The guy I feel bad for is William Henry Harrison, who caught a cold three weeks after his inauguration; he wound up with pneumonia, which killed him on the 31st day of his term. Everyone, of course, explained that it was because he gave the most godawful long inaugural address on a raw March day without benefit of overcoat. But that’s what everyone does: coughs up an opinion.
This week, we’re getting all manner of JFK-related, um, nostalgia, and frankly we should knock it the hell off, or at least back off from the crushing volume of drama:
Once again, we’re told that it was the worst, the most terrible thing that ever happened to a U. S. President, in all of history —
And that, as H. L. Mencken might’ve said, is utter buncombe. While no President — or any other law-abiding citizen — deserves to be shot down, especially as long as there’s an independent press and the process of impeachment available, it’s an amazing coincidence that the only one they’ve got on film and tape is somehow the very worst.
The press isn’t as independent as it used to be, or for that matter as it thinks itself to be, but that’s not what’s at issue:
Consider Lincoln, who was assassinated in the actual (defective) course of an actual conspiracy, for which eight people were eventually convicted and four were hanged. Consider James A. Garfield, suffering though eleven weeks of increasingly dire infection before dying in agony, or William McKinley, lingering for days before succumbing to gangrene. If there’s a scale of terribleness, someone else is going to have to rank these untimely deaths — but not on the basis of which one offers the most compelling video.
Yeah, but this society has declared itself proudly ahistorical: unpleasant details are left out of the textbooks, and we’re awash in wannabe revisionists with political axes to grind. I can think of no better way to honor Mr Kennedy’s memory — or, for that matter, mine, once the time comes — than to hang the lot of them.