Imagine you are a housewife. It’s late November, 1963. Your kids are at school, your husband is at work.
You could be vacuuming the living room rug, or ironing the family laundry. You could have the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook open in the kitchen, wondering if you should try something new for next week’s Thanksgiving dinner. Why not – it’s already three years into this bright new decade.
Maybe a diversion will help you think. A diversion like, say, “As The World Turns” on CBS. Watching other people’s problems will remind you of just how good you have it.
And then this happens:
Fifty years ago today, America experienced what is still its best-known collective trauma. (9/11 is still too new.) The assassination of President John F. Kennedy has been described as a bellwether for many changes, from the end of innocence to the dawn of cynicism.
I cannot agree with the “end of innocence” notion. A country with a history saturated not only with wars, but with violence of all stripes – slavery, racism, colonialism, union-busting, and all of the rage that fills the difference between what America promises and what America actually can give – no way can it be called “innocent”. JFK’s explosive murder was just one in an endless series of outrages.
As far as the “dawn of cynicism” – well, I agree that after JFK’s death, the American people drifted, slowly but surely, into a widespread cynicism about the government, up to and including blaming it for the President’s death. Now, I believe in healthy skepticism about everything – including, and especially, the “leaders” who in fact work for we, the people.
However, there is a difference between healthy skepticism and unhealthy indulgence in bullshit.
I do not believe that the government orchestrated 9/11 – and I do not believe it killed JFK, either.
Why is it so hard to believe that a lone gunman could kill the most important man in the world? It was so easy, especially when that important man was riding in an open-topped car. It was also easy, back in 1963, for an angry nightclub owner to shoot a suspect in an presidential assassination in a police station basement.
|Photo credit: Wikipedia|
(Fred Kaplan of Slate.com has written a terrific article debunking the most pervasive conspiracy theories.)
I was not alive, or even conceived, on that dark day in 1963. But the images, memories, emotions of that day are accessible to anyone by opening a book – or a link. It doesn’t matter what you think (or don’t think) about JFK – it matters that you do think about this day in history, and that you understand why it matters.