In hindsight, perhaps my generation really was apathetic; or, I might suggest, we learned to be quite cynical…cynical and proud of it! After Kennedy’s assassination, few of us believed little if anything that our federal government officials chose to share.
The Warren Commission hadn’t answered our questions; it had only raised additional concerns. LBJ had decided that Americans who had lived through those days of mourning and watched the Zapruder film would never fully understand the historical significance of that day; at least, not while anyone involved was still living. Hence, the atmosphere from which our cynicism was born.
Still reeling from the assassination of JFK, we detested much of what was handed to us as fact; less than five years had passed, and even our tenth grade teacher implored us: learn to question. Think independently. Don’t accept as truth any one’s printed page; black and white ink was not a validation. Our country had experienced Yellow Journalism once; be on guard and remember to read between the lines always.
Basic traits would surface repeatedly during our education. We studied. We read the classics. Even English Literature extolled the virtues of the truly simple but morally righteous commoner, i.e. Mr. Macawber in Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield. Truthfully, I remember less of him than I do the sleazy, diabolical and undermining Uriah Heep. His name evokes the disingenuous humble servant who falsely gives allegiance to an employer, yet is an ingrate and uses his intellectual prowess to cheat. Only his outward groveling disguised to the young reader what his sinister undertones revealed to seasoned ears and eyes that easily recognized the performance for what it was: a choreographed deception.
To discuss and further question was a perfectly acceptable learning experience because the classroom was still a safe venue. We did not fear. Civil discourse reminded us all that History Repeats Itself.
Perhaps I need to pick up David Copperfield again…