The day John Kennedy was killed, few thought it was anything other than exactly what it seemed to be.
Most believed that the crime was committed by the party named as the perpetrator. A weapon was used that, although having lethal properties, was mainly regarded as a method of recreation. One of the nation’s great metropolises had witnessed this violence, and almost everyone assumed authorities had done everything possible to avert it.
Sadly, this was not the first time such an act had been perpetrated. Not in exactly the same way, but certainly upon the same office. Thus, astonishment and acknowledgment mingled that day to produce credulity.
But some suspected otherwise.
Among them was a wizened woman of my own kin. While watching the first interview of Oswald she spoke aloud as to the Fates, “It won’t be long now afore that boy himself is the one they will set to killing.” She had put her acquired wits of a lifetime to excellent use. Nightclub owner Jack Ruby murdered Oswald less than forty-eight hours after Oswald had murdered the president.
The time for questioning had come.
The Warren Commission was created to investigate the multitude of anomalies and inconsistencies stemming from the fact that national security agencies had several prior warnings of a plot, the innumerable blatant oddities of the day, and the complete lack of specific immediate reaction to the crime as it unfolded. Although the conclusions were sometimes dumbfounding, very few American citizens then believed it possible that over two dozen of the most intelligent legal minds assembled for the task could so obviously obfuscate and purposely misunderstand basic testimony, let alone willfully alter scientific findings as Gerald Ford later admitted he did in regard to entrance wounds on President Kennedy’s body coming as a result of Arlen Specter’s “magic bullet.” These were the most trusted men in America. They would never, they could never, mislead us so shamelessly.
At the time of Kennedy’s assassination no one outside of a handful of individuals had seen the Zapruder film. Nor did they realize that one of the few reporters who had viewed it, a small-town, small-time hack named Dan Rather, would go on to fame, fortune, and national prominence for grossly mischaracterizing what he saw. No one thought their vaunted independent media would mislead them about so vital a matter.
In the time between public act and the beginnings of private inquiry, a war had been waged in a faraway land. A secret war, silently extended, had likewise been raging in neighboring nations though generally unknown at home. The national spending had increased by billions with no end in sight.
A politician from Texas, a supposedly populist Lyndon Johnson, has only recently been revealed as the principal promoter of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident in which the administration did everything in its power to exacerbate and inflate hostilities. In 2005 an internal National Security Agency report was declassified which stated in part of the event, “[I]t is not simply that there is a different story as to what happened; it is that no attack happened that night.”
Yet at the time the populace knew none of these facts. We know them today, when it is far too late for them to do us any good at all. Thus is the expiration date of all expediencies. Such secrets are of no further use once the opportunity to thwart their desired intent has passed.
How important it is to comprehend that at the time, not only did the general population not think these things would occur, but to a large degree they did not even think such massive misreporting and misleading machinations were possible.
Alas, profits, political opportunity, and the power of shock can work wonders on a population. People will believe almost whatever one tells them if it can be told as a simplistic tale of tragedy and hope. The population can no longer think on the fly, and they recollect no remembrance of things past.
So on that autumn day when an unspeakable act was perpetrated upon them, the Americans knew not that they might question, nor call to account, and not even that they should.
Many of them continue assenting to whatever is the easiest version of existence to accept. Life is difficult enough without the added burden of recognizing that very little of it is ever what it seems to be.
Some learn. Some question. Some comprehend. Though even for these, it took many monotonous days after the tragic day in Dallas before citizens began to understand what had been done not only to their president, but to themselves.
Thus, our ignorance or indifference will be inexplicable to those coming after us, just as their inaction shall mystify their own offspring.
Insight begins to develop over time—usually, about ten years after the event.