Omygosh! It's the 22nd. I was in class this day 48 years ago. The announcement came over the PA system. Principal Kizer announced that President Kennedy had been shot. The next moment, I regretfully report, the air was filled with the shout of HOORAY!
I know that is shocking. It is something of which I am utterly ashamed. The ignorance of this southern boy was astounding. Did I rejoice at the killing of the leader of the free world, our president? I did. I was deeply ingrained with the southern milieu of the time. Was I a bigot? Absolutely. Was my speech sprinkled liberally with epithets of the white southern boy? Completely. Was I capable of original thinking? I am afraid not.
Were all southerners rednecks, you ask. I don't really know. I don't think so. A couple of my friends seemed to reflect thoughts outside the Mason-Dixon box. I looked at them with confusion. I accepted the general air of our time without question. My Southern heritage was seated deeply within. Our history classes in high school ended at the Civil War. We never even covered Reconstruction much less WWI and WWII. And Viet Nam? It never entered our vocabulary.
Even at the College of Charleston my Freshman year we attended mandatory chapel services at which we turned facing the South to repeat the Lord's Prayer. So you see we were an isolated group of youngsters who never questioned where we came from or where we were going. My mind was enclosed with a fence of knowledge memorized and accepted without thought.
A lot of time has passed since that day so long ago. Sometimes I wonder if I've learned anything. Perhaps. Since remorse fills my heart when I look back at that day, perhaps. I've been married and had children who have grown into a world liberated from the stigma of prejudice. Their ideas are more open to the changes rapidly occurring in the world. There are no chains to the past holding them back. For me, and my generation, those ideas entrenched in our psyches still linger as shadows in our thoughts. They come and I have to reject them with a tiny bit of thought. The fact that their ghost still lingers is something I have to deal with, my children don't. It is gratifying to see that. My children will never know the spirit of the old ways playing with their minds. They still tug at my sleeve on occasion.
They call it the New South. The Old South still faintly rules this old codger but it is no longer the deeply embedded Zeitgeist of long ago when I stood and yelled Hooray!
Today I yell Hooray for the new generation taking charge in this time of change.