Last night a friend took me to see The Great Society, the Broadway play now being featured at The Vivian Beaumont Theatre in NYC. Playbill describes it as a production "Capturing Johnson’s passionate and aggressive attempts to build a great society for all, The Great Society follows his epic triumph in a landslide election to the agonizing decision not to run for re-election just three years later. It was an era that would define history forever: the rise of the Civil Rights Movement, the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the destruction of Vietnam, and the creation of some of the greatest social programs America has ever known—and one man was at the center of it all: LBJ."
I also reference President Lyndon B. Johnson in my book, Imperfect Strangers, a story which begins from a child's perspective. The following vignette is twelve pages into the story, where I consistently reference historical events and songs of the particular time period to give the reader context.
For months after this particular show, my father walks around the house singing “And when I touch you I feel happy inside –It’s such a feeling that my love –I can’t hide-I can’t hide-I can’t hide” from The Beatles hit, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” I prefer another group, Gerry and the Pacemakers. I like The Pacemakers because the year President Kennedy was shot I’d heard them on the radio singing “Walk On-Walk On-With Hope in Your Hearts.
It’s hard to believe that in three months President Kennedy will have been dead for one year. My mother and father never did like his vice president Lyndon Johnson. When the Republican candidate, Barry Goldwater, campaigns against Johnson for the presidency that is who they support. There is only one other student in my entire class whose parents support Goldwater.
Kids taunt me at school about my parent’s political position. They say that my father wants Goldwater to win so that aid to the poor will be reduced or eliminated. My classmates believe that because my father works for an insurance company, he is against this new idea of a program called Medicare.
All through the Johnson versus Goldwater presidential campaign, I am bothered by Johnson’s television commercial featuring a little girl with pretty hair picking up daisies in a field. She is counting the petals. A man’s voice can be heard counting too. She counts foreword, while he concurrently counts backward. When the little girl has counted to ten, the man’s voice simultaneously reaches the count of zero and there is an explosion from a bomb. The voice of Lyndon Johnson then proclaims, “These are the stakes!”
I have nightmares that if my mother’s and father’s choice of Barry Goldwater wins, then everyone will be destroyed by nuclear material. I haven’t told my parents about my nightmares because I am afraid they will be mad at me for questioning the ideas of their preferred selection of a presidential candidate. I ultimately feel uneasy the night that the election coverage is on television. When the news commentator, Walter Cronkite, reports on the exit polls and the electoral votes, I am relieved that the campaign has ended. I had hated seeing that commercial with the girl and her flower and I still have bad dreams about it.
At the beginning of next month, I will supposedly hear if the publisher will be taking on my book project. Please stay tuned.