The Sunday Salon: Tipping Points

Early in the week I finished 11/22/63, but I found myself still thinking about it as the week progressed.

That’s the mark of a powerful book, isn’t it? When you can’t get it out of your head, even after you finish the last page?

One of the most interesting aspects of Stephen King’s novel, 11/22/63, was the portion that explored King’s assessment of what might have happened had Kennedy lived to finish out his term. In King’s view, it wasn’t a pretty picture, filled with hatred, violence, and poverty. It set me thinking about tipping points in history, historical events that set a nation and its people on a certain course for good or evil. Certainly all of history is one long series of tipping points after another, but each generation can name its own particular apex, the moment when a previously stable environment gets rocked on its axis.

Of course, most of us don’t get an opportunity to change history, or even to effect much change at all. It’s one of the things that can cause much frustration in modern society, especially in consumer affairs. It’s almost as if there should be a consumer court or consumer forum where people could go file complaints about products and services nationwide.

I was seven years old when Kennedy was killed, and so the world as I know it  evolved based on that moment in American history. Had Kennedy lived, would the Vietnam war have escalated into the major conflict it became, spurring a social revolution that ultimately led to huge changes in women’s rights? What would have happened to race relations and integration? How would the Cold War have played out? in nuclear disaster or detente? Who would have followed Kennedy into the White House and what course would they have set?

Of course, we’ll never know, other than to speculate as King has done in 11/22/63.

I’ve been thinking about the most recent tipping point, the 21st century version. Had you asked me before I read 11/22/63, I would have identified the September 11, 2001 attacks as the point at which our world changed and we embarked on the course that led us to our current, somewhat rocky state of affairs. But I wonder if the true tipping point wasn’t the Presidential election that preceeded it, that unprecendented state of affairs where the winner was debateable, the outcome unclear for so long. Because after reading King’s book, I realize the Man (or Woman) in the White House sets the course in more ways than the ordinary citizen imagines.

Now tell me, what do you think the tipping point of the 21st century will be? 

The Sunday Salon.com

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4 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: Tipping Points

  1. I find that politicians, in general, do make an impact on the general population more than we give them credit for, good or bad. We may not agree with them or their policies, but they do leave an indelible mark on our society.

    Its hard to think what the tipping point will be, but it may be something like September 11, which 10 years later has made a huge impact on our economies and how we view people who think differently than us, and not necessarily for the better. But things have a way of changing and if somebody had only lived between 1911 and 1946, they could have said that the tipping point was World War One, as it had impact until the finale of World War Two.

    But it also has to do with one’s perspective. If I had to say what the tipping point of the 20th century would be the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, but then I was born 9 years before the wall fell. For my parents, it would be something else.

    • History is a series of tipping points, really, as your comment made clear. So many things reacting together, and the personalities and philosophies of leaders make all the difference.

  2. I’ve never read a Stephen King novel because I don’t like horror. But this one sounds quite different, and I am interested in JFK. If I may recommend another book to you, I loved Laurie Graham’s The Importance of Being Kennedy, which follows the family up until just before the time when JFK became President. I found it a really gripping and enjoyable read.

    • Thank, Litove. That definitely sounds like a book I’d enjoy.
      I don’t like horror either, but this book is not at all a horror novel. I thought it was splendid.

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