so why have kids to put through all of that? I was no fan of Reagan, but when he and Gorbachev signed the first nuclear treaty i could feel a great weight lift off my shoulders.
After that i dropped out of college and became a hippie late in the movement and hitchhiked around the country visiting various communes (some of which were cults) and National Parks, carrying only $100 and living on apples and granola bars. I think i weighed 100 pounds and 10 of that was hair, lol. I also experimented with entheogens during those years, and had the door to perception opened to quote Aldous Huxley. Later i practiced Zen, then became a monk for a short period in a Korean Zen small monastery in NY, then joined a Hindu ashram, then came back home and lived in the attic of my parent’s garage. From there i got farther into Magick, Crowley, the OTO, and eventually Witchcraft and Tibetan Buddhism.
Yes when one grows up in history does affect one’s entire life.