One of the recurring themes of this global communications colossus is my dearly held opinion that we humans, by and large, are full of shit.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m as full of shit as anyone else. With exceptions, of course. There are, after all, people whose full-of-shitness borders on the awe-inspiring. Need I mention, for instance, a certain former Commander-in-Chief?
Speaking of former C-in-Cs, I was thumbing through a biography of John F. Kennedy the other AM. It’s called JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century and it’s the first of a two volume set. The second hasn’t been released yet. Interestingly, the author, a fellow named Fredrik Logevall, in his introduction, claims that despite the fact that the 35th President of the United States has been analyzed and gossiped about as much as any other Oval Officer, there really haven’t been any in-depth, comprehensive biographies penned about him. Logevall, ergo, decided to be the guy to right that perceived wrong.
Now then, as for we humans who are so naturally full of shit. Logevall revealed a startling factoid in his intro to JFK. In his words:
By the middle of 1963, close to 60 percent of Americans claimed that they had voted for Kennedy in 1960, although only 49.7 percent had actually done so. After his death, his landslide grew to 65 percent.
Kennedy’s oft-disputed victory over Richard M. Nixon in the ’60 presidential election was one of the very tightest presidential contests in our holy land’s history. Acc’d’g to Britannica, a scant 120,000 votes separated the two after all the ballot boxes, stuffed or not, had been emptied. That’s out of a total of 68.8 million votes cast that autumn. As I scroll down the list of tight races throughout our glorious history, Kennedy’s squeaker over Nixon appears to be the closest of all, in relative terms.
For our purposes here, it doesn’t matter if Kennedy won by 120 thou or 120 mill. The thing is, as his presidency progressed, the populace became more and more enamored of him to the point when pollsters rang up people to ask who they’d voted for in ’60, thousands of them flat out lied and said they did.
Perhaps they answered in a more creative, imaginative way than the act of simply telling the truth would have demanded. Perhaps they reasoned, Hey, I like the guy. He forced those dirty Russkies to back down over Cuber*. So if I got a second crack at it, I woulda voted for him. That counts, right?
( * Sorry, occasionally I lapse into JFK’s Boston accent when I think about him.)
No, it doesn’t count. The pollsters asked, Who did you vote for in 1960? And after Kennedy was snuffed at Dealey Plaza, an overwhelming majority of Americans either tried to convince the pollsters they’d voted for him or had somehow convinced themselves they had.
Either way, they were full of shit.
Like I said.
Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t. Lying is in our nation’s DNA. To be sure, the Germans, the Botswanans, the Laotians, the Micronesians, and the habitués of every other land on this globe regularly lie and/or are willingly lied to. But we raise the sin to an art form.
Only the United States, in its Declaration of Independence, proclaimed All Men Are Created Equal, the words written and ratified by a bunch of men who owned human beings.
Imagine if there’d been social media back in 1776. Thomas Jefferson and the Committee of Five would have been laughed off the internet.
Then again, knowing Americans as I do, countless 18th century netizens would have said, C’mon, man! They mean one day. Y’know, in the future. (And not the too-near future, BTW; we don’t wanna rock the boat too much!) Or others’d chime in, Nuh-uh! They don’t own slaves. Those Africans wanted to be kidnapped, chained, whipped, and stripped of their rights and dignity. Working the fields for the Founding Fathers would look great on their resumes!
Thomas Jefferson, et al, were full of shit. Even if their aspiration for a limited egalitarianism was novel and forward-thinking some 250 years ago. And it was.