52 Pickup

Strange things happen in this world, but you never know what’s pre-planned and what’s the luck of the draw.

52 years ago, the government of Vietnam was overthrown when President Ngo Dinh Diem was deposed in a coup led by his own military leaders. The next day, November 2, Diem was shot dead.

Three weeks later, American President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22. Two days after that, the alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald was shot dead while in official custody.

I was twelve years old at the time.

Strange string of events, it seemed to us. Mystery still surrounds. Some things we’ll never know.

After Kennedy was gone, Lyndon Johnson became President. Johnson was a good man; among many other notable accomplishments, he shepherded the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through Congress, as he knew it had been an important component of his slain predecessor’s would-have-been legacy. Lyndon was very good at getting things done, and so he came through, as Chief Executive instead of President of the Senate, to get that historic legislation manifested as the law of the land.

LBJ was a Texan. He walked tall like a Texan because he was a Texan. Lyndon’s leadership style had originated within his humble beginnings; he was a man who knew the nuts and bolts of what makes America work. He knew how to get things done; was a wheeler dealer politician who pulled himself up by the bootstraps. As fate and his own fortitude would have it, he was in the right place at the right time in 1960 when the Democrats selected him to take the VP slot on Kennedy’s ticket.

And so, three years later on that fateful night of November 22, 1963, while the nation was in shock, he was in the right place at a bad time, to receive, in the whirlwind of a tragedy, the awesome mantle of national–yeah I say unto thee–  even world, leadership.

But  good ole Lyndon was in a very difficult place at that right time. While we were weeping, reeling from the thought of Jackie dressed in pink climbing on the back of that convertible to get away, or to assist the Secret Service guy while she reached over what was left of her husbands head…

while all that was fresh in our minds, this big man Lyndon Baines Johnson took an oath while winging through the atmosphere at 35,000 feet, and the nation heard of it, and he landed a few hours later in Washington. Even before he stepped off that plane Lyndon was in charge.

Like it or not, there he was.

There we were.

And while we loved Lyndon, prayed for him, looked askance at him, we hated, absolutely hated the circumstances that had slammed him into that perilous Office, and had thrusted him into the fragile pinnacle of leading–not just the Senate or the Congress–but the whole damn United States of America in the days to come.

In the days that followed, he proved to be a strong President. I mean, after all, he was a strong man with a forceful, arm-twisting leadership style.

A couple of years passed. In some ways, our nation settled down a bit after the trauma of Kennedy’s assassination; in other ways, we didn’t settle down at all, because a lot of circumstances were raveling at the time. One of them was the war in Vietnam.  By 1965, after consulting, as Kennedy had done before him, multiple voices of military and diplomatic leadership, LBJ decided to escalate the war.

It was no simple situation over there. The South Vietnamese could not stop the onslaught of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese insurgents, and it’s questionable whether they really had the gumption to do it.

The tall Texan was not about to allow to the USA to withdraw from such a thing as that. Many of his advisors, even McNamara, indicated that maybe the whole damn thing was, as Cronkite said, a stalemate. But LBJ plunged us in deeper.

Then in 1968 LBJ, strongman that he was, decided not to run for re-election. He could have, perhaps, devised a plan, before retiring, for this nation to extricate from Vietnam, but he chose not to do so. Not on his watch.

When Nixon got in the White House in 1969, he could have saved us a lot of grief and death if he had wound the war down at that time. Instead, he escalated it with intention of obtaining peace with honor. Another Not on my watch scenario.

He should have just gotten us out of there. A few years later, Nixon was history too;  by ’73 we were officially out of there, and by ’75 we were really out of Vietnam.

Strange string of events, it seemed to us. Mystery still surrounds. Some things we’ll never know.

 

52 pickup; here’s another card I chanced to pick up today:

64 years ago, the King of Jordan, Abdullah I ibn al-Hussein was assassinated while attending prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Not that it means anything here, but this writer was one week old at the time.

King Abdullah had sought to be a peacemaker. He was one of the few Arab leaders who had been willing to negotiate with the Israelis in 1947-48 when Israel was establishing its independence and identity as a nation.

July 20, 1951, a Palestinian named Mustafa Ashi shot Abdullah dead after Friday prayers.  Ten alleged conspirators were later prosecuted in Jordan. According to Wikipedia,  the prosecutor alleged that one conspirator,  Colonel Abdullah el-Tell, ex-Military Governor of Jerusalem, had given instructions “that the killer, made to act alone, be slain at once thereafter to shield the instigators of the crime.”

Strange string of events, it seemed to us. Mystery still surrounds. Some things we’ll never know. Strange things happen in this world, but you never know what’s pre-planned and what’s the (bad) luck of the draw. Makes you wonder what woulda, coulda, shoulda happen.

No point in that, really. Life goes on. It is what it is.

Boomer’s Choice

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