Monday, November 25, 2013

Selective History

Thoughts on JFK 50 Years Later

Kennedy is placed to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
This week has been a busy one for we history connoisseurs.  The past days have marked the anniversaries of the Gettysburg Address, the Kennedy assassination, the Battle of Tarawa, the fight for Lookout Mountain, among others.  Several of these commemorations will be discussed in forthcoming blog posts.  However, I would like to first reflect upon the occurrences of fifty years ago today: the burial of John F. Kennedy at Arlington Cemetery and the events surrounding it.

What else can be said on the matter?  Not much, I suppose.  Innumerable articles, books, television specials, and ceremonies have been held in light of this significant anniversary.  I can only reaffirm or critique the comments of others in this regard.  No matter which way you splice it, November 22, 1963 and the days that followed were when the 1960s began in earnest.  The three shots fired in Dallas were the opening salvo in a decade beleaguered by assassination, social unrest, contested warfare, and increasing cynicism among the American people.  Who can blame them?  The veneer of cultural complacency of the 1950s was quickly dissipating.  Citizens braced themselves in different ways for the societal surges that challenged the conventional roles and outlooks of their everyday lives.  Realizations of racial discord, government corruption, inequality, and mistrust were dramatically shifted to the forefront of American consciousness.  As JFK's remains were buried in eternal darkness, social and global issues relating to his late presidency continued being brought to light in 1964 and beyond.  You know as well as I that many of these predicaments continue to resonate.  November 1963 marked a turning point in this regard as well as others.

On a different note, the Kennedy assassination has become one of the greatest historical quandaries in the nation's study.  Thanks to myths perpetuated by films such as 1973's Executive Action and Oliver Stone's cinematic masterpiece/historical abomination JFK, conspiracy theories continue to echo among the masses.  When one examines the available evidence (and most of it is available), there is little doubt that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.  Distraught by Kennedy's actions against pro-Marxist Cuba, Oswald could not help but take advantage of Kennedy's ill-fated campaign stop to his town of residency.  Despite his failings in almost every other realm of his life, Oswald's ability as a marksman in the Marine Corps was superb.  His skill to pull a trigger three times in a matter of seconds is more than feasible, it is concrete.  Merely consider the actions Timothy McVeigh to learn that not all military training equates to benevolent deeds or model citizenship.

Additional scientific and ballistic examinations move a step beyond hypotheses regarding Oswald's abilities.  One only needs to view this video to learn how the theory of a "magic bullet" possesses no grounding in reality.  The Warren Commission Report, as well as Vincent Bugliosi's 1,600 page manifesto Reclaiming History reinforces this notion.  The science, documentation, and eye-witness accounts all match up.  Oswald acted alone, yes.

Conspiracies and assumptions continue to dwell in our collective memories of Kennedy's demise only because of our inability to recognize the overwhelming levels of evidence before us.  To paraphrase historian Robert Dallek, acknowledging these truths prove difficult because we do not wish to accept the hard facts.  Realizing that someone seemingly inconsequential as Oswald could murder someone as consequential as Kennedy appears too harsh a reality for many to embrace.  Lincoln died in the name of emancipation and Union.  Ghandi perished in the name of peace and liberty.  Martin Luther King was struck down amidst dreams of equality.  What was Kennedy killed for?  Such is a designation not as easily classified by common public perception. 

This realization runs contrary to the "Camelot" mythos that has long imbued the sentimental Kennedy legacy, resulting in further historical denial throughout the ages.  Perhaps we will never transcend this mode of thought.  We want, we need our heroes.  Our heroes die in the name of causes that benefit their people.  By imagining that Kennedy was shot to pieces by some greater, malevolent force such as the "Military Industrial Complex" secretly comforts us in a macabre way.  Granted, the scenario is more intriguing and romantic than that of a slacker book clerk gunning down the most important man on earth.  Our views of the past are frequently selective in nature.  The assassination of John F. Kennedy validates this fact perhaps more than anything else.

Can our heroes also be human?


  1. Very interesting post, as always. I have long thought Oswald acted alone and it is a shame that Ruby had to take matters into his own hands. I have always seen that as ground zero for when the conspiracies began. I was speaking with a friend the other day who stands on the side of the conspiracists who brought up a point that I had a hard time refuting, that of the third shot that hit Kennedy in the head. Apparently Oswald was using full metal jacket rounds, but the third shot splintered and apparently the entry wound was too small for the calibre he had been using. Did your research reveal anything in regards to this claim? Would love to know from someone who's research I can trust.

  2. Nicely done Mr. Frederick -- as usual.