Write Again … And we remember

Published 6:45 pm Friday, November 16, 2018

The newspaper is dated Monday morning, November 25, 1963.

It’s the News & Observer, and cost 10 cents. The Sunday edition sold for 20 cents.

The date referenced tells you that the shock of the assassination of our 46-year-old president is still oppressively present, only three days removed from one of the most tragic events in our country’s history. And, you and I, kind readers, remember it well, don’t we? When and where we were when we heard.

The headline in this edition of that Raleigh paper, in very bold and large typeface, across the entire page, read “Oswald Slain in Dallas.” A subhead, bold and also across the entire page, read “Sorrowful Throngs Honor Kennedy.”

All the stories on the front page were about the two events, naturally.

It was a long, hard, shocking, sorrow-filled weekend for most Americans, and indeed over much of the free world. There was a surreal aspect to it all, and a sense, almost, of disbelief. This couldn’t happen in America. It just couldn’t.

In more recent times, we have become at least a little desensitized to tragedies caused by gun violence or explosive devices. They aren’t all that rare now.

There was an editorial placed on the front page of the paper, written by Jonathan Daniels, whose father was born here.

The editorial was titled “Dallas and the Dream.” Would that I could include it here in its entirety, but space constraints preclude so doing.

The first sentence was “God help America!”

It continued with “In one of its richest cities the President was shot to death.

“Also in poor, damned Dallas the order, justice and civilization over which the President presided was made the target of another assassin. No one should be mistaken about this last dreadful shooting of the suspect while in the hands and under the presumed guard of the police. This last bullet was aimed at orderly justice in the United States. The trigger was pulled to prove that, in the hands of hate of any kind and in any cause, assassination is preferred to civilization under the Constitution of the United States.

“It is an American tragedy to see our land subject to bloody murder by idiots in arms.”

Then near the end the editor says, “Let us not be deluded, however. Dallas holds no monopoly of hate and violence in America. Sometimes, indeed, in recent days hate has seemed endemic in this land. And hate has sometimes been preached most by those who regard themselves as superior in self-certain patriotism. The tighter, harder heart has among some almost been made to seem the symbol of this aspiring, hopeful land.”

This was written 55 years ago. Mr. Daniels concluded this editorial thus:

“The assassin has struck the President.

“The assassin has fired at order and law.

“Hate could kill the dream.”

Here and now, in a different time, let us not let the dream die.

Here and now, let us not be influenced by the darker angels of our nature. Or by those who seek to divide us.

Here and now, let us not turn away from a belief in the brotherhood of man.

Here and now, let us be the very best we can be. E pluribus unum.

“This (to quote the poet) seeker, is the promise of America.”

May it be so.

APROPOS — “With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love …”

John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address