Brandon's Notepad

November 22, 2013

JFK Assassination

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This post commemorates the 50th anniversary of the assassination of United States President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. It is arguably the most scrutinized political event in U.S. history. Despite the extant evidence — the films, the photos, and the testimonies of eyewitnesses some of whom are still alive — his death is still shrouded in mystery and intrigue.

Personal Reflection

Most of my research posts contain factual information first and foremost, but I chose to use this post as a medium for some personal reflection. I certainly hope that it will become a springboard into more in-depth research on my part, but so much information is already available from other sources that it would not be realistic for me to attempt a holistic presentation of it in just this one post. Besides, I was not even born yet when Kennedy was killed and my family did not live in the Dallas area at that time, so I decided that I must first come to terms with what it means to me before I can even consider a serious treatment on the subject.

A Man Died

Before considering the facts and circumstances of November 22, 1963 or any of the controversies and conspiracy theories that arose from the day’s events, it is most important in my opinion to recognize that a man died, murdered in broad daylight in the streets of Dallas that day. Yes, he was the President of the United States of America, leader of the free world, but he was also God’s child from whom the Creator’s gift of life was taken, his soul ripped from his mortal body. We can talk all day about what this assassination meant to the citizens of this country, to world politics, to the Cold War with the Soviet Union, to the political machine that is Washington, the peaceful transfer of power and the continuation of the government in the face of national tragedy, but we all too often take for granted what it meant to the man himself, his soul, to his family who loved him, and to God. These are worthy points of reflection for those moments of silence we diligently observe in his honor.

Where were you?

Ne’er does a November 22nd pass that I don’t hear this question asked, even if only rhetorically. Sometimes people will answer it even though they were not asked, perhaps in response to an internal desire to reconnect with the memories of that day. “I can tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard that Jack was killed.” Again, it was before my time, but I can relate all too well. The same question crops up every January 28th and September 11th as well, and I have no problem answering it on those days. Indeed, it seems to me that the ability to answer this question positively has much to do with determining the meaning of the event in any given person’s life.

End Of The Innocence

I’ve heard (or read) it so many times that what really died that day was our country’s innocence. We may never know who first made that statement. Certainly, Don McLean’s song American Pie is an expression of that very sentiment, and in the music video for The End of the Innocence, Don Henley is filmed singing in front of the Texas School Book Depository. Kennedy’s assassination forced a lot of Americans to deal with reality, to “grow up” faster than they might have otherwise. But the observation is quite relative. Those who make this claim were not alive to see brother kill brother in our American Civil War or to hear the news of the massacre at the Alamo. They were probably not present on Bloody Sunday, November 21, 1920, when violence erupted in the streets of downtown Dublin or in any number of European towns invaded by Nazi forces in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Events occur in every age and in every country that change the paradigm of the common man. JFK’s assassination is but one such event, and until we are separated by enough years, and the generation of those who were young when it happened are long dead and buried, it is likely to remain the most powerful.

Dealy Plaza

Elm Street is one of three streets that converge under a railroad bridge in Dealy Plaza on the west side of downtown Dallas. The first time I drove down that stretch of asphalt, I was new to Dallas and I made it all the way to the Grassy Knoll before I realized where I was. But that was not the drive that gave me chills. No, that would be the time I first noticed the little white “X” painted in the middle of the right-hand lane that marked the approximate location of the fatal head shot. The “X” was removed (possibly by accident) as the streets were prepared for the 50th Anniversary Commemoration. I did not know until today that some considered the “X” to be in bad taste, but I, for one, hope that the city will make plans to replace it. For me, it adds to the solemnity of the place in a very simple and unique way.

Conspiracy Theories

The official investigation by the Warren Commission (1964) concluded that there was no conspiracy to assassinate the President, but that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. The Select Committee on Assassinations of the U.S. House of Representatives, however, indicated in its report (1979) that a second gunman was not only a possibility, but that a conspiracy was probable. A wide-range of subsequent theories and variants have been proposed, including a government cover-up of the facts and even the accusation that Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson and the CIA orchestrated the murder as a grand coup d’etat to gain control of the Presidency. Wikipedia has a list of John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories that is fairly exhaustive. If nothing else, the multitude of theories in circulation regarding the assassination is an embarrassment in my opinion, and I strongly believe that technology will eventually resolve the inconsistencies in audio and video evidence and human testimony. We may never have solid proof as to a sure motive, but at least the facts of the case will be established, putting an end to much of the nonsense propagated by those who would like to (re)write history according to their own fantastic imaginations.

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