I grew up in the 50s. Some have called it a time of innocence. The war was over. Our returning veterans were able to attend college or university on the GI Bill. Eisenhower was President. He played a lot of golf as I recall, and my dad criticized him for it. (Some things don’t change.) Families were buying homes with white picket fences. Well, maybe they didn’t all have fences. The point is those were the halcyon days.
Nineteen sixty ushered in a new decade fairly quietly but the calm was short-lived. I write this today in order to recall the day I realized for the first time that my safe, secure homeland wasn’t quite what I thought. On November 22, 1963, our young president, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. I remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news. My feelings about my country and the basic good in people were permanently altered. What kind of monster could be capable of shooting our energetic young leader? And why? Some questions have no answers.
Last week a man went to the apartment of three young Muslim students in Chapel Hill, NC, and fatally shot all three of them. Why? Some said it was a hate crime. Aren’t all murders hate crimes? Some said it was over a parking space. Really? The murderer was a self-avowed atheist. Did he hate all religions? Or only the Muslim faith? I’m guessing we will never know the answers to these questions either.
I’m relieved to report that he gave himself up the same day and has remained in custody since.
The night after the slaughter of these students, my granddaughter sent me a text. ” I can’t stop crying and wondering why and how a thing like this is allowed to happen. I don’t understand how this was allowed to happen in my home. It’s the worst thing I have ever experienced.” I tried to console her but I had no answers for her.
I can’t help remembering that I had the same questions all those years ago when our President was shot and killed. The frustration and sadness that H is experiencing in exactly what I dealt with at almost the same age she is. I was a sophomore student, one year older than H, and was attending university in my home town.
My granddaughter H was born and reared in Chapel Hill. She’s a freshman at the university there. It’s the oldest state university in the country. It’s small-town southern America with a great deal more diversity than most towns in the state. It’s the diversity that makes it a very special place.
H’s parents have taught her to have a strong sense of justice and to do what is right. Not just for herself, but for those in her community–all of them. She has marched in the state capital for voter rights and other issues. Whenever she sees someone in need, she chooses to help if she can. Eventually this crime in her home town will strengthen her convictions. But first she has to mourn.