I recently watched The Assassination and Mrs. Paine on Amazon Prime. The documentary was well done, and although it did not present any conclusions about Ruth Paine’s involvement in the Kennedy assassination, it did reignite my previous interest in the assassination theories. That film also prompted me to view Oliver Stone’s documentary JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass, which can be found on Hulu.
Stone’s film is excellent and a conglomeration of the multitude of books I’ve read on this subject. Perhaps the most engrossing book was Me and Lee: How I Came to Love and Lose Lee Harvey Oswald by Judyth Vary Baker. Baker claims to have been Oswald’s lover, and although her declarations may seem far-fetched, they are backed up with some pretty substantial evidence. Her story also coincides with the meticulous research that is summarized in Stone’s work.
I’m not drawn to the assassination just because it’s a compelling mystery. I’m drawn to it because it marks a significant watershed moment in any baby boomer’s life. Who among us doesn’t remember that moment? That instant when we heard the terrible news?
I was teaching a class once to a group of millennials. The students were giving presentations and one of them mentioned John F. Kennedy. “He was the president of the United States,” she explained to the class. It dawned on me that some students hadn’t even heard of him! I felt sorry for those students. For in not knowing him, they had not known of another time in our country. A time that was far from perfect, but it was also a time of innocence and hope.
Stone’s documentary was painful to watch. Of course, viewing replays of the assassination itself is always painful, but Stone also captured the collective mourning that occurred in its aftermath. People were openly weeping. Not only here in the US, but all over the world. What leaders today I wondered could ignite that level of love and grief?
Kennedy may have had personal flaws, but according to Stone, he tried to do what I have seen no president do in my own lifetime. He tried to bring peace. To Vietnam, to the US/Russian and Cuban relations, to the Congo, and to our country’s terrible racial divisions. And in so doing, he made enemies that ultimately killed him.
Kennedy also demonstrated the rare traits of grace and intelligence. By comparison, so many politicians today appear cartoonish, ignorant, and grotesque.
I felt sorry for those millennials in my class. They’ve inherited a country seems cynical and condemned.
As I write this, I fearfully wait for the next Supreme Court decision that could bring a final blow to voting rights. In the case involving the Independent Legislature Theory, citizens may entirely lose the power of their vote. And if that happens, the only consolation I can find is that I am a baby boomer, and thus not long for this world. I do fear however for the generations to come.