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JFK Violated the CIA's Civic Religion (BOOK REVIEW)

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(Article changed on December 1, 2013 at 07:28)

Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) November 30, 2013: Media coverage recently reminded us that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963. The conspirators set up Lee Harvey Oswald as the patsy to take the blame for the assassination. Next, they had Jack Ruby kill Oswald to silence him. Most likely the conspirators included certain disgruntled guys in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as well as then-Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson.

In The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War (Times Books/Henry Holt, 2013), Stephen Kinzer shows the extensive experience that the CIA had in instigating destabilization and regime-change efforts abroad. For example, he carefully details their destabilizing efforts in Iran (119-46), Guatemala (147-74), Vietnam (175-215), Indonesia (216-46), the Congo (247-83), and Cuba (284-307).

Foster and Allen Dulles were lawyers, not plutocrats. But they became wealthy by doing legal work for plutocrats. Under President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950s, Foster served as Secretary of State; Allen, as the director of the CIA.

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In effect, Kinzer deepens our understanding of the American civic religion in the 1950s. However, he does not happen to use the term civic religion. Nevertheless, Kinzer in effect explains that the American civic religion was decidedly anti-communist in the 1950s. But President Kennedy violated the American civic religion that had directed the CIA's various destabilization campaigns in different countries in the 1950s.

Now, from colonial times onward, the majority of Americans had been Protestants. In addition, white Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs) had dominated the prestige culture in American culture.

But Senator John A. Kennedy's narrow victory in the 1960 presidential election marked the first time that a Roman Catholic had been elected president of the United States. However, even though he was a Roman Catholic, he had been educated in WASP educational institutions -- most notably Harvard. During the presidential campaign, he sounded like a fervent anti-communist, as did other Democrats and Republicans at the time.

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At that time, the Roman Catholic Church was also officially anti-communist, because the communists were officially anti-religion. In other words, both the Roman Catholic Church and the American civic religion were officially anti-communist.

But that is not all that the American civic religion involved in the 1950s. It also involved a strong belief in American capitalism. Kinzer quotes Foster Dulles as making the following statement: ""For us there are two kinds of people in the world,' Foster once said. "There are those who are Christians and support free enterprise, and there are the others'" (320-21). Us vs. Them. As we will see, fear was the motivating force behind "us." As we will also see, no neutrality was allowed.

But at that time, the Roman Catholic Church did not officially "support free enterprise," as Foster Dulles understood this. Thus there was a difference between the official position of the Roman Catholic Church at that time and the position espoused by Foster Dulles.

Now, in his first papal exhortation, Pope Francis recently criticized capitalism. If Foster Dulles were alive today to read the pope's criticisms of capitalism, he would no doubt declare that the pope is not one of "us" because he does not "support free enterprise," but instead criticizes it.



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   In Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice (Belknap Press/ Harvard University Press, 2013), Martha Nussbaum, who describes herself as an Aristotelian, defends the role and importance of political emotions in general and love in particular. Political emotions help people to come together to form political alliances. In Retrieving Political Emotion: Thumos , Aristotle, and Gender (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000), Barbara Koziak explains the importance of the part of the psyche known in Greek as thumos (or thymos) in motivating people to take political action together.

Now, during the experiment in participatory democracy of male citizens in ancient Athens, Aristotle observed in his treatise on Rhetoric that civic orators made three kinds of appeals to their audiences: (1) logos (reason), (2) pathos (emotion), and (3) ethos (identity, asking their fellow Athenians to identify with them). In our American experiment in representative democracy, candidates for elective office and government officials usually still make these three kinds of appeals to their fellow Americans: (1) logos, (2) pathos, and (3) ethos (identity, asking their fellow Americans to identify with them).

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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