Thursday, January 9, 2014

Kennedy & Nixon 4

On page 120 of Kennedy & Nixon, Chris Matthews states the following:

“One important Democratic figure was still carefully keeping her distance from the popular Kennedy.  Eleanor Roosevelt, along with many of her devotees, continued to dislike him, if for no other reason than the undeniable fact that he was not one of them.  The feeling was mutual.  ‘I always had a feeling that he always regarded them as something apart from his philosophy,’ Charles Bartlett recalled.  ‘I think he regarded the liberals as the sort of people who ran like a pack.’  Benjamin Bradlee, at the time the Newsweek bureau chief in Washington, whom Kennedy had met through Bartlett, agrees with the assessment.  ‘He hated the liberals.’”

Earlier in the book, Matthews states that one reason that Eleanor Roosevelt did not particularly care for John F. Kennedy was that Kennedy liked Joe McCarthy.  It was getting to the point, however, where McCarthy was embarrassing even Kennedy.  That’s an issue more than one person has confronted: You may like or desire to be loyal to a controversial person, but you also want (or even need) to build bridges with people in order to advance or to have a sense of security, and you find that the controversial person (or your association with him or her) is burning whatever bridges you are seeking to build or to maintain.  Some have a strong sense of loyalty and choose to stick with the controversial person, whereas others do not.  And who knows?  Kennedy may have really thought that McCarthy was going too far!

Kennedy tried to appease the liberals, on some level.  Even though he and Nixon were friendly with each other and conversed rather frequently, Kennedy said that he did not know Nixon that well.  Kennedy also said that his own political views were similar to those of Adlai Stevenson, the liberal Democrat who ran for President in 1952 and 1956.  But Kennedy just couldn’t appease certain prominent liberals.  Eleanor Roosevelt tried to stop Kennedy from becoming the 1960 Democratic Presidential candidate.  But, of course, she failed.

I can identify with both Eleanor Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy.  Like Eleanor Roosevelt, I can find myself grading people on whether or not they are truly “one of us.”  Unfortunately, I’ve been this way whatever ideological persuasion I may have happened to hold: right-wing conservatism, evangelicalism, theological and political liberalism, etc.  But, like Kennedy, I’ve found myself unable to fit into certain groups.  I’ve felt as if joining a particular speech community would require me to compromise myself and my desire for an open mind, and so I tend to alienate true believers of various persuasions.  I doubt that this is the only reason for my social difficulties, but I can’t downplay its importance.  People claim that, if one wants friends, one should seek people with similar values or worldview.  But what if I have a hard time building bridges with people on the basis of values or worldview?

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