The Bonnevilles play some mean slide guitar in this punk-blues lament for JFK. The track concludes with a recording of Kennedy's closing remarks from "The President and the Press," his address to the American Newspaper Publishers Association on April 27, 1961. In this speech JFK eloquently expressed how technology has the potential to destroy us, but, as with the printing press, can also give us the means to achieve universal freedom and independence. Kennedy promised greater transparency in his administration, then only three months old, but he also called on the press to better inform and educate the public about events in a rapidly changing world.
Beyond promising greater cooperation with the press, Kennedy also addressed a deeper issue in this speech. He called into question the tactics being used by the United States in waging the Cold War--tactics that threatened the civil liberties of American citizens and compromised the democratic principles the nation was founded upon. Asserting that secrecy was "repugnant in a free and open society," Kennedy stated, "there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it." JFK uses the word "conspiracy" in this speech, but it's clear he is talking about communism led by the Soviet Union. "For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence — on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day." Still, this speech signaled that JFK stood in opposition to those agencies within the United States government that would rather operate in secrecy using the tactics of the enemy.
"The Drag" can be read as a poignant commentary on JFK's unfulfilled potential. "Try as I may, it wasn't meant to be," as Kennedy was killed less than two years after taking office. Although he was an inspiring figure, he could not overcome the entrenched forces he sought to counter ("The Drag gets you down, chin on chest", which invokes the image of Kennedy's official White House portrait showing a contemplative JFK looking down). Conspiracy or not, JFK was cut down before he could realize his ambitions of establishing a truly free and open society. The problems JFK pointed out have in many ways deepened since JFK's time ("Seriously, you'll never rest again in peace") , and "The President and the Press" is as relevant today as it was when Kennedy delivered it over a half century ago. ("I left a part of me behind in the floor and dust and grease")
Try as I may, it wasn't meant to be
I left a part of me behind in the floor and dust and grease
The Drag gets you down, chin on chest
Seriously, you'll never rest again in peace
JFK: Now the links between the nations first forged by the compass have made us all citizens of the world, the hopes and threats of one becoming the hopes and threats of us all. In that one world's efforts to live together, the evolution of gunpowder to its ultimate limit has warned mankind of the terrible consequences of failure. And so it is to the printing press--to the recorder of man's deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news, that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.
from Conspiracy A-Go-Go
released November 1, 2013
originally released on Good Suits and Fightin' Boots (2008)
written by Andrew McGibbon
all rights reserved