Friday, November 22, 2013

Projecting Heroes

A day like today, the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, makes me ponder the curious way in which collective emotions are produced and maintained. Kennedy’s legislative efforts had quite stalled just before he died. The media were full of reports wondering if all that charisma would ever produce anything tangible. His charisma had not managed to reach me. My father thought the Kennedys were a true aristocracy—which I found ridiculous. My reaction to the assassination produced no emotion because, well, I was not identified. I also knew very little about Kennedy or his family; later, as more and more came to light, I was more and more persuaded that my distance from this leader had been altogether justified.

The fact is that this man, who, apart from getting elected with much help from his father, had no high level accomplishments, beyond his courageous military service in World War. He had become prominent but did not have a record suggesting future deification. Yet here is his memory, regularly painted on the skies, especially on big anniversaries, in some ways reflecting, as well as being caused by, a rather primitive urge of a segment of the population and of the media elite.

What enabled his projection as a hero, beyond his assassination, was, indeed charisma: a great talent of self-projection. There is his book, Profiles in Courage (co-written with Ted Sorensen but that debt not acknowledged). There was Camelot, etc. This quality, a charismatic personality, Kennedy shared with Ronald Reagan, another hero-projection by another segment of the population but with less media cooperation.

All right. The anniversary today will saturate the media coverage. Ritual marches and music will fill in for lack of great deeds. But how long will this go on? Not too much longer, I would say. Those who were young adults then are all more or less my age. When we pass, this will begin to fade. I infer as much from the fact that I cannot recall any huge April 15 “media day” in any recent year recalling Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. In looking for a President with some genuinely heroic traits, I think of Jimmy Carter. But then there are useful projections suitable to an age severed from basic transcendental values and people who in partial ways attempt to live up to them. The latter are not suitable for painting on the clouds.

1 comment:

  1. As is said of Beauty, Charisma too, is in the eyes of the beholder...perhaps.


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