When you're young, you think history is something that's "back then," over and done with. What you begin to appreciate as you get older, is we live history; the past and its consequences are with us now. Many world-changing events, which I have personal memories of, are only vague jumbled notions to my daughters' generation.
For example, the fall of the Iron Curtain, they don't even know what that means. Well, I remember it, and it made quite a clang, I can tell you. I remember Reagan saying, "Mr Khruschev, tear down this wall." And Khruschev, he didn't like that. He pounded his shoe on the table and promised he would bury us, but guess who ended up getting buried? That's right. Kennedy had gone over the year before and said, "Ich ben ein Berliner," basically saying he was a Berliner, but no one back in the US even bothered to check his birth certificate. I mean, the guy had just admitted to being a foreigner for Pete's sake, but in those days they were worried about him being Catholic.
Kennedy ended up getting assassinated, which was a national tragedy, of course, but you have to admit, he was one hard sucker to kill. He'd gone to the grassy knoll to meet Marilyn Monroe; these days any president would smell a trap right away. "Grassy knoll? Nothing doing!" But Kennedy was young and idealistic and shows up. Naturally, just about everyone who could tote a gun was there, too: Sam Giancana, of course, Fidel Castro, John Connolly, Frank Sinatra, Lyndon Johnson, I think even Jackie got in a couple of shots.
People always ask, do you remember where you were when Kennedy was shot? Well, I remember where I was, and if anybody asks, it was not on the grassy knoll. No way was I on the grassy knoll.
Fidel Castro, that was another one. What a kook! Of course, these days he's just an old fart, but in those days he really got around. He was always hijacking planes. He'd be getting on a plane, and the stewardess would say, "You can't get on this plane, Mr. Castro." And Castro, he'd say, "I'm just going to Chicago. I won't hijack this plane, I promise. What would I want with another plane?" And they'd let him on and next thing, guess what? He hijacked it.
And then there was Nixon. What a piece of work Nixon was. He went on TV saying a supporter had given his family an adorable cocker spaniel named Checkers. Real sentimental, you know, hit you right in the soft spot. Interesting fact: people who listened to the speech on the radio, thought Nixon won; people who watched it on TV, thought it was the dog. Anyway, Nixon said, if we didn't vote for Eisenhower, he'd shoot Checkers. Naturally, Eisenhower won in a landslide. In one picture, Truman holds up a newspaper with the headline, "Eisenhower beats Truman." Truman's grinning ear-to-ear because he knew the dog would live. Nixon would do anything to win. He later sent Checkers to Vietnam. Heartless bastard.
Nixon later got his comeuppance, though, when he opened the Watergate and flooded the Tennessee Valley. Americans finally said, "enough is enough." The joke was on us, though, because we couldn't find a new president. We insisted on someone who hadn't taken bribes, or sold influence, or drowned an intern, or rigged an election, or spied on an opponent, or unlawfully abused his power in any way. Turned out, finding an honest politician in DC was like looking for a virgin at a Clemson game. Finally we settled on Gerald Ford who was so honest, he didn't even wear a football helmet. Said it wasn't fair to the other team. Ford ended up pardoning Nixon, so maybe he wasn't so honest after all. People kept trying to shoot Ford, but they were all women, so naturally they missed. They kept saying, "Jerry, why don't you come to the grassy knoll with us?" But Ford said, "Even I'm not dumb enough to fall for that one."
I remember all that.