I was going to pass on adding my $0.02 to the discussions of the Kennedy assassination. I have nothing to add concerning the event itself. I am writing this post because of a comment I cannot get out of my mind:
“Like a tornado, the Kennedy conspiracy theories have spun off whirlwinds of doubt about other national traumas and controversies…The legacy of that shocking instant is a troubling habit of the modern American mind: suspicion is a reflex now, trust a figment.” – David Von Drehle in Time Magazine, Nov. 25, 2013
You can’t argue with Drehle’s conclusion, that suspicion of government is a reflex, but when and how did it come about? I truly don’t remember it starting in Dallas. People at the time expressed shock and grief, and everyone shook their head and said the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald was “pretty suspicious,” but no one I knew, and not a single history teacher I ever had, obsessed about the conspiracy like we do now.
I wonder if that’s a key – like we do now. I wonder if the weight given this month to assassination conspiracy theories isn’t history revised in light of our current mistrust of government, a mistrust that came about from a long string of incidents rather than a single one.
There was the Gulf of Tonkin the following year, used to justify escalating the war in Vietnam, which Robert McNamara, then Secretary of Defense, later admitted never happened. There was the 1970 National Guard shooting of 13 students in Kent, Ohio, when fear and loathing of government rose to heights I’ve never seen before or since. There was Watergate, the non-existent Iraq WMD’s, and now let’s all say hi to the NSA, both I who am writing and you who are reading this post.
Trust is the foundation of any honest relationship, slow to evolve and quickly broken by deceit. In interpersonal relationships, once it’s gone it is pretty much gone for good – “fool me once…” as they say.
The flags flying at half-staff yesterday brought to mind a childhood grief, but we have moved on from the loss of one man. What lingers and haunts is the memory of how that man could invite a public trust – “Ask not what your country can do for you…” – and seem worthy of it. That level of hope and public trust is gone, and I don’t see it coming back.
More than a man, that is what I found myself mourning yesterday.