America the Ugly


Joe McGinniss | The Philadelphia Inquirer | June 1968

It is hard to think of what to write while you are coming out here in an airplane because of an event which has proved that you do not live in a country anymore but in a cesspool. It does not happen anywhere the way it happens here. Not in Russia, not in China, not in North Vietnam.

Nowhere anymore does a man have to feel when he stands up to try to lead his people that he runs at least an even chance of getting his skull pierced by a bullet from someone who does not like the things he says.

Nowhere but in America.

This country does not work anymore. Maybe it stopped the day John Kennedy was killed, and only we did not know it at the time.

Now, less than five years later, with the man who killed Kennedy murdered, with Martin Luther King gone to a crazyman’s gun, and with Bob Kennedy now lying in a bed in a hospital in Los Angeles with a hole in the middle of his head from where a bullet had plowed through his brain, now we have to know it. Now we cannot hide from it anymore. This is not a country.

The richest, most powerful place in the world and all that the money and power have produced has been a bunch of people so filled with fear and hate and ugliness that when a man tries to tell them they must do more for other men, instead of listening they shoot him in the head.

This is not a country anymore. This is a vision of hell.

Writer bio: Joe McGinniss wrote for the Worcester Telegram and Philadelphia Bulletin before joining The Inquirer as a general interest columnist in 1966. He was 24. He left the Inky at the end of 1968 to write “The Selling of the President,” which explored the growing role of advertising in politics. The book was an overnight success, landing McGinniss on the New York Times bestseller list. He was 26. He went on to publish several more books, including three bestselling true crime thrillers. He died in 2014 from prostate cancer. He was 71. This column was written after the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. The following week, the newspaper printed an apology for publishing the column on its front page. Enjoy.

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