This is the 48th anniversary of the murder of President Kennedy. Yes, it’s been almost half a century. For members of a particular generation, November 22, 1963, has the same impact that December 7, 1941, had for their fathers and mothers.
I was being released from the Army the hour of the assassination. We were driving back to New York from Fort Dix, New Jersey, when first reports of the shooting flashed over the car radio. We were told that people were seen rushing up a grassy knoll. (That’s how the “grassy knoll” theory got started.) Of course, they were rushing to get away from the shooting, but that didn’t matter to the later conspiracy theorists, who insisted there was a shooter on that knoll.
I recall the utter silence inside Pennsylvania Station in New York, as I waited to take a train back to my parents’ home on Long Island. The first “extras” were already out, with the New York Post shouting PRESIDENT SHOT DEAD. I still have a copy.
And yet I recall the contempt I felt when our train passed the tennis club in Forest Hills, where the U.S. Open is played. The members were still playing tennis, in their bright white shorts. I guess they didn’t feel part of the country.
Until September 11, 2001, that day in Dallas was the most memorable single day of our time.
National Geographic is running two new documentaries on the day, and I urge you to see them. They are non-political and very well done.
The conspiracy theorists remain out there, unconvinced by the overwhelming evidence that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman who killed President Kennedy and wounded Governor John Connally of Texas. We are constantly being told that there’s “new evidence,” but nothing presented has changed the conclusion about Oswald.. The History Channel disgraced itself, and not for the last time, by running a mini-series asserting that some French interests were behind the assassination, about which nothing further need be said.
It is true that most Americans, according to polls, don’t believe we know the full story. But, of course, an answer depends on how the question is asked. Many writers still cannot accept that the real basis for some conspiracy theories, especially the early ones, is politics. The most important early book challenging the original investigation was written by Mark Lane, a pro-Communist lawyer. The left could never accept that one of their own killed Kennedy, but he did.
Most Americans alive today were born after the assassination. Only a minority of us remember President Kennedy or his era. Mr. Kennedy’s work will be assessed on its own.
One thing that struck me in watching the new documentaries was the struggle of reporters of the time to remain professional and objective. Pure reporting was far more respected then than it is now. (Today we would be told what emotions we’re expected to have.) What impressed me about the best journalists of 1963 was the simplicity of their reports, and their insistence on hard facts. They didn’t always get everything right, but they tried, and it showed. They were especially careful in reporting the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald. They expressed no opinion, no hatred, and they did not inform us of all the difficulties he must have had in growing up in capitalist America.
We recall a day, an era, and changing attitudes.
FROM URGENT AGENDA (www.urgentagenda.com)
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