Why can't I ask that? This graceful phrase has rung in my head ever since the dazzling JFK spoke it (I remember he did it with the white-haired poet Robert Frost by his side). Who could argue with those elegiac words? Except, what about those other words?
"...a government of the people, by the people, for the people."
And if I am not to ask what can this country do for me, shouldn't I at least ask what exactly a country is for, by which I believe JFK meant government?
Nowadays I think it's very clear what the government "is for" -- for the same people all the way down through history -- the one's who've had the willingness to crawl, fight and lie their way to the top.
Fascinating to watch our government bob and weave against democracy in Egypt. Why?
"The Middle East could well descend into chaos if there isn't an orderly transition," says Hilary Clinton (our supposed progressive voice). Chaos? Really? Have we forgotten how our country started? And, by the way, what exactly do you call life under Mubarak -- people starving, a massive lack of jobs, vast corruption, the rich getting richer, the poor and diminishing middle class sinking into oblivion?
Sound familiar? The rich protected with an "orderly transition", while the poor...
The 2008 financial meltdown -- who was our "country for" then? Was it Wall Street, with the highest bonuses ever this past year? Was it the banks with their clever managers? Was it the upper echelon of the car companies?
Why am I suddenly so angry at JFK -- born rich and Harvard educated -- trying to sell us on this idea of doing for "our government," especially now that most social programs, including Social Security, seem less important than keeping those "too big to fail" from failing?
So, I don't know, maybe it's time to rethink JFK (another so-called liberal, like our current president.). How about...
"Ask not what I can do for my government, but what my government can do for me (or even better)... for those who are less fortunate than me" (and there are plenty of those right now, thanks to some really bad governance).