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ubersiren's avatar

How would you react if a president was assassinated (please read details)?

Asked by ubersiren (15031 points ) November 3rd, 2009

This isn’t specifically directed at our current or any president.

I’m asking because I am not old enough to have been around for the Kennedy assassination. I see in the movies and on old news reels of people sobbing and screaming over the Kennedy shooting. I’m not sure I would react that way. I mean, I would be very upset that it happened and that a wife and children would be left without the man in their lives, but I don’t know that I would be as horrified as I’ve seen that people were in ‘63. I imagine I would feel about the same as I do when I hear anyone with a family, or anyone at all has been killed. And that goes for any president I’ve encountered in my lifetime. I suppose I wouldn’t know for sure how I would feel unless it actually happened.

Is it just a different time now, or is it me? How would you feel about any of the presidents in your lifetime being killed? I’d love to hear from you especially if you were around for the Kennedy murder.

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41 Answers

aphilotus's avatar

I’d be pretty darn upset if a president of mine was assassinated.

They serve a double role- first as the actual person and the policies they manage to get pushed through, and second, as the figurehead for all the hopes and dreams of the people who voted for them.

Especially our current president, I think, who got elected with a certain earnestness in his constituency, a belief not just in Obama, but in Change and Hope as larger ideas for which he is just a figurehead, a standin.

To kill the president is in a sense to kill Hope and Change, or at least kill their biggest public supporter. And that shatters people’s confidence, especially if they voted for him.

virtualist's avatar

I would be very upset. It is a very dangerous time for the country and the world when one of the leaders of the free world is assasinated. In today’s time it is particularly critical because of the multiple vectors associated with current world politics and economic issues. It would be horrendously destabilizing. But our system of government would absorb it and move on. So, in summary, it would be horrible, upsetting to many in the country and world , but WE MOVE ON!

janbb's avatar

Hey prd, I’m waiting with baited breath. Type faster.

dpworkin's avatar

The Kennedy assassination was a landmark event in my life, and I have never forgotten where I was or how I felt when I first heard the news. My History teacher and I went for a walk, and we both sobbed, unable to speak.

I happened to have shaken RFK’s hand at a rally in Santa Barbara the day before he was shot, and I was living in a primarily Black neighborhood in San Francisco when MLK was killed. I am not surprised that my friends and me became a target – someone tried to burn our place down.

Teddy Kennedy was aware that he was a target, and speaks about hitting the ground when he heard popping sounds.

Obama is probably in more danger than any president we have ever had, as there is so much uncontrolled hate in America, and such a preponderance of weapons. I’m sure he knew this going in. I would be shocked and upset, but not surprised if he does not live out his term.

MacBean's avatar

Do you watch Mad Men, @ubersiren?

I suspect I’d react a lot like how I did on 9/11. Which is to say, outwardly I’d look like I didn’t really give a crap, but I’d be a mess in my own head.

janbb's avatar

I think when Kennedy was killed was probably the first time I felt truly “touched by history.” The country virtually came to a standsill for four days. I remember seeing Jack Ruby kill Oswald on t.v.; it was shocking and painful.

In some ways, we have grown more inured to violence in the years since, both in our entertainment, our discourse and in public life. However, I think it would be a mortal wound that the country might not heal from if there were another assassination today.

ubersiren's avatar

@aphilotus : So, if it wasn’t Obama and was G.W. Bush, you’d feel the same way? It was my intent to try to be as non political as possible, but you say “especially if it was our current president.”

Just to reiterate, “The President” in my scenario is not any particular one, but perhaps a fictional person. Or, give different examples regarding different real presidents.

@MacBean: Yes, that’s actually what prompted my question. :)

dpworkin's avatar

Any assassination is a huge blow to the body politic, and the status quo ante is never fully recoverable. That being said, Obama’s assassination, specifically, is much more likely to open huge fault lines that may never be repaired.

robmandu's avatar

Curious.

Would anyone here consider that Iraqi reporter throwing his shoes at W as being something akin to an assassination, figuratively speaking?

dpworkin's avatar

@robmandu Not in the least. It was an expression of rage that did no lasting harm. Bush seemed barely fazed. I doubt he understood the significance.

robmandu's avatar

@pdworkin, I think the entire world has since learned the significance in that culture of shoes used in that manner. It’s as grievous an insult as could be made, short of physical harm.

Especially in light of an earlier quip where some view the POTUS “as the figurehead for all the hopes and dreams of the people who voted for them” – and even, I would say the President represents all the People, not just those who voted for him.

janbb's avatar

Obama gets figurative brickbats thrown at him daily, literal shoes are still not an assassination. It’s a valid point anyway, robmandu; I think the country would have been torn apart along othe fault lines if it were the previous POTUS.

dpworkin's avatar

No one deserved it more; no one could have behaved more contemptibly in the case of Iraq, ginning up a purposeless war for political and pecuniary reasons. I’d gladly give up a pair of shoes. It cannot be equated with taking a life; that is sophistry.

Judi's avatar

@ubersiren ; A lot of American innocence was shattered when Kennedy was assassinated. It is sad that it is a scenario we even have to imagine now. Media violence has made us all more callus as a society than we were a generation or two ago. I think it is part of some natural self preservation technique. I’m not judging anyone for this, it just is what it is.

casheroo's avatar

I’m older than I was when 9/11 happened, I may have been 14 but I didn’t quite understand what it all meant. I was sad for the loss but I wasn’t extremely distraught over it.

I think experiencing the assassination of a president would be devastating. No matter who the president was. I would cry, and be very upset. I would find it to be a major attack on Americans. but usually, it’s been an American that does the killing, right?

ubersiren's avatar

Finally! Thanks to @Judi for giving the type of answer I was looking for. I guess the editing of my question helped- thanks @mod!

zephyr826's avatar

I’m pretty sure I would react with tears. (I teared up during the Mad Men episode) No matter who the POTUS is, there is a certain level of respect for the office that should be in place, and an attack on our President would feel like an attack on all of us. The current administration might inspire more of a reaction from me, partially because of what he stands for and partially because I worked on the campaign and thus feel a closer connection to it.
Would we be as upset if it were the leader of another country? Speaking as an American, I am wondering how our non-US jellies feel? I’m also not sure if I would react in the same way if Gordon Brown, Nicolas Sarkozy, or Angela Merkel were shot (not to focus entirely on Europe, but they were the first to come to mind).
Does it make a difference as to who the assasin is? As @casheroo mentioned, previous attempts on the President’s life have been made most often like Americans?

Sorry for the rambling, but the question inspired quite a bit of thought and very few conclusions.

Sarcasm's avatar

I haven’t been alive enough for any prominent assassination in America.
I don’t think I’d break out sobbing if I heard the president was assassinated. When GWB was in office, I feared it, because then Cheney would be king. Now that Barry’s in office, I wonder how Biden would run the place.

Now.. if Ron Paul got assassinated.. I’d be rather upset.

wundayatta's avatar

I would be scared and upset. Scared about the sudden change in leadership, and how other nations might try to take advantage of this. Upset for obvious reasons.

I was seven when Kennedy was shot. I didn’t really understand its significance, although I knew it had to be important since my mother cried.

I think I would be very tense and watchful if a President was killed. There would be a log of uncertainty about the future.

Psychedelic_Zebra's avatar

I agree with @MacBean, 9–11 affected me profoundly, and I don’t even live anywhere near the East Coast. When something that catastrophic occurs on your home soil, there is no way to presume how it will effect you.

When Kennedy was assassinated, I was only 3 yrs old, but I still have memories of that day, disjointed and odd as they may seem now. I remember it, and I think that such a crime should be punished by long and extended torture of the perp. Death by a thousand cuts comes to mind. The death penalty by lethal injection is by far too kind for such a scumbag.

poofandmook's avatar

I have to be honest here… if Obama was assassinated, I would not be the least bit surprised. There is too much hate in this country in general, Obama is black and that never helps things in the hate department when we still have assholes running around in bedsheets and hoods, and the country is in such a horrific political state right now, morale is low, and any President that doesn’t please everyone all the time is going to be a target of a pretty big helping of hatred. I almost feel like, already, Obama is surpassing Dubya in the “most hated” category. I can’t say I would be upset… I’m just not that emotional about things that aren’t in my immediate day-to-day life (I have enough stress on my own without outside influences). All I can say for sure is that I wouldn’t be surprised at all.

and that’s sad… because I know I’m not the only one.

ubersiren's avatar

I would also be fearful of the leadership change if a president was suddenly gone. But, I’m equally fearful during election time.

Perhaps the Kennedy assassination was so horrible because, as mentioned, it was during a more “innocent” time when people were not exposed to such violence as we are today. Also, it happened in front of I don’t know how many witnesses; both on television and first hand at the parade. It was so brutal and in broad daylight.

9/11. Hmmm. I’m not sure how to compare that to an assassination of a president. I definitely think it was catastrophic and I was very upset over it. I’m wondering if I’d feel that the murder of a president is also “catastrophic.” I can’t help but think that we would just move on from the tragedy pretty quickly, whereas in ‘63 people missed work and sat in front of their tv’s and radios for days. Back then, it seems to have been more comparable to 9/11, but today, I don’t know that there would be the same hysteria.

I wonder if peoples’ reactions would vary from president to president. So many have mentioned Obama. In fact, I questioned someone specifically if his/her reaction would be different with another president, and got no answer. I can’t help but wonder if George W. Bush were shot dead in office if as many people would be as upset and mournful.

@poofandmook : I agree. Unfortunately, Obama is venomously hated and by some serious nut jobs. I wish this wasn’t such a concern. His poor family must just worry all the time. I know I would if I were his wife or kid.

dpworkin's avatar

Bush’s assassination would not have had the same profound effects as would Obama’s, nor was Cleveland’s as disruptive as Lincoln’s

ubersiren's avatar

I don’t think Cleveland was assassinated… though, he was a kick ass prez. Maybe you’re thinking of McKinley?

dpworkin's avatar

they weren’t the same guy? The railroad station one.

rangerr's avatar

I’d honestly be terrified.

augustlan's avatar

Any president? I’d be extremely upset no matter who it was. I would be sad and angry. I’m sure I would cry. I don’t see myself becoming hysterical, like people did when Kennedy was shot. (I view that as a different time thing, too. People also became hysterical when they saw the Beatles. I don’t see that happening today, either.)

If it were Obama, I’d be devastated. It is different. His election made world history, and those of us who voted for him feel a part of that. He is the poster child (deservedly or not) for hope and change. And let’s not forget, he would be hated by some no matter what his politics were, just for the color of his skin. If he were assassinated, it would hurt the country in more than the usual ways. Racial divides would open (and re-open). The rift between right and left would widen, and possibly never heal. Especially if some of the most vocal dissenters proved to be happy about it. (Think Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh… I can practically see them gloating now.) I think the country would truly go into a tailspin, rather than be a country united in grief. I still don’t think I’d become hysterical, but I’d be shattered for quite a while. I’d be clinically depressed, and I don’t know how the blow to my optimism would affect my outlook over the rest of my life.

ubersiren's avatar

@augustlan : Ugh.. I can see Limbaugh doing that too. It would definitely be different with Obama. His election has created such a gash in the country between left and right that if he were killed, I think you are right to say that gash would be solidified. Possibly irreparable. It’s a shame that a figure which has brought out so much positivity in the country has to be the subject around which the negativity has been brought out in certain circles. I don’t agree with his politics, but I do feel that of the leading candidates in the last election, he was the only one who made us believe he wanted to bring us out of a dark age. It’s really a shame that those thoughts are the ones driving the other side into a frenzy- a frenzy which makes many of us wonder about an assassination attempt.

galileogirl's avatar

There was an enormous shock and people react differently to shock. Besides the loss of the man, there was a question of national safety. It had been just 13 months since we had been at the brink of nuclear war and within hours there was speculation about a right wing coup (there were Texans advocating it even then) and about an attack by the Soviet Union.

Few living Americans had a memory of the last assassination and even then it was an event read about days later. The immediacy of the events of that weekend increased the shock. Unfortunately similar events in the 60’s and later have made most people less shocked by assassination and made it a topic of speculation and entertainment for the morally and mentally defective.

It is also sadly surprising that the same people who would incarcerate anyone who desecrated the flag would talk about the murder of the president as if it was to be expected and accepted, An assassination of the president is an attempt to destroy our government and since we are the government, it is a personal attack on every American. That is why there are emotional reactions to the event or even the thought of the possibility.

tinyfaery's avatar

Eh. No big deal. I wasn’t all that affected by 9/11 either. I have no nationalism. I don’t have a group mentality.

To me it’s all meaningless anyway, so I put no energy into it. If a president was assassinated I’d be as dismayed as I always am when it comes to violence. No more, no less.

Darwin's avatar

I remember very well where and when I heard about Kennedy’s assasination. I was devastated because he was the first person that I had “known” as a constant in the world who had died at the hands of another.

What a lot of people forget is that JFK was another first for this country. Not only was he young, with small children, he was also the first Roman Catholic president. Those who weren’t there won’t remember the copious debate about what that might mean for America, that the Pope would have a foothold in the White House.

I also remember when Reagan was attacked and was no less shocked, even though by then I was more inurred to violence.

I do think that Mr. Obama is at greater risk than most Presidents simply because, as with JFK, he is another first who serves as a symbol for a change that some Americans fear and dread.

aprilsimnel's avatar

It was a different time when Kennedy was shot. The last president who’d been shot before him was McKinley in 1901. The violence done upon Kennedy was new to two generations of Americans, and just about inconceivable. Also, America was the newly-minted premier world power, so many worldwide were stunned. It was seen in a lot of ways as an attack on the country, I think, at least until the mild hysteria died down.

I remember when Reagan was shot; it was as though life did that jerky thing when the needle gets pulled off a record. There was shock. The adults around me all saying, “Oh, no, not again!” We got sent home early. The news running the shooting footage ad nauseum. Alexander Haig, who acted like a dumb-ass. It was funny to see how people jockeyed for position. And on my block, there was a sense of “Well, if the bastard dies, good riddance. What has he ever done for us except get on TV and call us ‘welfare queens’?”

I was very shocked when Reagan was shot, myself. Not that I was a fan of his politics, but the idea that someone could just walk up to the President and shoot him almost point blank was appalling to me.

ubersiren's avatar

Great answers, everyone. Keep them rollin’. Seems to be a number of things that explain my and others’ feelings. I appreciate the honesty and the insight from an generation who has seen more.

tyrantxseries's avatar

It would suck because they died, but other than that I wouldn’t care,
I don’t follow politics at all
I would feel bad for what the family would have to go through,
wow buddy got killed? that sucks, (shrugs) oh well.

YARNLADY's avatar

Same way I always do – “Oh no, not again.”

Mat74UK's avatar

Quote: “This isn’t specifically directed at our current or any president.”
Interesting how you used them term OUR. Last time I looked I didn’t have a president!

ubersiren's avatar

@Mat74UK : I considered changing it, but I had already been modded for clarity and didn’t want to have to re-write everything. Just take a chill pill and answer replacing “president” with PM or whatever you want.

filmfann's avatar

I remember the Kennedy assassination, but was too young to really understand it. I remember asking why, since everyone liked him. My dad said obviously not.
I hated Reagan. I worked hard to stop him from being elected, and failed. I was angry, scared, and bitter. When he was shot, though, I said a prayer for him. No President should be shot.
I changed my mind with W. The only thing that kept him alive was an evil VP.

Psychedelic_Zebra's avatar

@filmfann I think the author of My Pet Goat might have had a hand in keeping Shrub alive, as well.~

Nullo's avatar

It would depend on the President and the kind of mood that I was in. I generally don’t have strong reactions anyway.

MadMadMax's avatar

I was mortified when President Kennedy was killed. I cried for Bobby Kennedy – I hoped he would be president.

It started to become passe. Progessive people were constantly being killed but when Martin Luther Kind died I was so sad. I felt he was a true martyr and hoped so much that his dealth would enhance his cause.

I’ve been through too much.

I’m older now. I would hope I would weep for any president but I fear I might not if it was somebody like Bush or Cheney. I’d care but I could never weep.

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