Sunday, November 12, 2006

You must hear this

Can you believe that we once had a president courageous enough to say such things? When asshole leftists try to shame you out of an admiration for JFK, just recall these words. Remember, remember, that awful November...

(Many thanks to Zontar for bringing attention to this under-appreciated speech.)
Jesus, what a difference four decades makes. I try and try to explain to my children and younger friends what America used to be like. This speech is like having cold water thrown in the face. Did Pierre Salinger write that for him, Joseph, do you know?
Joseph, A debate has been raging about this video over at DU off and on for a few weeks. It seems that whoever posted this file, edited it slightly in order to partly obscure the meaning of the speech. In fact, in the context of the full text of the speech, Kennedy, cold war liberal that he was, was talking about the secrecy of subversive communist parties, and the need to balance press freedoms with national security. While I certainly agree with the overall sentiment of your post that Kennedy was a great and articulate man, and that we have surely gone down hill in the presidential talent department, this video has taken Kennedy's somewhat out of context and distorted its meaning.

Hamden from DU
Of course he was talking about Communism during the long section of this speech in whcih he talked about the conspiratorial nature of the enemy of that time. Was the text edited in this clip? I don't know; the revisionist effect owes much to the visual accompaniment -- which I do NOT endorse, at least not fully. The flashes of Masonic symbolism are just stupid and inane.

We have here a classic exercise in deconstruction. When is it acceptable to assign new meanings to an old text? I have no problem when this is done for artistic or philosophical purposes, although I do have a problem if someone is making a serious attempt to deceive a new generation: "When Kennedy said THAT, he meant THIS."

Something similar occurred with Bush the elder used the phrase "New World Order" in a speech. Bush was refering to a an era in which there was but one unassailable super-power, the United States. The far right tried to convince their audience that when Bush used the phrase, he meant the same thing that John Birch writers, such as Gary Allen, had long meant by it. But Allen's posited "New World Order" was the exact opposite. Allen and his confreres has written about a new order in which the U.S. followed Soviet dictates. (Or U.N. dictates; in the loopy JBS world view, that came to the same thing.) Bush had crowed about a dominant U.S.; Allen had spread fear about a subservient U.S. -- hardly the same idea at all, even though the same three words ("New World Order") were used to describe both.

So yeah, in a sense it is wrong and unfair to take a speech out of context and assign it other than the originally-intended meaning.

In another sense, this "revised meaning" business happens all the time, and is an accepted part of human discourse. We do it whenever we recite the "We happy few" speech from Henry V and apply it to conflicts other than the Hundred Years' War. As long as we do not try to obscure the ORIGINAL meaning, I think it is fair to use an old text in this way.

In the case of JFK, I think it is important to keep in mind that the foe of his day was far more powerful than Osama Bin Laden ever will be. And yet JFK was able to decry the need for excessive secrecy, even though the stakes were more dire.
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