Friday, November 22, 2013
JFK: LET THE MAN REST
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
FIFTY YEARS OF EULOGIZING AND IDOLIZING IS ENOUGH
TAGS: 5OTH ANNIVERSARY JFK ASSASSINATION, JFK ADMINISTRATION,
CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS, LATE 20TH CENTURY AMERICAN HISTORY,
ELECTORAL POLITICS, VIET NAM WAR, THE SIXTIES
(Friday November 22, 2013 Arlington, VA) Let’s take this opportunity to mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy as the official time we just let the man rest. Our pseudo-obsession with JFK, the Kennedy Clan, his assassinated brother Robert, his other brother Ted who served in the Senate for 47 years and every other son, daughter, nephew, niece, cousin and any hybrid Kennedy relative spawned by that old time Irish Catholic Boston lineage that has lingered on the American political / cultural horizon for far too long. Fifty years after his death, with over 40,000 books written about him, his family, his life, times and secrets, additionally, hundreds of thousands of studies, papers, reports, literally millions and millions of words written and spoken, can we at least say today, enough. The man was our 35th President not an angel sent from on high to lead us into some new gilded age in our history. Let this whole load of Camelot crap just simply seep away.
Why are we still so engaged in the perpetuation of this “JFK Myth” when, in reality the man served only 1000 days as our President and had his one brief shining moment when he starred down the belligerent Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev and his armada carrying missiles to Cuba. By all accounts those 13 days in October of 1962 were the highlight of the man’s tenure as our President. He prevailed in the Cuban Missile Crisis by exercising careful consideration, measured, reasoned thought with his own resolve and will that the events of those days would not outpace his thinking and reach. He calmed a worried nation and held the eager to attack Cuba Joint Chiefs of Staff at bay. He used backchannel and straightforward diplomacy the likes of which we’ll likely never see again to tell Khrushchev and the world how that scenario was going to play out and he never blinked. He deserves his due for this and it has been duly noted. Let’s move along.
Admittedly the dramatic televised images of his assassination in Dallas Texas shocked the nation. Yes, he was the first Catholic to be President and in the densely populated Italian and Irish Catholic enclaves of the northeast – places like New York City, Boston, Hartford, Philadelphia and vicinity – his victory was seen as monumental. Given the political landscape of the times arguably it was. He was also our first fully “televised President” and as such, his photogenic features and young family were a completely new viewing reality for America. There was new life in Technicolor after the black and white days of Eisenhower and the post-World War II era. The “Greatest Generation “ had one of their own in the White House, the baby boom was on, and all felt relatively well when JFK eked out his electoral victory in 1960 thanks, in part, to his bootlegger father's influence among some of the labor unions such as the Coal Miners in West Virginia.
John F. Kennedy his wife Jacqueline and his two small children became icons of “middle America” and fashion while in reality they came from old money; there was nothing blue collar about neither the Kennedy Clan nor the family of his bride Jacqueline Lee "Jackie" Bouvier. But they were able to pull it off brilliantly perhaps only because the medium of TV was so new and novel and we as a people still had our innocence about certain aspects of life and the world. Soon that would change and the 1960’s after the death of JFK were dangerously tumultuous. Yes, there were enormous rifts in society after 1963 but certainly not because of the Kennedy assassination. So many have held on to that specific day and date as the literal beginning of what evolved into a decade where our innocence was lost, hopes trampled, dreams belittled and saw how easily and often our government lied to us. We saw the diminishment of institutions from government to academics exposed as cheats, liars, charlatans and self-interested elitists that they were. They looked askance at us as so many sheep to be herded here and there. Would anything really have been appreciably different had JFK lived? That question and that question alone remains a sacred tabula rosa on which all the contrived bullshit has been drawn. The blank slate of what if’s and could have been allows for any degree of malleability one choses to use to craft their theory or supposition.
The question in and of itself, it it’s historical context is actually more akin to a conundrum cloaked in a layers of dichotomy, that has been free to inflate over the last 50 years because anyone can answer it anyway that suits their inherent bias, opinion and / or world view.
Conspiracy theories were born virtually immediately and have only been propagated, proliferated and mutated over this last half century. Even with the use of the most sophisticated technology available today there remain two very polarized camps; the “Lee Harvey Oswald, Lone Gunman, Warren Commission Was Correct Camp” still squabbling with the “Far Flung Conspiracy, Gunmen on The Grassy Knoll, Cuban/Mafia/Soviet Coup, Could Not Have Been Oswald Alone Camp”. Oddly and irregularly positioned between these two camps exist their bastardized offshoots. It is apparent that there will never be any evidence or proof unearthed that would satisfy one camp to fold their frayed tents and finally pack it in.
In recent years using the most highly sophisticated technology available to study, recreate, and computer model; analyze each nano-byte of each decibel of sound captured that day, each pixel of the long famous (or infamous depending which camp you align with) “Zapruder Film” and every other shred of artifact, evidence, fact, fiction, theory and whimsy relevant or not, they’ve become more trenchant in their positions. So much material, information, data and more has been exhaustively, painstakingly examined and conclusions have been drawn on both sides and neither side will likely ever budge. Isn’t 50 years of point – counterpoint debating, positing, speculating, arguing, researching and theorizing enough?
We have named innumerable airports, seaports, highways, byways, parkways, throughways, avenues, boulevards, federal buildings, post offices, courthouses and statehouses as well as all sorts of parks, promenades, town squares, college halls and patriotic shrines in memorial tribute to our John F. Kennedy. Fifty years should be enough time to let him rest in peace, shouldn’t it?
ALL THE POSSIBILITIES
It seems that much more of the weight of history has ridden on JFK’s shoulders in death than it did during his life. We will never know if, how, where, when and why history would have been different, if at all, had JFK completed his first term and gone on to serve a second. His sudden death created an enormous, wide open vista of possibilities and probabilities that there was and seems to remain more than enough territory available on which to stake one’s claim.
So many claims have been staked to parcels from which to assess the matter. Some of the pioneers planted the white flag of the eternal optimists who insist the entire history of the 1960’s would have unfolded vastly differently than it actually did. Other pioneers plant the black stake of pessimism insisting that JFK would have certainly been disastrous for us all and we were better off having him in a cemetery than in the White House. And all across this open terrain flap in the breeze as many flags of every subtle nuanced tone and hue between white and black. Retrospect affords us a well-defined cluster of issues that transpired after JFK’s death that plug easily in to the equations of reality. Would JFK have escalated our military involvement in Viet Nam? Would he have been a vocal stalwart for the Civil Rights Movement, racial equality and ending systematic discrimination? Would he have eventually revisited the situation in Cuba and instigated some sort of action either diplomatic or military? What would his relationship with Martin Luther King have been? Question after question; answer them as you chose because you will never know. It is like each of us has read a long intrigue filled novel with the last chapter missing. We can imagine our own conclusion, one that comports with what we learned along the way about the characters, plot and narrative. People are still writing that last chapter in their own JFK book.
DISMANTLING THE MYSTIQUE
How does one go about dismantling a mystique such as that which still idolizes JFK? How does one approach such a lofty pedestal with the intention of dethroning an edifice? Presenting well known and widely agreed upon facts could go a long way to such an effort. One reason facts about JFK and his Presidency are no more able to collapse the Kennedy house of cards than the big bad wolf was able to huff and puff and blow the door down in fairytale, is that there are very few actual items that are agreed by both sides to be accepted as fact. So much is up for interpretation and even those who have claimed to be the most objective unbiased researchers and authors have managed to tarnish some of their works with a distinct tinge of “anti” or “pro” Kennedy.
Certainly after his death those closest to him, his longtime most trusted friends, confidantes, advisers and family circled the wagons and enforced extremely tight control of JFK’s White House papers, audiotapes, diaries and other documentation. The Kennedy Clan et.el; was going to provide the filter through which the rest of us would perceive their fallen golden boy. That was, of course, their personal prerogative yet it also allowed all manner of wide rumor, innuendo, suspicion and assertions to fill the void created absent access to the tightly guarded truth. In those days journalists still adhered to a code of conduct, they maintained a balanced measure of professional ethics, respect for The Office of the President and "The First Family" that is absolutely archaic in today’s “infotainment” industry. Whatever JFK’s sexual escapades were or weren’t the press at that time was not about to go out and play the cheap game of “gotcha”.
Whatever he could have been or would have been or might have been had he not had his life cut short by an assassination will always be a parlor game among political junkies of a certain age and soon, very soon, the last of the generation old enough to remember and comprehend what transpired on that day 50 years ago will be dead and buried themselves. It is somewhat disconcerting that the man has been as much respected as reviled, as much loved as loathed during his life and after his death. Unwritten protocol prohibits speaking poorly of the dead but when the deceased is a President of the United States who wielded tremendous power and authority at the point in geopolitical time as JFK did, such protocol falls aside. John F. Kennedy came to power during a time of tremendous threat and uncertainty; he was thrust into troubled waters and had to navigate a strange new nuclear world abroad without the guidance of charts as much as he had to keep the ship of State here at home on a steady course as the very social fabric of our Country was being pulled apart from all sides.
It is too easy and tempting to imagine the decade of the sixties playing out differently than they did had JFK lived. But such exercise seems to be useless wastes of time. We seem unable to learn from our own history and holding that one frozen moment in time as a point of reference is equally silly. We learn nothing from conjuring and speculating; we should study history closely and from those vast storage vaults we can find the lessons that will help us go forward as a government and a people.
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