Friday marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I’ve never been one to understand the significance of a round-number anniversary vs. say the 43rd year since his death, but it does give the media and everyone else a chance to reflect on a cultural event — including me.
I was born nine years after JFK was shot at Dealey Plaza in Dallas so my introduction to the assassination, like many kids my age, was from my parents discussing “where they were” at the time. I imagine this is not unlike how I will discuss September 11 with my sons, the first of whom was also born nine years following a national tragedy.
I was “formally” introduced, however, to the JFK assassination as a senior in high school when I picked up my brother’s copy (and never gave it back) of Jim Marrs’ book “Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy.” I was completely mesmerized and enthralled with all these new words, phrases and people – the Grassy Knoll (who knew what a knoll was), magic bullet, School Book Depository, umbrella man, Oswald, David Ferrie, J.D. Tippett, Zapruder, and many others. Could it be that the most important death of the past century was really a conspiracy? I devoured all the books that I could and probably missed a few calculus classes along the way as I read about how there must have been a second shooter. I learned Oswald’s second bullet – the one that hit JFK in the neck – had to make a U-turn in order to explain how it then hit Governor Connally.
So much has been written this week (see here, here and here) about whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone or if JFK was killed by a massive – though not yet revealed – conspiracy. Kennedy had more than enough enemies (Mafia, Military Industrial Complex, Cuba, Russia, CIA) to fuel conspiracy theorists for decades. I’m not going to bore you with my theory except to say the following:
– I believe that Oswald was the lone shooter but had some level of backing from others, although I’m not sure whom.
– I believe that any “conspiracy” was most likely one of cover-up and people trying to protect themselves since Oswald was a known quantity way before 1963.
– I believe the more interesting part of the story is what happened after the shots rang out – the eyewitness accounts of Oswald in the School Book Depository building, the murder of police officer J.D. Tippit (most people don’t know that Oswald killed two people that day), why Oswald went to a movie theater and of course Jack Ruby’s motive and how he got access to the inside of the police station.
To me, the conspiracy is driven in part by the fact that there was so little real technical evidence of the assassination. Abraham Zapruder’s 8mm film was really the only true visual of the event. Given how we live today, it’s kind of hard to believe. But imagine if there was only one grainy video of the Boston Marathon bombing – it too a very public event. We would still be looking for the Tsarnaev brothers today. Instead, there were hundreds, if not thousands, of photos taken, smart phone videos galore and security cameras above stores and streetlights. With Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit, investigators had the opposite problem from the JFK assassination – too much information to sift through. I’m sure eyewitness accounts were helpful but investigators could literally see the terrorists carrying the bags to their destination.
I wonder also about Lee Harvey Oswald. He showed the true damage one man could do, a backward “giant leap for mankind” in direct contrast to Kennedy’s promise to put a man on the moon, fulfilled six years later.
What would it be like for Oswald today? Would he stand out as a loner with mommy issues and few friends? Would he be bullied, mocked on Facebook and Instagram?
He would likely never get to a point in his life where he could shoot a President. Instead, he’d likely just go to Walmart, surf for deals on the internet and walk into the nearest school or mall or movie theater and shoot it up.
He could have done that in 1963 too, he just didn’t know it was an option.
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