Future social historians will look back at the 20th and early 21st Centuries and identify three socially transforming events in America: Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy Assassination, and 9/11. The day after Pearl Harbor, Americans realized they were no longer protected by two oceans and the Nation’s collective sense of security was transformed. The day after 9/11, Americans realized they were destined to be involved for the foreseeable future in a new kind of war, not based on territory, but on ideology and hatred for our freedoms, a war without boundaries fought by religious fanatics who had no reservation killing innocents and themselves. Every facet of our everyday lives was changed.
Today we remember the middle event, when 50 years ago, we lost our innocence. The assassination of a young President was itself a thunderous blow, but the aftermath, lingering questions as to the “why” and, still in some people’s minds, the “who,” left American’s confidence in their government and it’s institutions badly shaken. Thus was born the age of protest, and not only of a health skepticism, but an unhealthy cynicism that remains as current as today’s Obamacare headlines.
Oh, yeah, and the music. The top songs for 1962 — Johnny Angel, Roses are Red and Stranger on the Shore — shortly gave way to the Stones, the Doors and the late, darker, Beatles. Rock and Roll had transformed to just, Rock.
People over the age of 60 tell me they can’t remember the grocery list, but they remember in vivid detail what they were doing when the heard Kennedy was shot. I feel the same way about 9/11.