(NaBloPoMo for Nov. 21)


Once upon a time, the TV show “Happy Days” was the biggest show on the air.  After  several  years on TV, the ratings started to drop, so the writers of the show did what they could to bring back those top ratings – and their answer was to broadcast an episode in which the whole gang goes to Hawaii.  While there,   Fonzie is forced into water-skiing over a jump, crossing a tank holding a shark, doing so in leather jacket and all.  This episode became the definition of the beginning of the end for a TV series, and ‘jumping the shark’ meant you’ve crossed the point at which recovery is – well, highly unlikely.


On that day in November when Lee Harvey Oswald perched himself in the window the Texas Depository Building and assassinated the president of the United States, I have to wonder if he started us in our own “jump the shark’ situation as a country.


Here we are, fifty years later, where so many of us still recall that day.  We wince and cower at the mere thought.  We gasp, we sigh, we still recall the shock and grief of that day.


Since then, it is as if we just haven’t regained our balance in so many ways.  We still have the symptoms of that day affecting us.  JFK is recalled practically every campaign season – we hear the phrase “The Days of Camelot” when we talk about our presidents and how they just haven’t captured what the Kennedys did.  It might be mere nostalgia, but it also might be our own national post-traumatic stress syndrome.  We have healed very slowly from the incident of that sunny afternoon in Dallas.


Within 5 years of the day, the very man Kennedy defeated soundly in the 1960 presidential election was elected president – not so bad in itself, no, but then within 12 years, that same man resigned from the presidency for another affair (Watergate) that caused its own set of emotions in our country.  The handful of summers following that assassination, our country saw and felt the raw pain of race riots.  By the mid 70s, our economy saw double-digit inflation and the rise of terrorism with the hostage situation at the end of the Carter administration.  Viet Nam got out of hand – and we found ourselves in odd military situations from Kosovo to Grenada to the Gulf Wars.  Scandals bubbled up during practically every president’s administration – some more serious than others.  We found ourselves torn apart over issues that infected some of us so much that we saw conspiracy and nastiness in every angle possible.


In July of 1969, we were the proud people who saw us land a vehicle on the face of the moon.  That goal was set up when JFK himself challenged us to get to the moon by the end of the decade he would not see finished.  That event gave us a focus to aim for, and once achieved, to use as a measuring stick of our efforts.  It was a strong sign of what was right with the American way of doing things.  We’ve had our successes over the years, but nothing so galvanizing as the moon program.


So then, did Lee Harvey Oswald bring us over the shark cage?  Did his action signal the beginning of the end of the greatness of the country?   And if so…. Can we recover from that psychological earthquake that we endured that half a century ago?  I sure hope we can, but it has not been easy.  How do you treat that wound?  How do you diagnose and then bring about healing?

Maybe we need to quit picking at the scab – we need to resist the urge to scratch – and that’s what we’re doing when we bicker over every single matter that crosses our range of vision.  We need to allow the hurt, by all means, and we can never forget, but we must also allow ourselves to let the wound close, and get on with being the wonderful country that we can be.