Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Assassinations and Results

This is an interesting article asking if anything positive ever comes from assassinations. The author isn't condoning any assassination, but it is an interesting thought. When someone is assassinated, they come icons and martyrs...maybe they would have done all we hoped had they lived, but since we don't know, we always dream they would have...even if reality tells us, they probably wouldn't have:
Assassinations freeze moments – and leaders – in historical time, then frequently place the martyred leader on the national, and even international pantheon of immortals.Often, naturally, justifiably, we mourn the lost potential, we contemplate all the good the lost leader could have accomplished. We imagine Abraham Lincoln engineering a just post-Civil War Reconstruction that rehabilitated Southerners and welcomed blacks as citizens – in contrast to the hamhanded Andrew Johnson’s failures. We envisage John Kennedy managing the civil rights movement, avoiding the Vietnam War mess, and preventing any serious Sixties youth rebellion, which his successor Lyndon Johnson could not do. And we dream of the kind of warm peace Anwar Sadat would have brought to the Middle East, indulging in the fantasy that he could have moderated other leaders, including the incorrigible Yasir Arafat.

The truth is, as flesh-and-blood politicos become legendary icons they often become more powerful symbols dead than they would have been had they remained alive. John Kennedy was on track to be a rather mediocre president when Lee Harvey Oswald’s bullet cut him down. And while Martin Luther King, Jr., had already proved his greatness before being murdered at the tender age of thirty-nine, he died just as the civil rights movement was hitting a particular rocky patch. King’s death in 1968 froze him as the sainted slayer of Southern segregation but insulated him from the ensuing decades’ fights over busing, affirmative action, African-American crime, and how to balance personal prerogative and the need to integrate.

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