Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Momentous Events

When world-changing events happen, most people can remember where they were at the time.

My father woke me one morning in November 1963 to tell me that Jack Kennedy had been assassinated. I was sixteen, and as the oldest was relegated to sleeping on a verandah, as the school residence wasn't large enough for a family of six.

Dad emerged from inside the house with an expression of great distress on his face. He had been transfixed by the notion that a Catholic had been elected President in 1960, and now was devastated by his assassination.

Martin Luther King was shot on my younger brother's birthday, and by some strange twist of destiny, Bobby Kennedy died on my 21st Birthday the same year.

I was dismayed by this, as I'd held out hope that the younger Kennedy would win the Presidency, and withdraw from Vietnam before I was enlisted in the Army. I had been conscripted, and was teaching out my first year (as was the agreement) prior to call up. I believed, rightly or wrongly, that if the Yanks left Vietnam, we would follow. It was particularly ironic from my perspective that this indeed happened, but not before I had spent a year in Vietnam in 1970.

This consciousness that momentous events on the other side of the Pacific have a direct and profound effect on our lives in this country has never left me.

On 11th September 2001 (my youngest daughter's birthday) I watched the twin towers come down, with a deep sense of dread about the impact this would have on politics in this country. Few would argue the events of that day failed to shape the outcome of the next two federal elections.

Yesterday I was driving back from to Toowoomba after work in Roma, Wandoan, and Taroom. It's a long trip, and I tuned into the hourly news broadcasts that brought Obama closer to the Whitehouse as I got steadily closer to home.

The unfolding countryside paralleled my unfolding realization that nothing would ever be the same again. By Wallumbilla the networks were beginning to make cautious predictions, and by Yuleba, there seemed little doubt. I turned the radio off at Miles before pausing to have a coffee, with McCain's graceful concession in my ears.

At home last night, Obama's acceptance speech was riveting. I've emailed copies to my kids urging them to watch it, because the event will have a strong effect on their futures. Maybe they will – maybe not, but I hope someday they will develop an understanding of the broad sweep of history leading to this moment.

Hopefully, they won't have to wait to become old and cranky like their father before they understand.

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