Suddenly we are fifty-seven days from November 22, 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of Jack Kennedy’s death. Here’s an interesting article, the Saturday essay in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal:
If you read this article, compare the author’s view of Lee Oswald’s character and motives with an alternate framework that becomes more durable as evidence accumulates. In that view, Oswald worked with the CIA and the FBI, and Jack Ruby killed him not because he was pissed off at Oswald for killing the president, but because he was under orders to do so.
I’ve been working on a book about Kennedy’s murder and 9/11 called Infamy. I wanted to finish it by November 22, but it won’t happen. Life took over as always, and I’m not sure when, or even if, the book project will finish. Meantime, The Jeffersonian is a good publishing tool, and I appreciate how many of you visit to see the articles posted here. Thank you.
If you click the category Infamy above this post, you’ll see that these articles deal with Kennedy’s assassination, with 9/11, or with both. The connections between these two critical events in our history, in the areas of epistemology and politics, are numerous and revealing. As we approach November 22, we have an opportunity to start a new conversation about Kennedy’s murder: how it unfolded that day, why he died, and what his death means. We had a similar conversation when Oliver Stone released his film, JFK, in 1991. Participate in the one we have this year and next if you can.
For now, I’ll stay with The Jeffersonian as Infamy‘s publishing vehicle. An online journal doesn’t have the compactness of a book you can carry with you in paper or electronic form, but in its way, it is more accessible. If you want to help broaden distribution of these articles to other people interested in Kennedy and 9/11, please post them to your favorite social networks.
I was in China when Oliver Stone’s film came out in the early 90s. I missed the impact it had in the States. I see online that it’ll be rereleased for the fiftieth anniversary of November 22, 1963. If you haven’t seen it, you should. The film skillfully narrates the story of Jim Garrison’s prosecution of Clay Shaw in New Orleans, and the story of Kennedy’s assassination. It’s not a documentary by any means, but it tells these stories well.
Here’s one critical comment. I think Kevin Costner is miscast as Jim Garrison. If you want to keep the same actors, let Tommy Lee Jones play Garrison, and Kevin Costner play Clay Shaw. Garrison was much more garrulous, aggressive, forceful and unpredictable than Costner’s performance. Plus Costner is no good with a 1960s New Orleans accent. Meryl Streep, even as a female, could have reproduced Garrison’s way of talking a lot better than Costner did. The way an actor modulates his voice is so important to reproducing the character. Costner and Stone should have recognized this weakness, and corrected it.
Despite that criticism, the film is worth it.
Stories we can tell
People often say, if the conspiracy theorists are correct, surely we would have heard from people who know the truth, or parts of the truth. The general point is well taken. Every person knows numerous other people. Family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and people we don’t know help define how we live our lives, influence our views, affect our fears and our anxieties, help us and hurt us. We are social beings, and we participate intensely in social organizations. In this highly sensitive environment, word gets around. Stories about the assassination of a leader like Kennedy get around fast.
On the other side, strong pressures built up fast to suppress stories about Kennedy’s death. By the time the Warren Commission published its report in September 1964, the consensus view had established itself. Life magazine had published its photographs of the events in Dallas, plus the well-known, damning and dubious shot of Oswald holding his Mannlicher-Carcano rifle. No one had seen the Zapruder film – only the stills in Life – nor would they see the film for a long time. The official view had taken hold. People who disagreed with it were ridiculed, ostracized, and worse. If you wanted to participate in the social organism, if you wanted to exist in your social network, you did not dissent from the official view.
What of the stories, then? Where did they go? Some people, like Garrison, openly dissented, bearing the huge cost to their reputations. Others, like Bobby Kennedy, kept their thoughts to themselves. The grief from his brother’s loss was bad enough, without adding a crusade for the truth to his pain. So many people assessed the cost of telling their stories, or simply of trying to find the truth. So many people judged the price they would pay not worth it.
Nevertheless, the stories came out, a few at a time. Many people tried to tell the truth during the first six months after the murder. They saw what happened to themselves and to others who did the same. Well before the Warren Commission report, people who cared about this subject had to say, “Hold on a second. What’s happening here? If I express doubts about this matter, if I open this subject up for a real discussion, I’m going to be in big trouble.” The government had no witness protection program for people who wanted to testify about the president’s murder.
Especially interesting is that several people somehow connected with the events in Dealey plaza have told their stories during the last several years. I’ll list three examples here:
The cover of Mary’s Mosaic is especially arresting:
Each of these stories came out long, long after the fact. I think that Stone’s film, in a flood at first, and then a steady stream since, made it alright to talk about this subject again. He showed a lot of courage in taking up the assassination. Now, more than twenty years after Stone’s film and fifty years after Kennedy’s murder, people still have stories to tell. They think, I don’t have that much time left to say these things. Tomorrow and tomorrow come and go, faster than the fifty years just past, and I may leave this earth with all these thoughts and memories. It’s better to tell them now, while I can.
The motivation to tell our stories about November 22, 1963, continues to increase, as the personal cost of doing so gradually declines. We have to hope these twin trends continue with all the stories we tell this year, and for years after November 22, 2013. Similar developments ought to occur for stories about 9/11 during upcoming decades, and for all matters where powerful people try to conceal the truth. As Jim Garrison said, “Let justice be done, though the heavens fall.” Let the truth come out.