MURDER COMES TO CAMELOT, AGAIN
OXFORD MAGAZINE [ENGLAND] #331, Hilary Term, 2013
A fleeting memory survives from the murder of President Kennedy in 1963. That event is matched or surpassed by only two others in American history: the murder of President Lincoln and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I can recall the night after the murder: all the pop-music and talk-radio stations in Boston were blaring somber classical music selections. I especially recall the broadcast of the Second Symphony of Sibelius, and I could hear other students weeping in the hall. Yet the murder of President Kennedy may have had results, immediately, out of proportion to the American past. It is hardly remembered now but within days of November 22, 1963–and surely before the Christmas shopping season–gone from the shelves, aisles, and “departments” of a major retailer, such as K-Mart, were guns.
It was only during the years of Presidents Nixon and Reagan that the incessant pounding of the gun lobby brought guns back to their present front-and-center locations in American stores and the American consciousness.
But will today’s horror in Newtown, Connecticut put America once more on the highway of sanity again? There are possibilities. And most especially do they arise from the location, geographically and historically, of the event: Fairfield County, Connecticut.
It is here, in a pastoral and elegant setting, that the fantasy of the Kennedy family, its personality, its happiness, and its grandeur is lavishly situated. Here, indeed, if America has established a nobility of its own, it owes its origins to Fairfield County. And it is nobility constructed not with old wood and bricks but with the new airy elegance of worldly educations, prestigious leadership positions at the head of international entities, and towering intellects and creative minds. Here, in short, is where the greats have come for solitude and splendor after full and recognized lives of accomplishment. For a hundred years, from Mark Twain to Arthur Miller, it was to the relaxed and secluded hills and pathways of this area in Connecticut that the eyes of the most successful figures in American life turned.
And the heritage and color of this gorgeous corner of America goes back even to the years of the America Revolution. For years after the surrender, General Sir Henry Clinton was filing suits in America courts trying to reclaim land north of New York City–along the Hudson River–and in Connecticut where he foresaw great possibilities for himself and for numerous children from the two families that he fathered.
Joining Clinton’s perspectives on wealth and an elegant life have been not only the lyrically-minded in America who are looking for freedom for the soul but also captains of industry and finance who have been searching for redoubts to secure their riches from taxes. And here is where the enormous tension now exists–for them. That is, so much of the noise and money of the right-wing in America has come out of the coffers of the super-rich who have nestled among the literati, the horse farms, and the hills of Connecticut. The grand bamboozlement by the “Tea Party” (“Guns are why we’re free in this country” “Guns don’t kill, people kill” “Teach your children to hunt, then you won’t have to hunt for your children”) especially owes its underpinnings to these same “refugees.”
But now the hot air of the Second Amendment of the Constitution’s protection of “gun rights” is no longer so elevated in far-off places like California, Arizona, or Virginia. And no matter how high the gates in their “communities” what will stop murderers from entering the hundreds of notable public and private prep schools of New England where their very own children and grandchildren this time are sitting helplessly? In sum, will today’s assault on THIS Camelot establish meaningful change or the long-lasting grief of the Second Symphony of Sibelius?