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?