Sun in Dallas: Seeing the Little Moments
There was a light rain that morning. There were a few puddles and slick grass, however the rain halted around 10 am that morning, making way for the sun to pop out over the opaque Dallas, Texas skyline. Most of the puddles disappeared by noon, turning the weather from a dismal showing to a comfortable 67 degrees with a light breeze sweeping across downtown.
The date was November 22nd, 1963. A date that has become synonymous with the phrase “Crime of the Century.” That day, the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, perched up on the sixth floor of the Texas Schoolbook Depository Building on a hill looking down on Elm Street.
Kennedy’s death set off a chain reaction of a few key historical events that probably would have ended quite differently if he had survived.
Civil Rights Movement
With a 58% popularity rating, historians believe if Kennedy had survived the attack, he would have easily beat out his friend and Republican nominee, Barry Goldwater. Kennedy was in Dallas that morning to spur support of southern democrats in Texas with Vice President Lyndon Johnson, a hometown favorite. Although a supporter of the hotly contested Civil Rights Movement, Kennedy was focused on winning the 1964 Election, which put his efforts on desegregation on the back burner. With Congress shooting down his attempts to make any headway on the fight for freedoms for African Americans, Kennedy and Johnson would likely not have passed any Civil Rights bill for a few more years or possibly their second term.
Because of Kennedy’s death and Johnson’s bull-like political style, Johnson was able to ride off the country’s sympathy towards the late President’s legacy and pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, paving the way for the fair treatment of African Americans.
In May of 1961, Kennedy asked Congress for $7 billion to $9 billion in funding with the goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade. This goal was met when NASA’s Apollo program put Neil Armstrong on the moon in June of 1969. Even though his ambitious goal was met under the Nixon Administration, all Apollo missions after Apollo 14 were canceled. Historians believe if Kennedy served two terms, his inspiration and desire for space exploration would have led to a human-led Mars landing by now and quite possibly the sustainability of life on other planets.
A war America likes to forget about is a sentiment that could have been avoided had Kennedy served through the events that led up to America’s eventual heavy involvement in Vietnam. Kennedy, being a much more diplomatic leader than Johnson, is believed to would have taken a more advisorial role rather than sending American troops. With Johnson in the Oval Office, he got approval on the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, giving him the power to set in motion the deployment of over half a million troops resulting in the deaths of over 50,000 Americans.
With the 1960’s being such a transformative time in our nation’s history with racial tension, the boom of technology, and the changing of behaviors and beliefs towards religion and sexuality, JFK was at the pinnacle of America’s genesis towards leading the world in almost every area of life.
No one knows what type of America we could be living in had Oswald not assassinated Kennedy that day but it certainly would be a different shade. Lessons we have learned when it comes to combating the weeds of racism, exploring our universe, and policing the world militarily, would not have been realized had it not been for that November day.
Stephen Edwards Smith, Kennedy’s brother-in-law and campaign manager wanted to make the President as visible and accessible as possible that day to send the message a Harvard graduate from a wealthy Brookline, Massachusetts neighborhood could still be just a face in the crowd with a heart as big as Texas. Against the Secret Services’ concerns, Smith seized on the perfect weather that day and ordered the Lincoln Continental’s convertible top to be pulled down so Dallas could see their fearless leader.
Good and evil came out of the aftermath. However, in the grandiose sweeping changes of history, there are the overlooked tiny bits of life’s totality.
Fragments of science.
All these forces come into play.
Everything is connected.
These are the little moments.
Little moments don’t just happen in the laurels of political and societal history. The little moments happen every day. We won’t necessarily see them right away. Sometimes it takes months, years,or decades even to realize the impact they have on our individual lives. There are microcosmic events happening even as you read this that spin a web of eventual connections.
There is nothing we can do to necessarily control these little moments. They are what make life so exciting and dangerous, yet oddly comforting all at the same time. Seeing the little moments in the aftermath makes us realize we are not in control per se.
Coming to terms with this makes everyday that much more significant. The words we say, the places we go, the people we meet, the decisions we make are all connected in our own history. We can’t map out our lives, but seeing each day as a compounding effect for better or worse should change how we view each day.
If a few rays of sun in Dallas can expedite the civil rights of an entire race yet wipe out over 50,000 soldiers, the little moments in life should never be overlooked. Good or bad.