The street to Camelot – A masterful biography of JFK is a reminder of imperilled beliefs | Books & arts

August 17th 2020

JFK: Coming Age in the American Century, 1917-1956. Author Fredrik Logevall. Stable House; Pages 816; $ 40. Viking; £ 30.

JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY was only 43 years old when he became President-mature compared to Donald Trump, who was 70 when he was first elected, or Joe Biden, who was 77. His supervisors had the power of youth and beauty , but also higher public opinion. JFK believes that fortunate people like him have a responsibility to serve the people and the privileged countries like the United States had a responsibility to serve the world.

Author Fredrik Logevall follows JFK’s life from his birth in 1917 to 1956, when he decided to take over the presidency (the second volume will cover the whole story). It would be great if anything published about his subject, based on years of work in a reserved but happily recorded environment. Sometimes it is read as a book and not history, it is very clear and it is very strange. It also has a similar moment, when America is in prison, its politics are disrupted, its international history is tarnished and its political party, especially on the Republican side, is ridiculed. “JFK” reminds readers of what America already existed — and could be.

Perhaps the biggest problem with writing Jack’s story (as he is known to friends, relatives and the media) is that he is surrounded by myths. The Kennedys and their peers have a major role to play in this: Jack’s father, Joe, looked after him as a hopeful young man and later his scholars, especially Arthur Schlesinger junior, turned history into history. Nature helped: Jack and Jackie Bouvier, who got married in 1953, were a lovely family and the Kennedy family was a beautiful group.

These beliefs led to controversy. Joe Kennedy, the founder of the family business and an American ambassador to Britain in the late 1930s, is often portrayed as a winged monster with his crazy daughter, Rosemary, whom he considered a sexual predator. Jack himself is often portrayed as a missing rich kid who went to politics after begging from his father and treating women like garbage.

Mr Logevall, a professor at Harvard University, is embroiled in controversy over the issue, accusing him of being a traitor. He is not a sugar cane “ambassador”, as the ancient ancestor is called: he was a self-centered man who fought to keep America out of World War II, had a soft spot for Joseph McCarthy and abused women. But he had his own point of view: “say what one would say about Joseph P. Kennedy”, the author wrote, “not every father of millions who is interested in his children, who truly trusts them and, together with his wife, , is spiritually active, from an early age, fully committed to humanitarian work. ”Her unwavering portrait of young JFK portrays her as a complete person, not a hero or a villain — a person cursed for her freedom (especially in the case of women), yet blessed with a keen interest in understanding the world and change.

Jack was far from a car that played on his family’s political ambitions. He struggled to free himself from what his father loved: his first book, “Why England Slept” (1940), was an ideology against Hitler’s influence, and he became a staunch supporter of the international liberation movement. He also abandoned the politics of his family, disguising himself as a shameless, bloodthirsty man instead of complaining in the back of his Irish-American heritage. Another colleague said: “He had a lot of respect for Jack Kennedy, proud of what he did which attracted everyone in Ireland who began to be ashamed of the ideological ideology of Irish politics.”

What was wrong with him?

He was more than just a rich man with a silver spoon in his mouth. Mr Logevall makes no secret of the fact that his father’s money and connections helped: The ambassador played a key role in “Why England Is Sleeping” – an additional comment he wrote. But Jack was also his man. He showed great courage by commanding a boat in the Pacific during the war (although it was his family name that confirmed that his actions were celebrated on the New Yorker pages). He also endured many hardships. Two of her siblings, her older brother Joe junior, and her beloved sister, Kathleen, Kick – died before she was 40. She contracted a mysterious illness, later known as Addison’s disease, which kept her in hospital for months and left her with back pain. approx.

Describing Jack’s childhood, Logevall spoke on the subject of tribalism and culture. The Kennedys had good reason to hate the WASP movement in America. Their parents fled the British-occupied Ireland during the famine and, upon arriving in Boston, met a Brahmin group of powerful and fortunate people. But what the couple did was not to provoke anger but to move forward. First they hit the WASPs for whatever they like, from politics to making money. JFK’s grandfather, PJ Kennedy, transformed himself into a saloon owner and a state senator; The ambassador made a fortune in the WASP country on Wall Street before joining Hollywood.

Then he joined them. Jack attended WASPy boarding school, Choate, and Brahmins’ favorite university, Harvard, and became an accomplished Anglophile while his father became an ambassador. That admiration for Winston Churchill is not surprising; but also worshiped Lord Melbourne, the first Prime Minister of Queen Victoria, for her beauty, inefficiency, resilience and feminine achievement. His sister Kick married a British nobleman. The establishment of the Kennedys at Hyannis Port was very similar to the Bush family on the coast at Kennebunkport, until the time was full of games and preparations. They were rightly called the first Irish Brahmins.

The most important thing he shared with the old WASP seniors was the idea of ​​public service. At first this may have had a vengeance: Joe no doubt liked that he, the son of Ireland, represented the most powerful country in the world at St James’s Court. But for Jack it grew into something bigger and deeper. One of his favorite political issues was a line from Rousseau: “As soon as anyone says about the government, ‘What does it matter to me?’, The government will be reluctant.

His belief that the United States needed to take care of the rest of the world, initially revived by reading Churchill, was strongly influenced by his many travels, including a visit to Germany by Hitler, as well as his experiences in the war. His second book, “Profiles in Courage” (1956), discussed the role of leadership in a democracy, especially how lawmakers should act if their members and their parties are determined to do something extremely stupid. The lines mentioned in his introduction, “Don’t ask what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country”, may seem trivial these days, but he explained the meaning of his political wisdom.

One of America’s biggest experiments in the coming years is whether or not the electorate can get a government job that encouraged JFK. Mr Logevall points out that political activities can take a lot of toll even though the politics have not been so disruptive as well as the media. In particular Jackie distorted the “crazy political movement” and the performance of their husbands. But recent American history is a testament to the consequences of neglecting the political elite for the sake of silence and the great rewards of a business venture, leaving a segment of the population to fend for themselves and theater.

The story was found in a book & art gallery on pages published in the headline “Road to Camelot”

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