HOW NOT TO HATE AMERICA
The News Changed the Rhythm of Buenos Aires
That was one of the headlines in Clarín, a leading Buenos
Aires daily, on November 23, 1963. The “news” was, of course,
the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Now, in the year 2002, when the United
States of America is almost universally disliked, detested or even hated,
it is very interesting to compare this to the days of Kennedy’s presidency,
when the opposite sentiments prevailed.
Today Clarín began a supplement series: “Great Deeds –
XX Century”, by reproducing the newspaper on the relevant days. They
lead off with November 23, 1963 - “John F. Kennedy – the Magnicide
of the Century”. I was in Buenos Aires on that day, having been recently
sent there by my company, and probably read the newspaper now being reproduced.
Like so many other Americans, I was devastated by the news. What surprised
me, though, was the similar effect it had on almost all the Argentines around
me. But I’ll let the Article speak for itself (my translation):
Minutes before 3 p.m., the city’s rhythm changed abruptly in
an impressive manner. The cables vibrated transmitting a news item that caused,
first, perplexity, then frustration and finally anguish. The feeling about
John Kennedy’s assassination was unanimous and was faithfully reflected
in the center of the city. Multitudes gathered in front of the newspaper offices
to read the latest news posted on the bulletin boards; the newspapers were
all sold out and the principal shops closed after placing black crape and
pictures of the deceased on their doors.
The first news about the attack perpetrated in Dallas was sent over
the local radio stations at 2:45. Immediately the news spread through the
city and the public gathered around newsstands and radios, which transmitted
the successive cables from international news agencies.
At 3:40 there was no longer any doubt. John Kennedy was dead. A state
of stupor extended over the city. At first the public stood in silence, then
sobs were heard and some women began to cry. The were so many people in front
of Clarín on Corrientes Street, that they interrupted traffic.
The anguish was generalized and an attempt was made to find the cause
behind the irreparable. The deceased president’s heroic campaign against
racial intolerance was cited as cause. And an Argentine woman, sobbing, named
Jacqueline Kennedy: “Just as Mrs. Roosevelt, she will be an illustrious
widow. She may not remarry, which is a great pity, because she is very young…and
so pretty”. The public also remembered Kennedy’s two children,
6 and 2 years old.
The residents of Buenos Aires felt their hearts tighten as shadows
descended over the city and a lump in the throat was the symbol of pain for
the dead American patriot.
At the Embassy
Dramatic moments and profound anguish among all the personnel was apparent
yesterday at the United States embassy in this city upon hearing the news
of Kennedy’s death. Said embassy, situated at 663 Sarmiento Street,
received the first notification in Buenos Aires of the tragic event. Minutes
before the news of the attack had arrived, stating that John Kennedy’s
state was critical.
It was 2:45. On the second floor of the embassy, room 225, the Press Chief,
Mr. John Brogan, was surrounded by his technical assistants following letter
by letter what flowed from the modern teletype connected directly to the Department
of State in Washington. Outside the office, the embassy employees, mostly
Argentines, filled the corridors also waiting for further news.
“ARF DALLAS, TEXAS. NOV. 22. MALCOLM KILDUFF, ACTING WHITE HOUSE PRESS
SECRETARY, ISSUED THE FOLLOWING ANNOUNCEMENT: AT 1:35 DALLAS TIME (1935 GMT)
JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY DIED AT APPROXIMATELY 1 P.M. CENTRAL STANDARD TIME
(1900 GMT) HERE IN DALLAS. HE DIED OF A GUNSHOT WOUND IN THE BRAIN.”
It was the first notification for Buenos Aires. Trembling hands tore
off the brief notice. Mr. Brogan, choked with emotion, advanced through the
human corridor, confirming by his look and the expression on his face what
all had feared. As he reached the elevator to bring the message to the ambassador,
the first sobs were heard, which later would multiply in the whole city, in
the whole country, in the world…”
The U.S. consulate in downtown Buenos Aires set up a condolence book just
inside the entrance. The line to sign the book stretched around the whole
block for days after his death. (This isn’t from a newspaper article;
I witnessed it.) Argentines whom I barely knew, travel agents, airline personnel
(I was in that business), sent me letters of condolence, merely because they
knew I was an American. Most of the world loved Jack Kennedy and, through
him and his actions, the country he represented; but there were also those
in his own country who hated him. Many of you who read this were too young
– or weren’t even born -- to have felt the world’s
grief at that man’s death.
The times have changed though, as we well know, and the people who have
held the office of president since Kennedy, culminating in the current holder,
have not only not had his magnetism and charisma, but have acted in a way
that has caused the world to change its opinion of the United States and its
successive governments. It seems obvious, then, that if we don’t wish
to be hated, we must find and elect people who can step into the shoes of
John F. Kennedy and give the world new hope, for that’s what Jack Kennedy
Frank Thomas Smith