Jim Douglass: Dorothy Day’s Take on Kennedy’s Character (Part 3)

The most important book for any American to read is JFK and the Unspeakable: Who Killed Him and Why it Matters by James D. Douglass.

Douglass’ investigation into the secret papers finally released during the Clinton era begin to uncover a deadly “family pattern” of behavior in the highest levels of political power. Now, Douglass has written an important article for Tikkun magazine that looks at how the pattern is being repeated again between President Obama, Gen. Petraeus, and Afghanistan.

Below is Part 3: Dorothy Day’s Take on Kennedy’s Character

I am a Catholic Worker. I am deeply skeptical of the power of kings and presidents — all of them. But what I also learned from Dorothy Day, mother of the Catholic Worker movement, was a belief in the goodness of every human being. Dorothy had that belief in John Kennedy. She told me pointedly, after JFK’s death, to study his life.

I didn’t know that she and Kennedy had met. Young Jack Kennedy and his older brother Joe, who would die in World War II, visited the Mott Street Catholic Worker in Manhattan one day in the summer of 1940. Catholic Worker Stanley Vishnewski recalled the incident in an interview with Bill Moyers:

I remember distinctly how bewildered [John Kennedy] was by the sight of the poverty and the misery of the place. And then Dorothy came in. She talked to him. Then Dorothy says, “Come and have supper with us.” And Kennedy looked at her, a little startled, and says, “No, come out and have dinner with us instead.” So Dorothy, and Joe and John Kennedy … we went out to a little restaurant around the corner. We had a wonderful conversation.

They talked long into the night “of war and peace and of man and the state,” as Dorothy wrote in her book, Loaves and Fishes.

Even when Dorothy Day was marching and speaking out decades later against JFK’s Cold War policies, something about him struck the chord of her belief in human goodness. So she said after he was killed: “Pay attention. Learn more about his life.” It took me over thirty years to follow her recommendation. Yes, we can learn more from his life … and his death.–James Douglass, from JFK, Obama, and the Unspeakable

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