In 1985, Biafra was singled out by Tipper Gore's Parents Music Resource Center for including a copy of artist
H.R. Giger's work, in poster form, with the Dead Kennedys' album Frankenchrist. The images weren't nice and
led to police raiding Biafra's home and Alternative Tentacles' offices. Biafra was charged with disseminating obscene
material. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawyers' fees later, the case was dismissed after a jury deadlocked.
Jello Biafra is still around. He lives in San Francisco; in fact, he made a half-hearted attempt to run for
mayor in 1979. I believe he ran on a platform requiring businessmen to wear clown suits, among other things -
and that only resulted in a law forbidding people to run under anything but their Christian names. He now fronts a group
called Lard. Oh, and his real name is Eric Reed Boucher.
All this coverage of the anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy got me thinking about that first band.
I wonder what Jello/Eric makes of this all.
I found all the retrospectives disheartening. Maybe that's the wrong word.
Forty years ago this weekend, November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated. How can one not remember
that, given the "specials" on all the news channels, on the History Channel, and on all the "talking head" shows
on television - not to mention what you hear on the radio?
Forty years ago on the same day, November 22, 1963, the British
writer Aldous Huxley, who wrote Brave New World, died out here in Los Angeles.
Forty years ago on the same day, November 22, 1963, C. S. Lewis
died at his home in Oxford.
As for Lewis, I recent read through the "Peralandra Trilogy" again -
an odd mixture of science fiction, conservative Christian theology and a few references to Tolkien and the Middle-Earth.
A science fiction thriller with a philologist as the mythic "fisher-king" hero, but a Christian warrior? It's good,
in spite of my summary.
I guess this is the anniversary of one of those days when things
Now we actually have our "Brave New World," pretty much as Huxley
And Christianity has turned sour and combative - with evangelical
"end timers" calling for holy war to bring on Armageddon and The Rapture for which they so long.
And a charismatic opportunist from a family of opportunists, who
surprisingly did some good and made it so many other people did the right thing and thought about our community here, was
taken out forty years ago this weekend, followed a few years later by Martin and then Bobby.
Change the world for the better? That got harder over these
long years since.
Of course there's always another side to things.
In the Wall Street Journal this weekend Christopher Hitchens
takes the opposite view of the late president.
Heres his main point:
The Kennedy interlude was a flight from responsibility, and ought
to be openly criticized and exorcised rather than be left to die the death that sentimentality brings upon itself.
Of those who thought Kennedy was such hot stuff:
The biographers and archivists have done most of the relevant job
of reporting and disclosing, and what they have reported and disclosed is a president frantically "high" on pills of all kinds
(that's when he was not alarmingly "low" for the same reason), a president quick on the draw and willing to solicit Mafia
hit men for his foreign policy, a president willing to risk nuclear war to save his own face; a president who bugged his own
Oval Office, a president who used the executive mansion as a bordello, and a president whose name we might never have learned
if not for the fanatical determination of his father to purchase him a political career. If a tithe of these things
were really true of George W. Bush, Howard Dean might claim he was on to something. As it is, "the mantle of JFK" is
a garment that no serious Democrat can apparently afford to discard. The last time it was plucked from the wardrobe
of central casting, it made Bill Clinton look - at least to the credulous - like a potential statesman. Which turned out to
be about right.
On Kennedy's legacy:
Having tried assassination and "deniable" invasion in Cuba, and
having helped provoke a missile crisis on which he gambled all of us, he meekly acceded to the removal of American missiles
from Turkey and to a pledge that Fidel Castro's regime would be considered permanent. He and his brother did not completely
hold to the terms of the latter agreement, it is true, but as a result the United States became indelibly associated with
mob tactics in the Caribbean, and Castro became in effect the president for life. In this sense, we may say that the
legacy of JFK is with us still.
Well, perhaps all the "specials' on the assassination this weekend
do give rise to maudlin sentimentality. Perhaps Kennedy wasn't that good a president.
But we were that good, from the bleeding
hearts that joined the newly formed Peace Corps back then and fanned out across the world to make things a little better,
to the tens of thousands of geeks and nerds who actually met the new challenge to put a man on the moon by the end of the
decade and bring him back safely.
Kennedy may have not done a great job, but somehow we felt we could
do great jobs. Perhaps the only legacy is optimism.
And assassination after assassination hammered away at that optimism.
Now optimism takes really hard work.