Page 20 THE VILLADOM TIMES IV • September 9, 2009 Hickok. It was like a piece of America had died: the piece where people were not afraid to speak their minds. We are not supposed to mention Chappaquiddick because Ted Kennedy is now dead and is supposed to be beyond our criticism. The surest way to protect your reputation in American politics is to die, especially in ways that are violent and melodramatic and plainly wrongful. This was probably established in the American psyche by the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, a clear-cut case of right and wrong. Lincoln was an extremely intelligent, thoroughly decent man who terminated the ugly institution of slavery and kept the Union together, though he sometimes stretched the law to do both. He suspended habeas corpus and kept people in jail based on their non-violent subversive comments: the same sort of thing that put John Adams down as one of the worst and most unpopular of the early presidents. Lincoln covered up for his wife when she mulcted the taxpayers out of some money to redecorate the White House in the middle of a war. He was notorious for not wanting to get involved with the poor people who had watched him grow up, except for his stepmother, whom he treated with genuine affection. He despised his father and arranged to have no time for him. The utterly necessary greatness of ending slavery and saving the Union clearly outweighed the flouting of the Constitution and the petty snobbery by a factor of 10-1, but Abraham Lincoln was not perfect. He was an exceptionally good man with some genuine flaws. The person who killed him was a scoundrel with women and a drunkard, though he was not “crazy” and showed courage in carrying out a political murder ordered by Confederate authorities. Booth shot Lincoln, and Lincoln suddenly became not just great but perfect. This set a precedent. If there was anything good about a temporal authority figure, death projects him or her beyond any possible rebuke. James Garfield, one of the last presidents to be born poor, was murdered so quickly after his inauguration that it is impossible to judge whether he would have been a great president. Garfield’s assassin was crazy, and there is no way such an obvious psychotic would face execution today, but another presidential precedent was established. All people who kill U.S. presidents must be crazy! Booth, despite his hyperactive performances on stage, was not insane, but most people think he was because the next guy to kill a president was as nutty as a fruitcake. It’s reverse projection, sort of like people who see Bismarck and Kaiser Wilhelm II as a couple of soft Hitlers instead of a great European statesman and a mediocre European statesman, both committed to full civil rights for Jews. William McKinley, the last president to serve in the Civil War, was killed by an anarchist who has also been described as crazy. McKinley’s assassination was wrong, but he was murdered by a confused and idealistic young man who was protesting labor conditions in the United States, and American conduct in the Philippines, which was genocidal. Dismissing McKinley’s death as the act of a madman was a good way to look away from firing squads shooting 10-year-olds on Luzon while 10-year-olds in America toiled in badly lit factories or in coal mines for a pittance. McKinley, being dead, was spared the blame that might have come from launching a war we did not need that Americans from William Jennings Bryan to Mark Twain did not want. Some Americans clearly wanted the war. When Japan made noises about oppressed Asians, Teddy Roosevelt scrapped an existing treaty for mutual protection between the United States and Korea and gave the Japanese Korea as a consolation prize. The Japanese were tough on dissident Koreans, but the number of Japanese executions of Koreans was dwarfed by what America did in the Philippines. The ultimate presidential murder was John F. Kennedy’s. The bullets that took Jack’s life also took away, for quite some time, the mention of his extramarital adventures, his bungled handling of PT-109, and his betrayal of Ngo Dinh Diem, which was the real reason America got into Vietnam. Again we have the “crazy” assassin who acted alone and somehow fired a bullet from a junk rifle through JFK twice and Governor Connelly once, only to have it pop up in absolute pristine condition right next to the stretcher. Oswald said he was setup to take the blame off the actual killers. Then he was shot in front of 100 cops in a police station. To put the frosting on the cake, we have a major motion picture implying that JFK was killed by LBJ, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Cuban exiles, and gay people all working together. The real JFK was obviously murdered because he had betrayed the people who helped get him elected by cracking down on them after they helped him edge out Nixon. They took out his brother Bobby for good measure and framed an Arab so the media would grab for it. Now we have the androgynous orgy that broke out with the death of Michael Jackson. The media seized on a replay of Jackson’s career as if he had been a combination of Elvis Presley, Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk, and General George Marshall, with a couple of natural-cause dead presidents thrown in for good measure. He was an entertainer who had a lot of money and gave a lot of it to good causes. Does being dead render you flawless? I suspect it won’t work in my case, so I’ll just keep ducking those bumpers. Byron Hamilton Berwick III was a sad case in coming down on the wrong side of a split decision. His mother and father had split up when Byron was a baby. His father had done well, and Byron’s brother, who stayed with his father, became an ambassador. Byron, who stayed with his mother, lost all his front teeth in fist fights, never saw the inside of a college, and became a short-haul truck driver and weekend biker. He also had a brief stint as a Navy SEAL, and reportedly penetrated Cuba several times without a passport. He washed up due to discipline problems and ended up fostering the bridle paths of Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba “along with six other swabs and a guard with a shotgun and a dog,” as he so aptly put it. “I saw Vietnam before the tourists ruined it,” he added with a note of nostalgia. Byron had his problems with politicians above the local level. His particular bane was the Bergen County Sheriff, though his disdain did not stop him from being a guest at this man’s accommodations on a number of occasions. He was a bad dude. I once saw him throw a half-full beer can at a county car, and hit it. The car just kept moving. Nobody got out to look at the dent. Byron was about my size. While I was in better shape 40 years ago and still somewhat proficient in the martial arts, he could have taken me out with one punch at a moment’s notice. He never did. Instead, he regaled me with his opinions on world events. I will never forget the absolute indignation, the towering outrage that Byron disgorged the night we heard about Chappaquiddick. “He murdered that girl!” Byron shouted, failing his muscular arms with the spider tattoos toward the bare boards of the roof in the garage where the club stored its motorcycles. “He murdered that girl, and you watch, he’s gonna get away with it! If that had been any or us, he’d get the chair!...You watch, he’s gonna hide behind his family’s money and get away with it.” Byron was not around to see the denouement of the Chappaquiddick saga. He was not around to sift the evidence of whether Mary Jo Kopechne, who was in the car with Ted Kennedy when he drove it off a bridge, had died of drowning in a few minutes or suffocation in a few hours, during which time she could have been rescued if Kennedy had made a telephone call from one of the four houses he walked past on his way back to the hotel. He was not around to ponder why an outrageous drunken blunder that caused the death of a woman was penalized less severely than a second offense for speeding when everybody else was speeding but the arrestee was black or Hispanic or Asian. Using what was left of his influence with his brother the ambassador, Byron got himself a job as a forest ranger, where he could spend all day in a fire tower cultivating his racially impartial contempt for humanity while still responsibly supporting his wife. One day, an aneurysm in his brain split open while he was climbing the ladder to the fire tower and he fell about 40 feet onto the rocks, and was killed instantly. He was 28, and it was like losing Wild Bill The importance of death in preserving reputations Emmanuel asks... Can You Help? News from Northern Region of the Emmanuel Cancer services help to families who have a child dealing with cancer. For more information about us, log onto our webFoundation: Our hat’s off to the members of the Glen Rock Women in site at Community Service (WICS) for their recent contribution Lisa’s life changed drastically from being the girl for and for their ongoing support. We thank all the food con- whom everything went right to dealing with challenges tributors who stepped up this summer to help us through and one crushing loss after another. She can remember our slowest time of year. Midland Park High School and thinking or saying, “I’m so lucky.” She was an amazing Wyckoff’s Lincoln School get our belated thanks for their student athlete who excelled in her studies and in basketcontributions given at the end of last school year. ball and soccer. She won many scholarships after receivThe summer was too short and now it is the beginning ing a 1600 on her SATs and accepted a scholarship to a of a new school and college year. Ready or not, here it is! prestigious school. Here she met and eventually married This year, we are asking community organizations such Tom, who was widely considered a wonderful man with a as schools, churches, temples, and places of work to con- promising career ahead of him. Lisa was hired after graduation and her employer paid sider becoming involved at a greater level. If you have not yet lent us a hand, we heartily invite you to make yourself for her graduate studies, which she completed with apparknown to us. ent ease. She was identified as a leader and was on track Involvement can karen/janine 4-29-09 include a variety of activities: busi- for training and advancement. So was Tom, who also had nesses can host a fundraiser such as a Dress-Down Day one success after another. Both of them held one great job EmmanuelHelp2x.75(4-29-09) or a Golf Outing, or might contribute a certain percent of after another and continually advanced. Lisa took time off from work to have two children, Tom profits for one day. Schools can do a food collection, have 3 x .75 a Pajama Day or Hat Day (everyone pays $5 for the privi- Jr., 6, and Alison, 4. It was like living in a dream. Then the rains came. Tom was in a 15-car accident, and lege of wearing PJs or a hat to school), or host an event like a basketball game, a dance, or even a dance-a-thon and the police came to Lisa’s door at 9:30 p.m. with stunning contribute the proceeds. Churches and temples can call us news. He had been killed instantly. Six months later, Lisa began exhibiting symptoms that for a variety of suggestions including making a financial contribution, collecting non-perishable foods, assembling were eventually diagnosed as multiple sclerosis. About birthday bags, and purchasing gift cards. The economy eight months after that Tom Jr. was diagnosed with leuhas been challenging for many of us and we want to turn kemia. Lisa said it has been like being at the wrong end of things around and get in the right direction. We need your the bowling alley, where you’re getting hit repeatedly. help now so we can continue to provide all of the free (continued on page 21)