Today, November 22, 2013, marks the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It is an event that stands out vividly in mind. I was 9 years old when he was murdered. My memory, whether correct or not I don’t know, is that the school dismissed us all early that day once the news had become known. Obviously, for us an early dismissal would still have occurred sometime near the end of the school day as his death was announced about 2pm Eastern time. I do for some reason remember the issue of MY WEEKLY READER which came out commemorating JFK. And also strangely I remember the report of his murder that was in the TV GUIDE. I kept those two issues for many years, but lost them somewhere along the way of my own life.
President Kennedy looms large in my memory, and I remember his assassination and the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald more clearly than I remember anything else from that time in my life. I have visited Arlington Cemetery and paid my respects at his grave. I’ve walked through the Air Force One plane which brought his body back to Washington, DC. That plane is located at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH. I was one time in my life in Dallas and I did visit Dealey Plaza and the museum there.
I was in Boston this summer and wanted to visit the Kennedy Library but it was closed due to the government shut down. Last summer when I was recovering from spinal surgery I did read Robert A. Caro’s The Passage of Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson) which covered the year in which Kennedy was assassinated and LBJ came to power, but really didn’t learn anything new about the Kennedy assassination from that book.
I have through the years been amazed and sometimes amused by all of the claims I have read about the Kennedy assassination. First there were the investigations into that assassination, none of which ever fully satisfied people as to what had happened. Then a whole industry emerged generating stories about conspiracies, followed by another industry of those who profiled the conspirators and the investigators and the media personnel which reported on all of these other people. Whatever is the truth about the assassination, it is true that the plot has had a 50 year afte- the-fact history in its making. More time has been spent developing the plot over the past 50 years than was spent in creating and carrying out the assassination.
But I find most meaningful a comment by the man who the Kennedy family had asked to do a biography of JFK, William Manchester who on February 5, 1992 said in a letter to the Editor of THE NEW YORK TIMES:
“Those who desperately want to believe that President Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy have my sympathy. I share their yearning. To employ what may seem an odd metaphor, there is an esthetic principle here. If you put six million dead Jews on one side of a scale and on the other side put the Nazi regime – the greatest gang of criminals ever to seize control of a modern state – you have a rough balance: greatest crime, greatest criminals. But if you put the murdered President of the United States on one side of a scale and that wretched waif Oswald on the other side, it doesn’t balance. You want to add something weightier to Oswald. It would invest the President’s death with meaning, endowing him with martyrdom. He would have died for something. A conspiracy would, of course, do the job nicely. Unfortunately, there is no evidence whatsoever that there was one.”
To me there is something powerful in those words. Kennedy’s assassination created an emotional void, a vacuum which nature so abhors and people try to fill. JFK’s riderless horse, Black Jack, in the slain President’s funeral is so emblematic of that emptiness which we cannot believe and causes such painful grief. It is that intense emotion which keeps those images so vivid in our memories.
More recently, author Jeff Greenfield of Lee Harvey Oswald:
“It’s incredibly unsatisfying to believe that this guy, this insignificant person, could have done so consequential an act.”
Being a person who enjoys taking photographs, I found Errol Morris’ film , November 22, 1963 to be convincing. It is about Josiah “Tink” Thompson who spent many years as a crime investigator, including investigating John Kennedy’s assassination. Thompson has been criticized for so relying on the photographic evidence from Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963, for his conclusions about the assassination. You can watch the film at the above link and decide for yourself.
It has required the last 50 years to develop the plot that led to Lee Harvey Oswald’s shooting John Fitzgerald Kennedy. But from the looks of things, some need more years to further develop the plot that led to the tragic event on 22 November 1963. Who says you cannot change history? It is being rewritten all the time in the Kennedy assassination – not to fit the facts, but to accommodate the theories.
But those conspiracy theories have not interested me very much, I find powerful memories of the events to be more real and meaningful. To this day some of the images cause my throat to grip and the emotions to swell.