“Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you.”
~ Nellie Connally, First Lady of Texas, November 22, 1963
“To mark the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination, the networks have decided to make as much money from it as possible.”
~ Andy Borowitz, November 21, 2013
Regular “What’s the Diehl?” readers know that I’m a middle-aged progressive who’s pro-choice, supports gun control, loves good music and thinks Newt Gingrich, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor should be gagged, bound together and set adrift in the north Atlantic in a decrepit old boat with insufficient food and water and a burlap bag stuffed with several hungry, angry, venomous snakes. But what you may not know is that I grew up fascinated to a fault by the assassination of the 35th President of the United States.
While other boys were honing their athletic skills and watching Gunsmoke and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I was learning that the murder of John F. Kennedy was caught on tape by a Dallas dressmaker named Abraham Zapruder, who was convinced by his employees to return home to get his 8-millimeter movie camera before heading to Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, when I was 20 months old.
|Lee Harvey Oswald|
I learned about the “Single Bullet Theory,” which has helped bolster conspiracy theories for decades. Because one of Oswald’s three shots missed the limousine entirely and another caused JFK’s fatal head wound, that means only one bullet could have caused seven other sounds to the president and Texas Governor John Connally, who was riding in the limo and was seriously injured that day but survived. Some folks find this implausible.
|The Kennedys at Love Field in Dallas|
I learned that Jack Ruby, the Dallas nightclub owner who shot Oswald two days after JFK’s assassination as Oswald was being escorted by police through the basement of police headquarters, had ties to the mob and died of lung cancer at Parkland Hospital, the same place where JFK and Oswald had been pronounced dead three years earlier.
I remember one old magazine article – I can’t remember which one – describing JFK’s head exploding thusly: “Brain matter spewed forth that resembled a mixture of tomato soup with rice.” To this day I can’t consume even a spoonful of soup that contains rice.
Last Sunday, I awoke to a CBS Sunday Morning piece on the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. Face the Nation, which followed, was devoted to the same subject, although curmudgeonly Bob Schieffer was much more insistent than Charles Osgood that a lone gunman was solely responsible for the murder of perhaps our most beloved president. (According to a recent poll, just 39 percent of Americans believe Oswald acted alone; others blame the Mafia, the CIA, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Lyndon Johnson, the Ku Klux Klan and even the Soviets.)
I realized that that was just the beginning of an onslaught of maudlin commemorations, preemptions and Very Special Episodes marking the assassination’s golden anniversary. Television, with its propensity to beat a dead horse so thoroughly that there’s nothing left of the carcass but dust, would surely devote the entire next week to overwhelming and inundating viewers with all things Dealey Plaza to such an extent that some will feel like cursing myopic network executives while heaving their sets right out of their windows. Sadly, I was right.
I’m sorry that President Kennedy suffered such a gruesome fate. (Anyone who’s viewed the Zapruder film and autopsy photos knows why I use “gruesome.”) I’m sorry that the First Lady had to experience the sensation of her spouse’s head exploding inches away from where she sat in the presidential Lincoln Continental and that two young children lost their daddy. I’m sorry that November of 1963 marked a turning point, one in which this country’s heart, our nature, went from hopeful and trusting to cynical and divisive. I’m sorry that the most noteworthy unsolved mystery in our history continues to generate argument. And I’m sorry that five decades later, we still almost gleefully dwell on this terrible tragedy for ratings, callously exploiting the pain associated with this jarring event in our everlasting quest to sell soap and soda.
I shouldn’t have added to the din with this blog post but if you can’t beat ‘em...
Sources: New York Daily News, Salon.com, WhatReallyHappened.com, New York Times, The Olympian.