... on November 22, 1963.
Anybody can be replaced in under a second.
By Walter Mosely
I was 11 in 1963, and up till then, the single greatest event that I knew for the advancement of black people in the United States was the election of John F. Kennedy. We felt he was our president. That's because he seemed to be concerned about civil rights and integration. Just the fact that he would mention it was monumental because black America existed in prominent obscurity. It was like we were there, but we weren't there. So Kennedy was the most important thing to my young child's mind, so much so that I felt like he was a friend, a part of the family. Then, in November '63, he was assassinated, and it was the first time I had the experience of losing someone.
So anyway, I'm a kid, right, and one of the things that happened in the ensuing days is that television as I knew it ceased. Every station, every hour of every day, was talking about the assassination. And there's only so much a kid can deal with that. But I was still watching because that's the nature of television: obsession. At one point, I see this really tall guy standing next to Jackie Kennedy. I turned to my father and said, "Dad, who's that?" And he said, "That's the president." And I said, "No, Dad. John F. Kennedy was the president." He said, "Yeah, and the moment he died, this man became president." And I just looked at him and said, "That fast?" And he snapped his fingers: "Like that."
And I realized that's how important the most important man in the world was. He could be replaced in an instant. It was a lesson I never forgot. In fact, I was talking to a friend the other day. He was telling me, "I'm leaving my job, but I gotta stay because I have to help them blah blah." And I said, "You don't have to do anything. You leave, and they'll take care of their own business; they don't need you. You may want to stay. You may want to help them. But never make the mistake of thinking that you're so important that the world can't live without you, because no one is that important, ever."
Walter Mosley's new book is All I Did Was Shoot My Man (Riverhead Books).