A Little Twitter Joke
On Wednesday, November 16, 2011, Lauren Pierce, the president of the College Republicans at the University of Texas, Austin tweeted a little “joke.”
“Y’all as tempting as it may be, don’t shoot Obama. We need him to go down in history as the WORST president we’ve EVER had!”
I recoiled in horror at her words.
A Terrible Day
This young woman with her Texas y’all and her Texas ha-ha is too young to remember November 1963, and all that led to that terrible day. And, it seems, she is too invested in hating President Obama to even care. If I could, I’d drag her back in time to Dallas, Texas, November 22, 1963.
Lauren could stand next to me and wave as the presidential motorcade makes its way down Main Street toward Dealey Plaza. She could step off the curb onto the face of John Kennedy on a “Wanted for Treason” poster and worry with me that my father might have written it.
She could read the somber reflections and the black-wrapped editorials in the Dallas papers the next day. Lauren could weep with me and my roommate as little John Kennedy honors his father with a final salute.
She could listen to my father, back home in Chicago, remind me that “the Communists killed one of their own.”
Maybe, Just Maybe
Maybe, just maybe, Miss Lauren Pierce would take to heart what the Dallas Morning News said on November 23, 1963: “We join the rest of the nation in expressing heartfelt sympathy and trust that the warped and distorted who become unstable in their opposition (to Kennedy) will retreat into the darkness and not emerge until they regain the light of reasonableness and balance.”
Maybe Lauren would learn something from November 1963 in Dallas and she’d rethink her tweet. And, maybe just maybe, the rest of the red-meat, hate-Obama crowd she leads at UT Austin would learn something, too.
Stop Telling Tall Tales
The day before President Kennedy arrived in Dallas thousands of these handbills labeling Kennedy a traitor appeared in downtown Dallas. At the time, I was a college freshman at the University of Dallas, a small conservative college just outside Dallas.
My father, Stillwell J. Conner, a John Birch Society National Council member and Birch spokesperson, had attacked Kennedy as a Communist for four years. When I saw the poster on the street in Dallas, I worried that my father and his John Birch friends―friends like Fred Koch, General Edwin Walker and Robert Welch—had a hand in it.
Months later, the Warren Commission identified the creator of the poster as Robert Surrey, a right-wing Dallas activist and associate of Major General Edwin Walker, a prominent John Bircher who lived in Dallas. Money to print the flyer moved through the Dallas leadership of the John Birch Society. Despite the connections outlined in the Warren Commission report, my father never acknowledged the existence of the handbill or any Birch connection to it.
When I mentioned it, I was told to “stop telling tall tales.”
About Dallas in the 1960s when it was a hotbed of the John Birch Society and other far-right groups . . .
Here’s a new book by Edward H. Miller, “Nut Country: Right-Wing Dallas and the Birth of the Southern Strategy”
Don’t miss the award-winning “Dallas 1963” by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis
If you want more, there are thousands of articles and books about John Kennedy’s assassination
Adrian Howley says
It seems as if they have fallen into a rabbit- hole and a land of crazy, hate & fear-fueled extremism. I don’t understand how they’ve been allowed to spread their poison so far, for so long.
Amy Koss says
Thanks for this excellent, heartbreaking piece.
John Bevilaqua says
You make some very good points here Claire. And the recently discovered fact that Maj Gen Edwin A. Walker was in fact the grandson of Charles de Ganahl, Fred Koch’s financial patron and lifelong friend lends additional credence to your observations.
Here is the citation from this website: http://www.smokershistory.com/MSKCC.htm
“[Dr. Charles de Ganahl], whose father came to America from the Austrian Tyrolean region, remained loyal to the Confederacy after the Civil War and moved to Mexico for several years.” “The Ganahls can be traced back to the 1300s in Austria. They owned various enterprises, among them, cotton spinning and milling. Of his 10 children, Johann Ulrich Ganahl (1725-1772) had two sons — Johann and Joseph — who rose to prominence. Joseph’s descendants were those who struck out to America. In 1803, Charles Ganahl’s grandfather, Joseph Ganahl Von Zanzenberg (1754-1833), an Austrian doctor of law and town clerk, received his Patent of Nobility from Holy Roman Emperor Francis II for service during the war with Napoleon. In 1816, his son, Johann Joseph, came to Augusta, and then Savannah, Ga. for the Ganahl Mills. He opted to drop the noble title and only use Ganahl, as a sign of his democratic beliefs. He married Charlotte Elizabeth Conn of Augusta, and of their nine children, four lived past childhood — John Henry, Charles, Joseph and Frank.” One of Dr. Charles de Ganahl’s grandsons was right-wing Maj. Gen. Edwin Anderson Walker, whom Lee Harvey Oswald attempted to assassinate. (Life was rarely dull for members of the Ganahl family. By Irene Van Winkle. West Kerr Current, 2006.) And Edwin A. Walker also wrote articles for The American Mercury which was, at that time, published in Wichita, KS the headquarters for Rock Island Oil and Gas the Koch family business. I can only conclude that Walker, Morris and Willoughby of The Birch Society were behind the plot to murder JFK. Did you ever meet Dr. Robert Morris, at one time the President of the University of Dallas, which you actually attended apparently? Morris was The Man of the Year in 1964 for Young Americans for Freedom having received the award from Wm. F. Buckley, Jr. in Dallas that year. Do you have anything in your book about Morris himself or Willoughby?
Claire Conner says
Good to know.
Edwin A. Walker says
Your info is incorrect. Dr. Ganahl’s son, Charles de Ganahl, was the connection with Charles Koch’s father. Gen. Walker was descended from Dr.Ganahl’s daughter so there is no direct lineage. General Walker was not the crazy he is perceived to be. All you have to do is look at his military record and what his soldiers thought of him. We should all be allowed to have our own political and religious beliefs – that’s why we like to call ourselves American.
Gerald Poulin says
Just finished reading “Wrapped in the Flag” On Facebook, I told Frank Bruni, op.ed on the NY Times. that you are a very brave woman.
I’ve been aware of the Koch brothers for several yrs now. They are devils in human form. They hate anyone not of their elk and of course, blacks are to be loathed. I THINK
the real communist is their father who spent time with Joseph Stalin and built up the Communitst oil industry. He really was beholden to the almighty $ as our his decendants today.
My big concern today is the Catholic Church. I think all Bishops involed in the cover up of Pedephiles should be in JAIL. Jesus had his opinion of those who hurt children. Maybe the new Pope will open all the archives and let it fall where it falls. Jerry
PS Walmart clsoed its store in Sherbrooke, QC because they had to have a UNION. More JBSers????
I am not a fan of the koch brothers, but they have done some very good work with their philanthropy. yes, they try to control the political process. but the brothers are different from one another. demonizing people will not further our compassion and evolution. of course, i make exceptions for folks like hitler, pol pot, stalin, etc. i guess we all have our weaknesses.
Judith A Cartisano says
Claire, first of all, thank you for writing your book. I passed it on to my sister and she and I recommend it every chance we get.
When I see Kennedy’s face on this poster, I feel such immense sadness. It takes me back to that feeling of absolute horror I had when the announcement of Kennedy’s assassination was made over our high school loud speakers. I still recall how stunned we were and how deadly silent everything became and I still remember everyone walking out from school in tears. I couldn’t understand the level of hatred a person must have to commit such an atrocious act and I can’t understand it now. I do believe that people who make threats like this against the president should be prosecuted.
Derrick A. Capers MSG(RET.)USA M.Ed says
the author of this tweet,
should be Drawn, Quartered & Arrested!!
Claire Conner says
I appreciate your sentiments, Derrick. But, Lauren really needs to understand how her hateful comments are poisoning the country.
The words “Drawn and Quartered” are inappropriately strong.
They put us at the same level of the haters.. and WOW do they hate! I am fearful that the democrats will become as hateful should our next president be a Republican.
We should be setting an example and this isn’t it.
I agree with you and at the same time i do not. The problem we face as liberals is that we do not get offended as easily, we do not show the same levels of outrage, we try to rise above it and accept it, to show a better example of what you should be. This is what they are counting on. They will not learn from us doing the right thing. They learn from over reaction and as liberals that is something we are loathe to do. So by one token you are right, and yet at the same time you are wrong.
I too recall that day in its every detail! I was 13 and my friend and I watched every detail for the next 3 days! we cried together as we watched. We lived in South Carolina and recoiled at the horrible comments our school mates said. I won’t repeat them, but too many same comments have been made about Obama! I had hoped our country had moved past all the racism, but it looks like its still there in all its nastiness, even more, its immorality!!!
Patty Taylor Dutcher says
When I hear so many anti-President Obama comments these days, I so remember those dreadful days in November when President Kennedy was murdered in Dallas TX. I was a young wife and mother, living in Arizona during that time. We were glued to the television set for four days and nights and couldn’t believe the horror.
Not too many years later, I lived in suburban Minneapolis MN, surrounded by very conservative Republicans who made jokes about the assassination and thought it was very funny that teachers and members of their classrooms cheered when it was announced that our president had been murdered.
All these years later, I listen to the myth and folklore spoken about President Obama and still cannot believe my ears. With Facebook and all the hate radio stations out there, these people have a larger audience than ever. And the fact that these ultra-conservative religious nuts are jumping on the hate bandwagon is even more frightening.
Have we no shame? Have we learned nothing from the events of that dreadful day all these many years ago.
Joyce Hodges says
I remember the hate well. I wrote a newsletter for the Young Democrats of Texas in Amarillo. I received the JBS red envelopes. I was so worried about Kennedy coming to Texas because the hate was so violently expressed. I had a medical appointment and had to go downtown that afternoon. I could barely keep from crying as I walked into the office. One of the fine ladies there said, “Thank God, he’s dead!” I will never forget the hate they had for Kennedy. It’s hard to believe but now some of these same folks claim they always loved Kennedy.
ayn bowron says
ma’am…thank you for this “journey of remembrance”….i was fortunate enough to be raised a bleeding heart….my mother was a second cousin to JFK…so you can guess at the heartbreak in our dallas household that terrible day in 1963…
i can remember every minute of it…and it set the tone for the rest of my life….
i look forward to reading your blog and am grateful for you….and writers like yourself…
onward through the fog, girl…onward through the fog…
JFK’s death traumatized the country, but especially our generation. he was our hope. extinguished forever.
Ann Messick says
Hate and Fear, heartbreaking!
I was at school. The Squawk Box over the teacher’s desk came on, “reports of gunfire in Dallas, a backfire, the President shot. Multiple shots, a BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) maybe. Unconfirmed reports from witnesses that
President Kennedy, the First Lady, and Texas Governor Conn….”ThePresident is dead!” and so it went on. We were dismissed from school. Numb, walking back to our homes.
My mother had heard the reports on the radio and so telephoned my father at work. “Josh, the President has been shot.” “What? Mary you are joking right?” “No. The radio is reporting that the President has been shot.” My mother heard the phone receiver drop to his desk and his work mates and boss ask him, “What’s wrong? Your family?” “No, my wife says the President has just been shot.” “I know your wife, we need to check it out.” said the boss. “Turn on the radio and immediately call and telegraph Chicago as to any emergency orders.”
We were all afraid. We were a Republican family, didn’t particularly like JFK, but couldn’t believe that this was happening, like we were some banana republic. He was our President.
That was the last year of the America I had known.
Sean Pratt says
The sad part is that she probably thinks she is advocating good behavior. I can hear her now “Y’all don’t get it. I said not to shoot him.”
We all say something dumb at one point (or more) in our lives. I too have made a quip or two that I regret because it goes against my nature.
While Bush was in his first term in office I once asked “Where are all of the crazy people who try to kill the president when you need them?”
A few of my friends laughed. A few gasped . One stated that I had committed treason (2003 was a bad time for many of us). But in the sobering light of the next day, when the rum had left my system, I felt remore. Not because Bush was such a great guy or a deserving leader. No, my remorse was the dark humor that expressed that mocked murder, mocked every presidential assassination, every death of any human at the hands of another.
As a “pinko commie liberal” (their words, not mine) I have spent my entire life espousing the very morals that I shattered in one foolish moment. So, to this girl in Texas, I hope your heart and mind find the err in your ways in all parts of your life. I wish this because that is how we grow as individuals.
If I insulted anyone, I do apologize. But it does take real courage to fess up to whatever horremdous or unspeakable acts we commit.
Wow. I can’t tell you how much I admire your frank admission. As much as I detest the uprising of hate and racism we have witnessed in the last seven years, I truly believe it will take humility such as this to make any progress
Gerard Panzica says
I read somewhere, last year, from the group of HISTORIANS that rank the presidents, that President Obama is already in the top 10, considering his healthcare program him saving our economy from collapsing and his ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan!!!
Dawn Anderson says
So strange, that a country founded on goodness, love, and forgiveness, has hated each and every president who stood for all the same, from Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, JFK, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, and now Obama… These men stood for the common, little people, equality amongst the races, and equality amongst the poor, such as education, health, better working environment and wages, better living conditions, and food, etc., etc.. And yet, these men were publicly victimized over and over again by interest groups that discriminate against equality to the masses, not just the “well-deserved” ones, BUT, who does the general populace of foreign countries remember as our greatest presidents? Definitely neither of the Bushes!! No, its the great liberators listed above that the foreign common people hold in esteem, because the factors that matter to them the most, is what mattered to our common people the most, and they watched on with joy and envy as our presidents tried to achieve these high goals… So strange, that a country so well founded and thought out, should somehow, in the early 1800s, get so involved in allowing our “better halves” to dictate how to keep the rich rich and the poor working for them! Equality, religious tolerance, freedom amongst the races, liberalism, feeding the poor and unclothed, suffrage for women’s rights, and now equality and rights for gay and lesbians, transgenders, etc, are all fighting words to the capitalistic barons of yesterday, today and sadly, tomorrow,,, Let us bow our heads in shame tomorrow, for allowing 51 years of political and religious infighting to continue, with no end in sight. May our ancestors frown at the level of technology that we have mightily advanced to, with such sincere lost of our humanities in importance…
Pati Beardsley says
Please do not publish her information. I do NOT want to spend the rest of MY life in prison for killing this wretched person.
Joe Ogorek says
Swap out the name Kennedy for Obama and there’s no difference in what they’re doing this very day.
I remember in April 1960, one preacher spent two hours telling us that if Kennedy got elected the Pope would run our country. Nowadays, I hear my sister in law talking about Hillary in almost the same tone.