Sunday, October 24, 2004

Undecided Voters: When We Dreamed Of Camelot

The Old Revolution

There once was a place called Camelot. It was inhabited by good kings, beautiful and gracious queens, loyal knights in shining armor and, of course, the black knight and a dark prince.

It was meant to be "utopia". Where men were seated equal at the round table. Where good and justice reigned. Where good deeds were rewarded and the bad were expelled. Where men practiced chivalry and gave surcease to the enemy when asked. Compassion for the poor. Mercy for the weak. Freedom was defended at all costs and evil unto men was not tolerated.

There was a time when we dreamed that dream. Here in America. We elected a good man who had a beautiful and gracious wife. Men believed in patriotism, hard work and sacrifice. The civil rights movement was pushing us forwards to equality and justice for all. We created the "Peace Corps" to give aid and comfort to the down trodden of the world. We were a member of the round table called the United Nations. But, of course, the enemies of freedom were not far away. They tested our resolve regularly, but we stood firm on the walls of Camelot and refused them entry.

In 1961, President Kennedy gave his inaugural address:

Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, President Truman, reverend clergy, fellow citizens, we observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom—symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning—signifying renewal, as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago. 1

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe—the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God. 2

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world. 3

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty. 4

This much we pledge—and more. 5


I've placed the entire inaugural speech in the "inner sanctum". Please enter there and be reminded what the dream of Camelot was about.

To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little we can do—for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder. 6

To those new States whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom—and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside. 7

To those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required—not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. 8

To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge—to convert our good words into good deeds—in a new alliance for progress—to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty. But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers. Let all our neighbors know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas. And let every other power know that this Hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house. 9

To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support—to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective—to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak—and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run. 10

Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction. 11

We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed. 12

But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort from our present course—both sides overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind's final war. 13

So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate. 14

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us. 15

Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms—and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations. 16

Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce. 17

Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah—to "undo the heavy burdens ... And to let the oppressed go free." 18

And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved. 19

All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin. 20

In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe. 21

Now the trumpet summons us again—not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are—but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation"—a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself. 22

Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort? 23

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility—I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it—and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. 24

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country. 25

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man. 26

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. 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, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.


Like that long ago dream, the dream of Camelot was ended with the premature death of the president. Ended at the hands of a dark prince. His wife went away into seclusion and the kingdom fell into confusion and chaos.

I placed his entire speech here because I believe that we need to be reminded of Camelot.

What he said so long ago is still true today. He could be talking about today with the only exception being the threat of Communism as no longer the adversary we face, but an enemy of freedom no less.

While he spoke of peace, he understood that it could only be guaranteed by a strong and well armed country. When he spoke of freedom, he was not just talking about here in America alone. He was speaking about the oppressed all over the world. When he warned our adversaries that we would bare any burden or pay any price, he meant that we would use force of arms if necessary. A warning to all that would place themselves against us and stand against freedom.

When he was gone, we learned things that reminded us that he was just a man. With the failings of man, the desires of man, the greatness and yet the shortcomings that are inherent in all men.

But it didn't make his words, his deeds, less important. It did not negate the message that we were to learn.

This same man sent ambassadors to the UN and tried to negotiate with the USSR. Nikita Kruschev banged his shoe on the table in the UN and walked out. The USSR tried to place nuclear weapons on Cuba. And when the time came, this man sent ships to blockade Cuba and brought us to the brink of nuclear war.

For what? You might ask. For an idea that was bigger than that one moment. For an idea that was predicated on our founding fathers' belief that we should never again tolerate oppression, threats against our freedom or against our nation. He stood up to the enemy while many stood in fear and whispered he was endangering the world. They whispered that he was not following his own inaugural address where he talked about negotiating and peace. That he was not living up to the promises of his campaign. But, when you read his entire speech, you understand that he did live up to it's tenets. And he did it, because it was right.

It wasn't long after he passed that Camelot fell into chaos and then revolution. It was not the revolution of peace that he had envisioned:

But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers. Let all our neighbors know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas. And let every other power know that this Hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house. 9


In the 60's we went to Viet Nam. First we sent advisors and then we sent our army. For the purpose of opposing the spread of Communism and protecting freedom. Because we understood when others are not free, we are not free.

And Viet Nam became our own battle with Mordred, who challenged our beliefs, questioned our morality and wondered at our loyalty to Camelot when Camelot was not perfect.

It was a revolution. And they revolted against Camelot.

The revolution insisted that the war in Viet Nam was not necessary. That we should seek peaceful resolution with our greatest adversary. That we could live in peace with any country, regardless of their ideology, regardless of their desires to spread their ideology around the world. The revolution preached tolerance and acceptance of others. Not just on a personal level, but at the international level.

The revolution took their cue from the words of John F. Kennedy, "a peaceful revolution" and determined that they could change the world with words.

I did not live in that revolution, but I was born in it.

The revolution was, at it's core, a grand idea. A change from the warring of our fathers to the belief that we need only hold out our hand in friendship and understanding to mitigate the warmongering. A belief that we could sacrifice some things for the sake of peace. It was peace at any cost.

I believe, looking at the words of President Kennedy, that he understood something that the revolutionaries did not: Peace is desirable, but freedom is more important and it must be protected at any cost.

The revolutionaries thought that they could change the world. In reality, they did not. They only succeeded in changing us.

Some will beg to differ, of course. Didn't they end the Viet Nam war? Didn't they create an atmosphere where inclusive statesmen like President Carter were elected? Where we spent more time negotiating and talking with other countries? Where we found the moral back bone to stop supporting dictator regimes, like the Shah of Iran, and let the people of these countries decide their own course?

As I said, the world did not change, only we here, in the United States did. The world went on as it always did. Creating states, warring countries, revolutions, dictators came and went. You cannot change the world because you cannot change human nature.

In all humanity, there is a capacity for good and a capacity for evil. The ideology of the revolution was that all men, having this capacity, could be changed to work for the good. They believed that we must only understand the point of view of the other man in order to understand their goals and desires and this would better enable us to negotiate and tolerate and avoid war.

In this ideology of the revolution, they viewed the strength of arms represented by the United States as anathema to the peace. They believed that the force projected around the world was the cause of many of these wars and that power should be reduced and withdrawn.

Reading this, it still seems like a beautiful dream.

But, reviewing President Kennedy's words, it was not the dream of Camelot.

In Camelot, the king and the knights of the round table knew best what was in the hearts of men. They well understood the capacity and necessity of good in man, but they also understood that men who were want to do evil could not always be turned away with words and acts of kindness. It is in the hearts of evil men to see that good as weakness and press home the advantage for their own gain. They well understood the dream that was Camelot must also be protected at the point of a spear. That it might be necessary to ride forth and confront the enemies of freedom, justice and peace. They understood that they could not rest in the environs of Camelot while men stood oppressed, whether in close or distant lands.

Camelot was pragmatic in it's understanding, while they dreamed of peace, that it might require war to protect it's existence.

"Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum."


If you want peace, prepare for war.

As I write these words, I feel the conflict inside of me. The one that says "war is not the answer" and the other that says, "freedom must be protected".

It would be so easy for me to abandon my post at the walls of Camelot and retreat back inside. No longer to look at those other lands where men are not free, but to withdraw to the inner sanctum of Camelot and think only of my own peace and safety. Let them exist so long as we are not at war. Peace at any cost.

I feel strongly that I am not the only one that is conflicted about this. But, as I look around, I see that the walls of Camelot have been breached. Two great towers that once stood on the parapets have fallen. In the revolutionary world of peace in Camelot, we ignored the enemies that repeatedly attacked the walls, our emissaries to other lands, our caravans of trade and our citizens in distant lands. We ignored the plight of our fellow men in far off lands because our enemies could not breach our walls and we were safe inside.

It is not hard to find inside of me the yearning to return to that time before our walls were breached. Back to the illusion of peace and security. I want that dream back.

We would like to live as we once lived, but history will not permit it.-John F. Kennedy


But standing here, I can see clearly the breached walls. I can look out beyond the bounds of Camelot and see the other lands that are grey and oppressive. I can see that the enemy knows we are torn about this conflict and prepares to press home the advantage. Because that is the nature of man.

Our allies, once staunch in their own defense of freedom, have now been found to be dealing with the oppressors. To be sure, we in Camelot did the same. We made deals we claimed for self protection, commerce and a general peace. But today we have found that the enemy does not adhere to any treaty. They disregard the peace as a fallacy and believe that the existence of Camelot is a direct threat to their own. Having found that, some in Camelot understood this to mean that we could no longer deal with tyrants and demagogues and called our allied nations to assist us in destroying the enemy, protecting our freedoms and liberating the oppressed from their masters.

Only a few of our allies responded. The rest chose to take their own treaties and peace as more important and decried our call, insisting that the only enemy was in the land of Afghanistan and that we should not commit any war against the others, even if they had allowed our enemies to use their land, obtain money, train their men or send men to the enemy to shore up their numbers. They chose their own peace and commerce over our safety. They have chosen to ignore it at their own peril, for surely, if Camelot falls or is weakened, so too shall they fall.

The freedom of the city is not negotiable. We cannot negotiate with those who say, "What's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable." - John F. Kennedy


And now that the battle has been joined, some inside Camelot see the difficulty of the battle and wish to withdraw. They think that we should emulate our allies and try once again to shore up the treaties, so long as we can have peace.

A house divided against itself, cannot stand. - Abraham Lincoln


This is the old revolutionary guard. The ones that believe that Camelot is not by itself as important as our relationship with our our other allies. The ones that believe peace is more important than freedom. That the security of our nation is dependent on these other allies and cannot stand alone.

A nation which has forgotten the quality of courage which in the past has been brought to public life is not as likely to insist upon or regard that quality in its chosen leaders today - and in fact we have forgotten. - John F. Kennedy


What the old guard has failed to realize, just like in the days of the dream of Camelot, WE are our own security. Only WE can insure our freedom. And it is WE who have insured the security of the rest, not the other way around. And, like the old days of Camelot, WE cannot be safe nor consider ourselves free as long as men in distant and not so distant lands are not free.


We are at a changing time in Camelot. The old revolution is dying. It is time for a new revolution. The revolution that reminds us what was once the calling of Camelot.

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility - I welcome it.


It is time to be reminded that, when our forefathers wrote:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.


They were not speaking of themselves alone. We know this because they addressed the Declaration of Independence to the known world. And we understood, in the old days of Camelot, that we are not safe unless freedom reigns among all men. That we are not free unless all men are free. And we knew that as our calling:

We stand for freedom. That is our conviction for ourselves; that is our only commitment to others. - John F. Kennedy

And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe—the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God (...)

Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world. 3

To those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required—not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.-John F. Kennedy


It is time for a new revolution. No longer should we tolerate the oppressors. No longer should we negotiate from fear. No longer do we stand by and watch our fellow man suffer. No longer to seek peace at the price of our fellow man's misery. No longer should we fear taking action because it might not be viewed favorably by other nations.

A man does what he must - in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures - and that is the basis of all human morality. - John F. Kennedy


Rise up Camelot. It is time for a new revolution.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

"We elected a good man who had a beautiful and gracious wife." "We were a member of the round table called the United Nations. But, of course, the enemies of freedom were not far away. They tested our resolve regularly, but we stood firm on the walls of Camelot and refused them entry."

Well simply put, "NO".

JFK was many things but "a good man" is not a fair description. He was terribly flawed, easily as badly as his opponent in the 1960 election, probably worse. He mishandled the bay of pigs, and probably led the Russians to believe they could get away with missiles in Cuba. He was addicted to prescription drugs. He failed to be honest with the country about serious medical problems that plagued him.

As for the "round table" of the UN, our enemies SAT at that table and today many still do.

The American dream has always been individual liberty and freedom. This dream is expensive and periodically has been paid for in the blood of free men and women. It is not a dream based on a group of betters (Kings, Nobels, and Knights) structuring a fair and beautiful world system for all. It is a dream forged by the common man living free.

At this dangerous time, I suggest that the lesson of Camelot is that we can not afford rose colored glasses. We must acknowledge that the world is a brutal and dangerous place and face the evil that confronts us. We must destroy that evil using whatever means necessary. We must drain the swamps that support evil, and create conditions that allow freedom and democracy to take hold a flourish.

The Kennedy Camelot was a dangerous myth at a dangerous time. Look not to Camelot. Instead look to preserve "the shining city on a hill".

Vadergrrrl said...

Great post.

You write well.

*hugs*

Kat said...

Vadergrrrrl...thank you very much. I'm humbled by your presence..LOL *hugs from here to there*

Anonymous...I agree with parts of your post but want to address a few that you may have mistaken my intent...

"Well simply put, "NO".

JFK was many things but "a good man" is not a fair description. He was terribly flawed, easily as badly as his opponent in the 1960 election, probably worse. He mishandled the bay of pigs, and probably led the Russians to believe they could get away with missiles in Cuba. He was addicted to prescription drugs. He failed to be honest with the country about serious medical problems that plagued him. "

A few on this, I think that I was being a little more circumspect in my commenting, but I do believe that I referenced his "flaws" as inherent to all men as well as other mistakes. While I thin the bay of pigs episode was definitely a mistake, I don't lay the blame for nuclear proliferation attempts by the USSR at his door. That is strictly the fault of the perpetrators. But the bay of pigs I do blame him for not standing resolute there. He should have either not done it at all or gone the whole distance.

If I remember correctly, the folks that advised him to stand down were the same ones who were later scared poopless that he was taking us to nuclear brinkmanship and wanted some major concessions for the USSR to stand down the situation. I think these folks are the fore fathers of the "bloodless revolution" of the late 60's and the anti-cold war folks of the 80's. So, what I blame him for is not standing as strong on the walls of Camelot as he should have.

"As for the "round table" of the UN, our enemies SAT at that table and today many still do. "

Yes, this would be tantamount to Mordred sitting at the round table with the knights. The UN and the round table are a "noble" dream, but it is inherent with the faults of man. Greed, self interest, power, etc. I believe you may have missed some of my irony over the round table of the UN from the dream and what it stands for today. I think this was probably too subtle. Thanks for pointing it out. (I believe if you have to explain someething that you meant, you didn't explain it well. My apologies)

"The American dream has always been individual liberty and freedom. This dream is expensive and periodically has been paid for in the blood of free men and women. It is not a dream based on a group of betters (Kings, Nobels, and Knights) structuring a fair and beautiful world system for all. It is a dream forged by the common man living free."

Again, maybe I was too subtle...the king is elected, therefore is representative of the people. The knights are only meant to be a representation of "loyalty and patriotism" not "noble" as in aristocratic or overlords of the people, but the people as knights who believe in right and good and loyalty. It was a general term.

"At this dangerous time, I suggest that the lesson of Camelot is that we can not afford rose colored glasses. We must acknowledge that the world is a brutal and dangerous place and face the evil that confronts us"

Exactly, which is why I call for Camelot to rise up to a new revolution that doesn't just dwell on the touchy feely "peace, love and tolerance" aspect but is reminded that Camelot must be defended and that the precepts of "camelot" (I use this as a metaphor for the shining city basically): freedom and liberty, are not protected in Camelot as long as others cannot enjoy the same freedom. If other people are not free and those countries surround us, then technically, Camelot is a prison for freedom loving people who cannot go into the greater world and enjoy those same freedom's where ever they go.

Just some additional thoughts on what was intended.

The G-man said...

Well written post. Most intersting I find is how the Democrats have, in 40 short years, gone from "ask not what your country can do for you" to "what has my country done for me lately".

Anonymous said...

Yes I missed your ironies, perhaps I was having a dull day. Sorry ;^) Oh and I agree with the sentiments that you write well, thanks for that too.

I agree with the comment that the democrats have changed greatly in the last 40 (or so) years. In my opinion its tragic because our political system NEEDS two responsible parties right now we have at most one. Whether the democrates from 32-94 or the republicans from 94 - ?? no party can dominate for long periods with out becoming corrupt. We need reasonable choices.

Tom said...

Wow, great post.

I must say I'd have definately voted Democratic until 1964 or 1968. From 1972 onward I cannot imagine voting for the Democrats.

I'd forgotten how powerful John F Kennedy's speeches were. Thank you for posting it. The obvious comment is that he'd be thrown out of the modern Democratic party as a warmonger.

But more deeply, I share your feelings. Although I fancy myself a hard-headed realist, at heart I share your dreams of Camelot. I admit that of the many reasons for invading Iraq, the idea of establishing a democratic beachhead in hostile territory held almost a romantic appeal to me.

So when I heard Kerry et al objecting to spending the $200 bill in Iraq "because we need it at home for schools etc" I want to scream. Not because I don't want to spend money on our schools, but because their argument is so shallow, so short-sighted, so small minded, so.. unvisionary.

Kat said...

Tom...yes, if nothing else, the old timey democrats instilled in me the dream. It is tempered by reality, yet dreams are necessary else we become stagnant.

As for mr. Kerry, as much as he would invoke the name of JFK, he totally missed most of his salient points. Further, he has somehow equated the middle east with the USSR. there is not such thing in the middle east savee for an ideology that is a bizarre mix of fascist religioso. And he fancies himself the great statesman because he negotiated with the VC and Ortega, both instances that turned out rather bad when he was all done which he and his supporters blithely ignore.

He would sell his soul like the worst of whores for his blighted fantasy that would soon see us sold down the river.

And when he was done, we would be at the place that JFK found himself: near to nuclear armeggedon. Or in this case, an endless bloody war that one of the terrorist speakers talked about.

Better that we do something now than to wait 10 years to find that we waited too long.

Tom said...

...and another thing;

Whatever happened to "We do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard." ?

Can one not read that and become inspired?

Yet today's left is filled with gloom and doom. And I don't mean just about Iraq or the War on Terror, but everything. "We'll never make it" "We're all going to die." The environment, economy, civil rights(where it's 1963 forever), you name it.

The uniquely American "can do" spirit seems to be gone from one-half of our politics.