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JFK Assassination and the Death of CIR: Is There a Connection? By Roger Algase

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Fifty years ago this past Friday, on the morning of Friday, November 22, 1963, I was working for a small civil rights law firm in lower Manhattan near where the World Trade Center would be built a few years later. I had just graduated from Harvard Law School the year before.

Three years earlier, in November 1960, I had voted for John F. Kennedy in my first presidential election, when he squeaked out a narrow (and by some, still disputed) victory over Richard Nixon, and I had also watched Kennedy speak in person at Harvard college while I was a student there, when Kennedy was a Senator from Massachusetts.

I remember the shock and incredible disbelief all of us in the office felt when we heard the news that President Kennedy had been shot and was in or on his way to the hospital as if it were yesterday.

I even remember a suggestion, which I cannot repeat here, which was made by one of the lawyers in the office as to what should be done with the gunman once he was found. (No one was yet thinking that there might have been more than one shooter.)

An hour or two later (as I remember it) as we were all waiting for more radio news - no internet or text messaging existed in those days - the phone rang and one of the partners, Clarence B. Jones, who was a close advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., picked it up. It was from one of Dr. King's associates.

A minute later, Clarence Jones put down the phone and said: "Kennedy is dead."

A half century later, as the world still mourns President John F. Kennedy and wonders what the world would have been like if he had not been killed, there are two elements in American society that have not changed very much since that day in Dallas in 1963, and which are still poisoning our political system now.

These are pervasive racism and extreme right wing hate. Even if they had nothing directly to do with Kennedy's death, and I will assume that they did not, since this is an immigration law blog, not a conspiracy theory one, it has never been any secret that they were in the atmosphere surrounding Kennedy in Dallas that day. They are also obstructing immigration reform now.

Yes, on the surface, some things have changed in the past fifty years. In 1963, racial segregation was still very much in force in the Southern states, and even in Washington DC (where I had been thrown out of a restaurant myself after entering together with an African-American friend only a couple of years before - or was it Baltimore? I am not sure).

And the overtly racist Immigration Act of 1924 was still the law of the land (to be overturned two years after, in 1965, with the help of JFK's younger brother, Senator Edward Kennedy, who was still fighting for immigration reform up until his death in 2009).

But the same hatred of minorities and the same far right wing madness that greeted JFK in Dallas on November 22, 1963, and were arguably among the reasons for his trip there, if not the main reasons for his visit, are still active now.

Of all the columns that have been written about the 50th anniversary of the assassination, there is one which stands out. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand Kennedy's time, and ours. It is especially important as background for anyone who wants to understand why we do not yet have comprehensive immigration reform.

This article, by Bill Minutaglio, a University of Texas Journalism professor, appeared in the Washington Post on November 21. It is called: Essay: Tea Party has roots in the Dallas of 1963.

www.washingtonpost.com/national/tea-party-has-roots-in-the-dallas-of-1963/2013/11/20/9cb59b4c-3cf4-11e3-b6a9-da62c264f40e_print.html

The article begins:

"The president is a socialist. He is neutering the United States on the World Stage. He is spending us into bankruptcy. He is hellbent on expanding national health care, which will surely lead to government death panels.

He is advancing big government agendas everywhere from Main Street to Wall Street. And do we really know the truth about his personal history and religion?

Perhaps the man in the Oval Office should be impeached - even tried for treason.

If today's extremist rhetoric sounds familiar, that's because it is eerily, poignantly similar to the vitriol aimed squarely at John F. Kennedy during his presidency...

To find the very roots of the Tea Party of 2013, just go back to downtown Dallas in 1963, back to the months and weeks leading to the Kennedy assassination. It was where and when a deeply angry political polarization, driven by a band of zealots, burst wide open in America."

The article also quotes Kennedy as saying to Jackie as they approached Dallas that morning that they were "heading into nut country today."

Just as the Tea Party has the Koch brothers today, the far right in JFK's time had oil billionaire H. L. Hunt. Just as Barack Obama, America's first black president, is hated by the far right for the color of his skin, Kennedy, America's fist Catholic president, was attacked for his religion.

Minutaglio also mentions that Dallas was the home of right wing general Edwin A. Walker, who had morphed from heroically leading federal troops to escort African-American students to a Little Rock high school, into an ultra-right wing segregationist bigot, resulting in his dismissal by the Kennedy administration.

Minutaglio also writes:

"The ad hominem attacks against a 'socialist president'. The howling broadcasters. The mega-rich men from Texas funding the political action campaigns. There is even another charismatic, Ivy-educated ideologue: Sen. Ted Cruz would have been quite comfortable in Dallas in 1963." (Emphasis added.)

Certainly, immigration reform was not a big issue during JFK's presidency, just as Barack Obama (who like Kennedy, turned out to be more conservative than many of the people who initially voted for him expected) stayed away from reform during his first term.

It was left to Kennedy's successor, Lyndon Johnson, who began his political career as a typical Texas Southern Democratic segregationist, to sign the sweeping immigration reform law of 1965 along with other landmark civil rights laws which he did so much to push through. Some political analysts are not even sure whether Kennedy would have been as active as Johnson on the civil rights front if Kennedy had lived.

But there can be no doubt that racism was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, issue that was tearing America apart in 1963 (which was also the year of Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington to seek equality and justice for everyone, regardless of race or skin color).

Minutaglio has more to say about the atmosphere of right wing hate in Dallas leading up to Kennedy's assassination:

"In the days leading up to Kennedy's fateful hour in Dallas, the city experienced one dark moment after another. Swastikas were plastered on the high-end emporium Nieman Marcus. A bomb threat was made during a visit by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. A cross was burned on the lawn of a Holocaust survivor. UN Ambassador Adlai E. Stevenson II, in town for a speech, fled for his life after being surrounded by a spitting mob."

The howls of racist anger on the right against America's brown immigrants now are just as strident, and no less vicious today than were the cries of "Segregation Now! Segregation Forever!" fifty years ago.

The vile racial slurs aimed against not only immigrants, but all Latinos, by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) in 2013 are no less expressions of hate than the anti-black, anti-Semitic ravings of the right wing bigots and race-baiters in Dallas in 1963.

If anything, with the rise of the Tea Party, racism and hate are even more dangerous now than they were 50 years ago. Then, they were entrenched in Dallas. Today, they have taken over one of the two Houses of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington.

To give another example of the open and pervasive racism behind today's anti-immigrant movement, James Towe writes the following about Latino immigration in his far right political blog solicitus.us:

"There is an invasion of sorts and its becoming loud and confrontational Supporting 'immigration reform' as it's currently structured may be a death knell for the America we know and love."

This statement comes from his article The Price of Untethered Immigration, published in October, 2013. While the chief targets of bigotry may have been different then, the same spirit of hate, which is the principal barrier to immigration reform now, is no different from the one which prevailed in Dallas, and many other parts of America, on the day when President John F. Kennedy was killed.







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Updated 11-23-2013 at 07:18 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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