Yes, I do remember where I was when I heard that President Kennedy had been shot, although I was only eleven years old at the time, and I didn’t know much about him, except, vaguely, that he had a nice smile. And lots of people seemed to get shot in America in those days, at least on television.
But the real issue about Kennedy, it seems to me, is not any vague memories of him we may retain now, but rather the fetid pile of conspiracy theories which have been rotting for fifty years and have, between them, stopped the poor guy from finding any posthumous peace all that time. Unfortunately, conspiracy theories seem to be getting more popular, rather than less, with the passage of time.
It’s easy to see why. We want great events to have great causes. The idea that Stuff Just Happens is an insult to our understanding of the world, and a disappointment and a source of fear to those who cling to the idea that life ultimately has to make sense. Conspiracy theories are comforting in that they propose a view of the world which may be insane and even stupid, but which is better than the picture of a world which is completely random and outside the control of anyone at all. The only thing worse than a conspiracy, as Oscar Wilde would have put it, is the absence of a conspiracy.
And with a little determination, conspiracies can be found everywhere and anywhere. The fundamental argument of most Kennedy conspiracy theorists has always been that they simply can’t believe Oswald acted alone. Well, we all have difficulties with reality from time to time. Put that together with the inevitable few loose ends that real life entails, and you have a conspiracy. The fact that, in fifty years, no evidence of any kind to support the existence of a conspiracy has been forthcoming, and no two conspiracy theorists can agree who did it or why, doesn’t take away the psychological comfort that a good conspiracy theory provides.
Can’t we let the poor guy rest in peace? He may not have been perfect, but what did he do to deserve this?