Selling Out for Jack and Lee

Jack and Lee (Veterans Today)

Jack and Lee (Veterans Today)

Okay. I give up.

Despite yesterday being the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy—one of the defining moments in our nation’s history and arguably the most controversial event of the 20th century—I thought I could escape without writing about it. After all, there are millions of shows, books, newscasts, documentaries, films, magazine articles, federal documents and other resources devoted to the minutiae of that tragic day in Dallas. Why even attempt to join the conversation, especially a day late?

I’ll tell you why: because I’m a huge skeptic and conspiracy theorist in my own right. And the JFK assassination is the Great White Whale of conspiracies—or at least alleged conspiracies.

Don’t worry, though. The 1991 Oliver Stone film JFK only sparked my curiosity. Since then I have read extensively on the subject and even though I still believe there was some kind of conspiracy involved, I am capable of seeing both sides. Of course, that’s not why I’m writing today. Covering one conspiracy theory after another seems too much like beating a dead horse, so instead I’ll share some facts I learned along the way.

And yes, some of these come from a marathon evening of History Channel specials about the events surrounding the Kennedy assassination. I hope you enjoy them nonetheless!

Senator Fulbright warned JFK about Texas (Corbis Images)

Senator Fulbright warned JFK about Texas (Corbis Images)

Please don’t go: Before he left for Dallas, President Kennedy received warnings urging him to reconsider. One came from U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright, who described Texas as “dangerous.” The other came via letter through Kennedy’s press secretary from a Texas resident. It read simply “Don’t let the President go to Texas. Texas is too dangerous.” Oh well. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say.

The Bad Seed: According to the former owner of the Bronx apartment building where Lee Harvey Oswald lived as a child, the young Oswald always had a violent streak. He once got a BB gun for Christmas, perched himself in a window and used it to target neighbors’ windows… and sometimes even the neighbors themselves!

A young Oswald in trouble with the law (US National Archives)

A young Oswald in trouble with the law (US National Archives)

Killer Practice: Nearly seven months before the Kennedy assassination, Oswald tried to murder former U.S. Army major general Edwin Walker as he sat in the dining room of his home. A self-proclaimed Marxist, Oswald objected to Walker’s militant ant-Communist views and fired several shots through his window. The shots were deflected by the window frame, shattered and injured Walker in the process. Oswald only became a suspect in the April 10, 1963 shooting after being arrested for murdering President Kennedy the following November.

Walter Cronkite covers the story (Getty Images)

Walter Cronkite covers the story (Getty Images)

Round-the-Clock News: Following President Kennedy’s assassination, the three major television networks—ABC, CBS and NBC—covered the story non-stop and commercial-free for nearly four days. Prior to the events of September 11, 2001, this was the longest uninterrupted news event in American television history!

What Would You Say: JFK’s last words were spoken to Nelli Connally, the wife of then-Texas Governor John Connally. “Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you!” she told him. The president replied, “That is very obvious.” And those were the last words he would ever speak again.

JFK en route to his death (Wikipedia Commons)

JFK en route to his death (Wikipedia Commons)

Sit Up Straight: On that fateful November day, the president was wearing a back brace that kept his spine straight—he often struggled with a sore back—but also forced him to sit upright. This limited his mobility—as well as his ability to take cover—and made him an easy target for the fatal headshot to come.

Shaken, Not Stirred: President Kennedy was known to be a huge fan of British Agent 007 James Bond and was supposedly writing his own spy novel. It centered around a coup d’état led by none other than—wait for it—Vice President Lyndon Johnson! Take that and run with it, my conspiracy theorist brothers and sisters!

A Slap on the Wrist: Believe it or not, but killing or attempting to kill the President wasn’t even a federal offense in 1963—and wouldn’t become one until several years later. Had Oswald lived long enough to stand trial, it would have happened in Texas according to state law. One way or another he would have died, though. I’m fairly certain of that.

Famous home filmmaker Abraham Zapruder (Getty Images)

Famous home filmmaker Abraham Zapruder (Getty Images)

I’m in the Money: The now infamous home movie of the Kennedy assassination—shot by clothing manufacturer Abraham Zapruder near the so-called “grassy knoll” in Dealey Plaza—was purchased by Life magazine for $150,000. The American public wouldn’t see it until 12 years later or—if you’re like me—until 1991, the year the film JFK was released.

Getting Technical: Lee Harvey Oswald was never arrested for the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Instead, he was taken into custody for shooting Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit roughly 45 minutes later. Oswald wasn’t charged with Kennedy’s murder until later, despite the evidence against him being largely circumstantial. Of course, none of it mattered since JFK’s alleged killer was gunned down by nightclub owner Jack Ruby before he could face any of the charges against him.

Please Come In: In the days leading up to Lee Harvey Oswald’s murder, Jack Ruby can be seen numerous times on the third floor of the municipal building where the suspected assassin is being held. He was never checked for identification—despite there being no need for the services of a nightclub owner—and even reached the door of the room where Oswald was being held. On the morning of Oswald’s transfer to county jail, Ruby visits a nearby Western Union office—to wire some money to one of his strippers who is behind on her rent—and then manages to slip into the basement of the police station… a mere moments before Oswald is escorted to his death!

The infamous stills from Zapruder's film (Life Magazine)

The infamous stills from Zapruder’s film (Life Magazine)

The Lady Had Class: Shortly after the murders of both JFK and Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit, First Lady Jackie Kennedy wrote Tippit’s widow a heartfelt note. In it, she expressed her deepest condolences, insisted that neither death was more important than the other—despite the publicity for the President overshadowing Tippit’s death—and said the eternal flame burning in Washington for Kennedy also burned for her husband. I can understand why our nation loved Jackie so much. What a classy lady.

Jackie's note to Mrs. Tippit (NBC News)

Jackie’s note to Mrs. Tippit (NBC News)

So ends my foray into the 1963 assassination of 36thU.S. president John Fitzgerald Kennedy by the lone gunman and pro-Communist supporter Lee Harvey Oswald… or the mob… or the Russians… or the CIA… or whoever the hell was responsible. Sadly, the truth of that tragic fall day in Dallas may never be known. Oliver Stone’s film helped since it forced the declassification of 97% of the federal documents related to Kennedy’s assassination. The other 3% could be declassified in 2017, as long as our next president allows this to happen.

Personally, I’m hoping for another Democrat since a Republican president seems far less likely to share this information with the American public. Or maybe just a young, level-headed president, regardless of political affiliation… someone like JFK!

Posted on November 23, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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