Yesterday’s post was about acquiring knowledge and thereby losing innocence. Somewhat coincidentally, today it is exactly forty eight years, to the day, since John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Sometimes you can draw a bright red vertical line through a culture’s timeline, with a clearly labeled “before” and “after”. Obviously the 11th of September, 2001 was one such bright line for our culture. The 7th of December, 1941 was another.
It seems to me that what these three dates all have in common, in spite of their differences, is that they were all moments when our culture suddenly, dramatically, lost a sense of safety, of innocence. These experience were, on a national scale, roughly equivalent to an individual’s change in viewpoint after the first time they are betrayed by a close friend, or the first time they have been violently assaulted.
Before such a thing has happened to you, you can have the intellectual understanding that you are not really safe, but it’s all abstract. Afterward, of course, you know a terrible truth: If it happened once, it could happen again.
A friend of mine, after reading my post yesterday, asked me whether, given the choice, I would always choose knowledge. I blithely answered yes. But days like today, November 22, remind me of the terrible price we can pay for a loss of innocence.