Tuesday, January 23, 2001
: . I’ve never really given much thought to the memorable line “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” from JFK's inaugural address. But when I read the full text of the speech, I marveled at all the insidious coded messages it harbored, poised to zap the minds of squeaky-clean, peachy-keen Americans under the cloak of eloquent prose. JFK never forgot the wider context in which his speech was to be given: the Cold War, the Arms Race, the global fear of Nuclear Annihilation, and the Decolonization in the Third World. So while JFK’s speech has often been characterized as a call to public service it was also an exhortation to toe the official American party line or else. JFK’s America, unlike Dubya’s “halting,” “flawed,” and “fallible” nation, is an America tasked with “God’s work” and whose ideals have been molded by God’s impeccably clean hands. The rightness of JFK’s divine America is therefore beyond question. And, since God made Man, then America’s take on Man’s rights and Man’s liberties should be adopted by all the world’s peoples. Woe to the “new States” and the “peoples in the huts and villages across the globe” and the “sister republics south of the border” if they dare challenge America’s ideals: the choice can only be America or the Devil, American-style Democracy or the threat of “iron tyranny” and predatory “hostile powers.” Woe also to the poor American who dare question his loyalty for "the graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe" and how can anyone dishonor the dead? In this light how different was JFK's political maneuvers from that of his personal nemesis (and his family's close friend) J. Edgar Hoover?
Here’s some more choice nuggets from JFK’s speech:
“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”
“Only when our arms are sufficient beyond a doubt can we be certain beyond a doubt that they will never be employed.”
How does Dubya's inaugural address compare?