Cultural Revolutions

Two Vastly Different Men

John F. Kennedy, C.S. Lewis: November 1998 mingled recollections of two vastly different men who died the same day of the same year. Pomp and poignance, on the day of the Kennedy funeral, left indelible memories of muffled drums, a young boy's salute to his father's casket, a riderless horse clopping through the streets.

Funeral rites the same week for Lewis were, in contrast, bare and stark. A mere handful in attendance, old friends chiefly; prayers tailored democratically for king or commoner—"in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body . . . "; earth flung without flourish onto a simple casket.

History, since November 22, 1963, has worked its decisive, if leisurely, way with both men's reputations.

The deification of John F. Kennedy commenced at once and enjoyed a prosperous run. Even today, elderly courtiers like Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., remain available for a spontaneous hymn of praise to those theoretically incomparable times, so suffused with idealism and hope. But 35 years later, the Kennedy myth could see a good coat of paint. Charming the president may have been; also profane, satiric, vindictive, reckless. We have been learning as much for about two decades. Judith Campbell Exner and Marilyn Monroe are names as integral to the Kennedy legend as Jackie. Indeed, hardly anyone who spent much time...

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