By Daniel Dombrowski
Our newspapers, magazines, regularly scheduled television programs, and the remarkably complex series of tubes known collectively as the “Internet” have all been overrun, in recent weeks, by two significant anniversaries. The year 2013 marks the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Gettysburg and the quinquagenary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (150th and 50th anniversaries, respectively, for those who struggle with Latin roots).
Both events will forever remain pivotal moments in our national history, and both should be treated with extreme reverence. However, it is somewhat incredible that we, as a nation, remain preoccupied by the JFK assassination, while we typically leave Gettysburg to be handled by our historians and, to a lesser extent, our costumed reenactors. We trust one set of experts to handle things appropriately but not the other. Why?
The events of that warm November day in Dallas were captured by video and audio recordings, had numerous eyewitnesses, were investigated immediately by a panel of experts (the much criticized Warren Commission, whose conclusions were independently verified by seven other high-ranking officials, including Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy), and were the subject of further investigation by the 1979 United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), which concluded that, while the Warren Commission’s investigation was apparently flawed, they could say nothing definitive and could only speak of probabilities.
Modern investigative techniques with impressive sounding names like “forensic video and audio analysis” and “neutron activation analysis” have proven the validity of the official explanation, which is the “single bullet theory.” There did not need to be multiple shooters. The single bullet that seemingly did the work of two was not “magic,” it was just unlikely. Military marksmen with training similar to that of Lee Harvey Oswald have proven time and time again that one man could have made the shot in question.
But there are still doubts. Why? Unsurprisingly, it seems that the American public loves a good story more than the truth. Oliver Stone’s JFK (1991) grossed over $200 million and garnered two Academy Awards, with another six nominations, while playing fast and loose with the facts. Throughout the course of the film, the military-industrial complex, the mafia, the CIA, the FBI, the Secret Service, and Kennedy’s Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson are all implicated as being at least tangentially involved in either the planning of the assassination itself or the obstruction of the subsequent investigation for their own selfish reasons. How Stone managed to leave out the Soviets is anyone’s guess.
While other people are still debating conspiracy theories about Kennedy’s death, it seems this is a better time to honor his life.