… On the front left running board, Clint Hill focused on the overpass ahead, looking for signs of anybody who might attempt something from that ideal vantage point. About ten people and two police officers. No problem. He moved his gaze to the left, to the flat grass area that formed Dealey Plaza, where just a few people were standing and waving. Directly across from Hill, on the front running board, Agent Jack Ready was scanning the clusters of people standing on the sidewalk and seated on another grassy slope on the right-hand side of the street. The four motorcycle police were back in position a few yards from the gents, their growling engines drowning out the cheers and greetings from the few spectators. Suddenly, above the noise of the motorcycles and beyond the screams of the adoring crowd, a sharp crack blistered through Dealey Plaza. … .. – The Kennedy Detail, by Gerald Blaine (with Lisa McCubbin), pg. 212
If you’ve never been to Dealey Plaza it’s hard to fathom just how incomprehensible the left turn Pres. John F. Kennedy’s motorcade made that day in Dallas. There’s nothing about it that makes sense. Not that anything about Pres. Kennedy’s assassination lends itself to comprehension.
You’d have to be someone of the darker life arts to concoct such a malicious conspiratorial act against our country, which is exactly what someone did.
I’ve spent my entire life researching and studying John F. Kennedy, because of the lens I had through my older brother and sister who were old enough to understand and comprehend what it meant when he was murdered.
As many old time readers here know, I wrote and produced a one-woman show in L.A. a few years ago entitled “Weeping for J.F.K.,” which chronicled the intersection of my siblings and my life and just how John F. Kennedy melded into it. The research into countless books, which I began reading decades ago, has been never ending. Beyond Jack the man, what happened on this day almost five decades ago is an event I’ve studied since I was old enough to do research, along with the life of the man who captured America for one brief shining moment in a decade that I’m proud to have come of age in.
The latest book, The Kennedy Detail, is a fascinating and historic addition, because it compiles the story of Pres. Kennedy’s Secret Service Detail for the first time. That these men finally broke their silence adds an invaluable perspective and we are forever in their debt. The pain they’ve carried silently must have been unimaginable to relive again, though that it was healing has to be a final comfort.
For me, commemorating this day will be something I do every year of my life.
Pres. Kennedy’s murder was the beginning of a political odyssey for me that no matter what I was doing at the time was remembered. The cataclysmic catastrophe our nation suffered when Pres. Kennedy was targeted for assassination for who he was, as well as what his brother Bobby stood for in his life and as his partner in politics, a moment that impacted my older siblings profoundly, which trickled down to me from my big brother in a way that altered the course of my life and is why I’ve followed politics since I was a kid.
This day will never be laid to rest for some of us, no matter the protestations of the certain, meaning no disrespect to anyone sure, or of those believing the “magic bullet,” the Warren Commission or that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Symposiums with Mark Lane, among other things, forever disabused me of these theories when I was very young.
Perhaps Leonardo DiCaprio can give the horrific event serious perspective where so many others have failed. The film “Legacy of Secrecy: The Long Shadow of the JFK Assassination,” based on the book written by Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann, is set to be released in the 50th year commemorating Pres. John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Based on the story that mafia godfather Carlos Marcello confessed that he ordered Kennedy’s assassination to his confidant Jack Van Laningham, who was actually a deep cover F.B.I. informant (whom DiCaprio will portray). It’s a tale that’s been around for years and years, which deserves full airing by someone serious enough to respect what it means.
So, the mystery lives with us, the tragedy of a fallen leader in a decade of collapsing idealism all pushing me forward through life into unknown territory of what makes leaders like Kennedy, as well as F.D.R. and Truman versus celebrities like Sarah Palin and Barack Obama. That moment when candidate Obama was passed the torch by Pres. Kennedy’s brother Teddy in a moment of political emotion now simply hangs in the distant ether like a mirage.
And no matter what is said of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, having studied him thoroughly, I also know full well that he was the last human who fits the mold of statuesque superman hero, or someone who’d want the silly title. Not only was he so very human, but also deeply flawed, with a cold-hearted calculating brilliance owned by a man who was insatiable about life. That’s likely because he knew his own would be fleeting. His constant fight for life through incomprehensible pain and debilitating health challenges that were enough to kill anyone, simply made him fight harder to survive.
But what I think of most of all on this day in the last years is that in our current political and media climate the likes of a John F. Kennedy would never have been given a chance to serve. Our moralistic hubris defying anyone intellectually brilliant with a corporeal appetite to match the opportunity to try and juggle both in the light.
What would have been said about Jackie Kennedy’s smoking or her disdain for First Lady duties would have represented a collective wail of suffocating self-righteousness.
Pres. John F. Kennedy simply wouldn’t be today. The moralistic mental midgets on the Right wouldn’t allow it. Mind you, John F. Kennedy had to fight the Right back then too, including wingnut radio and even Human Events, but the current crop of self-righteous complainers aren’t satisfied until someone is brought to his knees. It would be sex over science and the moon, dumbed down politics over intellectual curiosity that took us beyond what we’d dreamed we could be. Political jealousies of what they can’t understand driving them to destruction.
But we all now know we lost more than Pres. John F. Kennedy this day so many decades ago. It was the beginning of the gutting of our national soul.
It led to escalation of Vietnam, Nixon, Watergate, and the cowardice pardon that led this nation to believe we couldn’t stand to hold our own accountable. The country couldn’t take it was the line and the Democrats sucked it up. It led to the tenuous presidency of Jimmy Carter, the calamitous Teddy Kennedy presidential gamble, then 12 years in the wilderness until William Jefferson Clinton came along to teach Democrats how to win again. It also led to Democrats letting George W. Bush and Dick Cheney get away with unspeakable malfeasance, all on the notion that our nation isn’t tough enough to stand up for our own values.
The Right came gunning for Clinton, too, using a coordinated conspiracy to attempt a coup through impeachment, then the Left tried to humiliate him off the national stage by calling him a racist. However, no one has used a gun, though there are sinister forces targeting Pres. Obama today, with people showing up packing at rallies against a foe that only exists in their minds, the place where all hate resides.
We’re a different nation today than when Kennedy reined. It remains to be seen if we’ll end up a country John F. Kennedy could recognize if he came back to visit the country that to this day still remembers he was about much more than his name.