This evening I watched a repeat of an “American Experience” program called Oswald’s Ghost. I didn’t read or hear much about the anniversary of JFK’s assassination today, but it’s not one of the big anniversary years. I wonder sometimes if every baby boomer who is old enough to remember the events thinks of that day on November 22. It’s becoming longer and longer ago for me – quite a span from nine years old to 55. It’s very strange to hear media experts or historians or professors of popular culture explain the assassination, how it was covered by the media, how the American people reacted, etc., in such an objectified manner, as if everyone who lived through it is already dead and gone. I suppose everyone from every generation has felt that way hearing those who weren’t there “explain” their history, whether it was the Civil War or the Great Depression or World War II.
I recounted my recollections of the day here two years ago, so I won’t go into all that again. Watching Oswald’s Ghost, I thought about all the theories and wondered if it’s to be a perennial mystery that will never be solved, like who the real Jack the Ripper was. I’m also amazed at how openly clinical everything is now about the assassination, with videos of the Zapruder film on YouTube and the Internet full of the autopsy photos from a couple of angles. All of that was shielded from the public in 1963. At that time, I don’t know how people would have handled it, even the adults. Now, everyone watches the CSI shows and similar programs, including real life series on cable, and we’re all less naive about what happens to the human form during trauma – and during autopsy.
I also kept seeing ghosts of the recent dead through those video clips, particularly Ted Kennedy, Eunice Shriver, and Walter Cronkite. As I tally up all of the dead from those old clips, I have to remind myself that the assassination was 46 years ago. Maybe because they were so young at the time, Jackie and JohnJohn and the surviving brothers and even some of the media, it feels as though everyone died way before their time. In some cases, obviously, they did. But others enjoyed long, eventful lives. Time simply pushes you off the stage eventually.