POST CAMELOT: The Kennedy Obession

Jack, Jackie and their children became Jet Age popular culture material. This picture features some of this material. Jack-and-Jackie bottle stoppers silver spoons, stick pins, Marx Toys' miniature statues, a Jack Kennedy salt-and-pepper shaker, a Jackie head planter, a "First Family" charm bracelet etc.

The Kennedy Mystique

After Jack's death, America reeled from the shock of an assassinated President. A President who declared that they were on the verge of the New Frontier and who offered to guide them was now dead, shot through the head.

The Kennedy Obsession came into being after Kennedy's death. Everyone was mystified, intrigued, and enchanted by the large, charming, extended,Irish Catholic Family and many wanted to know more about them.

The evocation of Camelot by Jackie Kennedey, seemed to be peferct description gave meaning, at least to the American people, of what had passed. Their hero had fallen. A Hero who championed, service, freedom, democracy, and human rights.

They honored John F. Kennedy in death with the eternal flame and the grandest funeral ever seen for a President. His death became all the more painful to many Americans, when on live television little John F. Kennedy Jr. aged three and therefore barely aware of the full magnitude of the event, stepped forward and saluted his father's casket.

As goes the case of fallen heroes, Kennedy, his words, his images, and even ideas were immortalized after death. No other President, before, since, or during has had as many buildings, monuments, schools, named after him or is the topic of a myriad of films on his family, himself, his wife, or just his assassination.

Some of are more important and illustrious buildings or centers or schools bear his name:

The Post-Camelot obsession and the obsession of a fallen hero was as author John Hellman of the Kennedy Obsession described it, broken down into three principles: the dream of the resurrection, the search for the principle that slew the hero, and a denial that this incarnation of the idea was what it is purported to have been.

The dream of the resurrection of Camelot was seen in John's younger brother, Robert F. Kennedy, when he ran for President in 1968. Or Gary Hart who ran in 1984. And then Bill Clinton who became President in 1992. Youthful, idealistic, attractive, with young families Americans hoped that a return of Camelot would be near.

The search for the principle that slew the hero:seen in an excess of books, films, and documentaries on th assassination of JFK. Many have not been able to accept that JFK was killed by a lone gunman.With the convenient death of his assassin Lee Harvey Oswald at the hands of Jack Ruby, and a later convenient death of Jack Ruby, many questions were left unanswered. And many films and books afterwards were written in an attempt to answer such questions. One such popular film, JFK, which is directed by Oliver Stone, played a popular conspiracy theory of his assassination. The films was so popular that it revived old interest in JFK's death in the early nineties and forced Congress to pass a resolution to release the rest of the Warren Commission papers on JFK's assassination.

The denial of this incarnation of the ideal from what it is purported to have been. With the coming of Vietnam, the assassination of Jack's younger brother, Robert in 1968, and Martin Luther King Jr, Civil Rights Leader, America went into shock which was replaced by suspicion. When the details of Watergate came out in the 1970's with President Nixon, the press became very skeptical of their leaders and began to investigate their Presidents current and past. And here is when the suspicion of Kennedy's idealized Camelot began. And the stories of the many mistresses he had had when he was in the White House began to leak to the public. It marred are ideal of the perfect man and the perfect leader. But many Americans, determined to hold on to what Kennedy represented, did not let it disturb them for long.

No other President before or after John F. Kennedy was to the American people the embodiment of what America was. Never before had so many Americans related to the Jack Kennedy and his family. Many blue-collar and middle class families in America saw and always have enwrapped in the Kennedys the greatness of the American Dream. From poor Irish immigrants and in three generations a rich, extended, large family dominating the White House and the political scene. The Kennedys faith, as Catholics, made them outsiders so it gave them appeal to those nations abroad and those Americans who were Catholic a validation. First, second, and third generation immigrant families of all nationalities relate to the Kennedys. And for Jews, Blacks, Asians, seeing the Kennedys, once in their place as the degraded Irish Catholic, now a powerful family with a son in the White House. It made them feel as if the sky was the limit for them as well.

Today all Americans, whether they be of Irish descendancy or not celebrate St. Patrick's Day in glorious parades, church ceremonies, and classrooms. It is now an American's holiday, not an Irish holiday. To be Irish is to be American, it is so commonplace to be Irish some believe you almost can't be American without a touch of Irish in you.

While in office, Jack rediscovered his Irish roots in going on a trip to Ireland, there he was presented with an engraved silver goblet by the mayor of New Ross.New Ross was the place where his great grandfather Patrick Kennedy last stood before he board the ship to America. The Mayor said to him: "We are proud of the fact that one of our race, you, Mr. President, has been chosen to lead the great American freedom-loving people". Kennedy loved it. "He felt he had come home. All the cares of the world had suddenly gone from his shoulders. The more fuss they made over him, the more he beamed," said Evelyn Lincoln, a White House staffer, who accompanied him on the trip.

Today, many Irish in Ireland still hold the Kennedys as the personification of what Irish in America can be and what to aspire to. In a documentary about the Irish in America, both grandsons of Great Famine Irish immigrants,Joseph Kennedy next to renowned playrwright Eugene O'Neill is credited with representing the ideal for Irish Americans. Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. is credited with pulling the Irish forward, in spite of the odds, to their dreams of wealth and power, in land that particularly said they could not achieve it.

It is indeed a long way from East Boston. From the caricatured "Micks on the Make" who resembled simians, to the full assimilation into American society. The Kennedys, are now considered by America, the most powerful and prestigious political family in the country. They are now Americans. After Jack's assassination, Robert dutifully picked up the flag. When he was assassinated in 1968, Edward Kennedy, the youngest took over. He has served over thirty years in the US Senate, and several of his progeny and that of his siblings Jean, Eunice, Robert, Patricia and Jack now serve in public offices. There is a representative in Rhode Island for Congress and a Lt. Governor in Maryland. Eunice Kennedy, Jack's sister, began the Special Olympics for the mentally disabled. And scholarships are awarded, by the Kennedy clan to those who seek to be in public office achieving the same ideals that JFK did. Many Kennedys have married into other political families and dynasties, as well as royalty.

In short, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr.'s family is what he dreamed it to be one day be all those years ago. The Kennedys outBrahmined the Brahmins, and none of the Brahmins will ever go down in history, as the Kennedys have, as America's Royal Family.


Other Links:

Introduction
The Irish in America: 1840's-1930's|Joseph P. Kennedy|The Kennedys:Making of a Dynasty
John F. Kennedy |Camelot:The Kennedy White House|The Post Camelot Years