Friday, April 13, 2007

JFK column

This is a column I wrote for the Kerrville Daily Times that was published on Nov. 22, 1993. For my own edification I will be posting my old columns into my blog as time allows.

JFK assassination battle will never end

I’m not one of those people who can recall what I was doing when President John F. Kennedy was shot. That fateful day in our nation’s history took place nearly two years before I was born.
Still it has had a profound, if somewhat delayed, impact on my life. From the time I crawled out of the crib until sometime during my junior year in college I had given no more thought to the assassination of our 35th president than I did to the death of Julius Ceasar. It was just another piece of history.
Then one day, almost innocently, I checked out a documentary video about the assassination from a library. Little did I know that this was a documentary put together by critics of the “official version” of events that day. It was 1986, still several years before the fuss over the 25th and now the 30th anniversary and before the release of Oliver Stone’s film “JFK.”
Sitting down to watch the film I was naive enough to not even realize there was a controversy about what really happened that day. Needless to say, the things the film purported to show me came as quite a shock. Up until that point I had never had any reason to doubt the government. (At the time I was also woefully ignorant about Watergate.) I can still recall having the very strange sensation of being cast out of my safe and sheltered existence. The very neat and tidy little picture of the world that I had in my head had just developed a crack.
I returned to the library that day and checked out every book I could find about the assassination. I read them all, both pro-conspiracy and pro-lone gunman theory. It became almost an obsession for the next several months. If my history books had lied to me about this, what else might they have lied about? What else might they be trying to cover up or keep secret?
I had experienced a loss of faith, a loss of trust and a loss of innocence; much like that which people who were living at the time of the assassination had experienced.
After a while I could see what the defenders of the Warren Commission’s lone gunman theory were trying to do. They were trying to repair that broken picture in my head. They were desperately trying to pick up the pieces and patch things back together, constantly reassuring me that everything was still OK, that things had not gone terribly wrong with the world.
But it was too late. The seeds of doubt had been planted. The preponderance of evidence weighed against the Warren Commission’s neat and tidy version of events. The critics were too relentless, too driven. Some of them, for sure, were off-the-wall, paranoid and fanatical, but many of them were serious. Too serious to be ignored or dismissed. None of them could tell me what really happened that day, but they did a good job of punching holes in the Warren Commission’s official version.
Today the controversy surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy continues to divide our nation into two groups — those who trust and those who doubt. Each year on the anniversary of the assassination it has become a ritual for these two groups to meet on the battlefield of public opinion and duke it out.
The doubters have been winning as of late if recent polls are any indication. They made major gains when the Oliver Stone film was released, but the defenders of the Warren Report are not giving up. This year they are rallying around a new book with the self-important title “Case Closed” that once again attempts to prop up the lone gunman theory. They also have most of the “establishment” media on their side which is holding nothing back in showering praise on the new book and continuing to heap scorn and derision on the “conspiracy theorists” and “assassination buffs.”
It is a battle that will never end. We are no longer dealing with the simple facts of a homicide investigation, but with the tenets of two very different philosophies. Depending on which philosophy a person adopts will affect which evidence they will see as the most valid and which eyewitness testimony is the most credible.
I may not have been around when President Kennedy was shot, but I will always remember when it first affected me. Like a shockwave reverberating forward through time it changed my view of the world and made me more cynical, but perhaps also more realistic.

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