“What is past is prologue.” William Shakespeare
“There has to be more to it.” Senator Edward Kennedy
Today marks the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination in Dallas. This was one the defining moments of my parent’s generation and, arguably, changed the course of world history. Most people who lived through this time can tell you exactly where they were when they heard the news. This “flashbulb memory” effect has, sadly, been repeated many times since, as with the deaths of John Lennon and Princess Diana, The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and 9/11, to name a few. The debate continues, to this day, as to what exactly happened in Dealey Plaza on that fateful afternoon, and it is questionable whether we will ever get the full story. I know that 250-300 words is not enough to even scratch the surface of this topic, but to mark the anniversary of this terrible day, the library has a number of resources to help.
Rather than focus on the events of November 22, as most accounts do, this book takes a longer view, and examines the political and social climate of Dallas in the years leading up to Kennedy’s assassination. It looks at the various political, religious, and social leaders, why so many of them were “Anti-Kennedy,” and why Dallas was such a ripe spot for a possible assassination attempt. It’s well-researched and thought-provoking; and unapologetically honest about the mood of that city in the early 1960’s.
LIFE magazine was front and centre of the Kennedy story. It featured JFK and Jackie, yachting, on its cover even before they were married. The magazine covered the personal and family side of the Kennedys during the presidency, as well as the tense thirteen-day Cuban Missile Crisis. LIFE also contributed to the aftermath of the assassination, and the ensuing investigation, with the famous (possibly doctored) photo of Lee Harvey Oswald on the cover, and was the first to publish stills from the infamous Zapruder film. So, it only makes sense that LIFE would produce a commemorative book on the 50th anniversary of the assassination. This collection includes all 486 frames of the Zapruder film, plus an essay on how LIFE obtained exclusive rights to it. It also includes a ton of photos and remembrances from famous people as to where they were when they heard the news, and a look back at 50 years worth of conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination.
Speaking of conspiracy theories, you really need to watch Oliver Stone’s JFK (1991). The movie depicts the attempts of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (played by Kevin Costner) to secure an arrest and conviction for Kennedy’s murder. It is riveting, and also showcases the various conspiracy theories that persist to this day. Was it the mafia? Or maybe Cuban ex-patriots? A rogue element in the government? CIA? FBI? The movie addresses each theory in turn and, rather than debunk any of them, raises more questions than it is able to answer. You may disagree with it, but you can’t deny that it is a masterfully made film that deserves to be remembered.
When we think of the Kennedy assassination, we tend to get bogged down in the details of the day and its aftermath, which is only normal. But I’d like to leave you with a link to JFK’s 1955 book, Profiles in Courage. It was written when Kennedy was still a junior senator from Massachusettes, and contains the stories of eight unsung patriots in American history. It won the Pulitzer Prize, and became an instant “must read” title. It still moving and powerful by today’s standards, and serves as a celebration of courage; that human virtue of which we sometimes need to be reminded.