It has been 50 years, so the shock is gone, of course. The grief has passed for some and lingered for others, but the sense of loss remains palpable for most of us who remember. It was a loss of hope and of innocence for an entire generation and the blinding of a dream of something lofty.
All of us of a certain age remember where we were and what we were doing when we learned what had happened. We stayed glued to the the tube for days and our vocabulary was irrevocably altered by that day. Indeed, the term “grassy knoll” now means only one place on Earth. “School book depository” is a term for use solely in Dallas, Texas.
The initial furor ended and we were left with a permanent itch we cannot scratch. We crave the satisfaction of full explanation, of the ascribing of responsibility and of the meting of consequences to all guilty ones. Even after 50 years that simply has not happened.
The Warren Commission was designed to soothe the nation with a simple explanation. And it was a fine investigative body, except for its complete incompetence, its refusal to admit crucial evidence and testimony and the predetermined conclusion it carefully crafted. We Americans know a snow job when we’re in one and we resent being treated as simpletons. We want answers.
There remain so many critical questions. For example, if the whole thing was done by a lone gunman, how did a mediocre marksman manage to accurately fire three shots in four seconds, something even the best marksmen are unable to do with that model rifle?
Here is another. Acoustics engineers have studied audio records of those seconds of American history and developed various theories to explain the contradictory statements from people who were on the scene. They examined echoes from the surrounding buildings and some concluded that all sounds of gunfire came from one place. That is unconvincing to people who were in Dealey Plaza that day and who heard a shot and turned toward the sound by the fence bordering the plaza and saw a puff of smoke as from a firearm.
The result of all the official soothing, disingenuous explanations and denial has been a terrible addition to the loss of innocence of a generation. That addition is a loss of trust in government itself. Even now 61% of Americans distrust official explanations and instead believe there was some sort of conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, that an ideological loser would not have been able to do this on his own. Note that the 61% includes Americans who had not yet been born when the murder happened, so they are immune from the trauma of that moment and in a position to be clearer of mind about this entire chapter of our history.
One of the last actions of the Warren Commission was the sealing of evidence brought to the commission but which was shielded from the public. We were told that it would be unsealed and made public in 50 years. Well, that is where we find ourselves today. It is time to unseal and deliver the rest of the information to us and let the chips fall where they may.
Our distrust of government, borne of the Kennedy assassination whitewash, has been fueled through the intervening years by an ongoing parade of lies and disinformation from our government. Our current DC dysfunction continues that, in part because so many of us have dropped out, wishing a pox on all their houses. That dropping out allows the crazy people to expand the debilitation of government and that actually exacerbates the very thing we loathe.
It is time for we Americans – and especially those who remember – to drop back in.
It is time to end our willful apathy, cynicism and disinterest and take the bold step of reinvesting ourselves in our country.
It is time for us to again be moved as we were that day in 1961, to pick ourselves up and,
“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.