These Eternal Epilogues…
So much is being said right now on this oft discussed topic - online, on TV, in newsprint and in magazines, all the world over - that my meagre addition seems as if adding to the already over-loaded burden. I doubt that unless you live under a rock and inside a cave (you’re welcome to visit me in my cave anytime, turn left at the entrance, you’ll see my rock) you could avoid the re-run onslaught of the slaughter of JFK in this month of November.
No wonder Caroline has legged it early to Tokyo and if I were in her well-healed shoes, I’d do the same thing, for I can well imagine the phone call cacophony and the photographer pandemonium at her NYC and Martha’s Vineyard residences. Maybe to be half way around the world offers some form of respite but one wonders just how much, for there is no place to hide in the world for anyone close to this historical Ground Zero.
Whether you were born then or not, if you’re an adult now, there would be no way to live on this planet and not have this event emblazoned on your mind as a lynchpin historical reference point. Parents, then as now - well educated or not, political junkies or despising of politics, well married to any historical event or avoiding all like the plague - would still have told to their children the Sad Story of Camelot, of Jack & Jackie, of her bright pink dress, of his swarthy tan and genuine smile, of the limousine turning Right off Main to Houston, then Left on Elm…and if they neglected their parental duty, TV would surely take up the mantel.
If the Guinness Book of World Records is keeping track of such things, that motorcade footage must hold the record for the most re-run piece of celluloid in the history of mankind.
And yet, the idiot in me, every darn time I see it, the urge to yell out,
“Jack, RUN! Take Jackie’s hand, shove John & Nellie out of the way and get out of that damn car and RUN!”,
An urge as passionate in me today as it’s ever been.
There is very little that has not been said on this topic and quite a darn bit that should have NEVER been said but for what it’s worth, here is my take on what I consider Eternal Epilogues to this sad tale, questions born on that awful day that may haunt some of Us, unanswered, forevermore…
The End Game for John Fitzgerald and for Us All
There could not be a living soul who has cared about the man or his ideology or his brief time in Office who has not at some point or another asked himself the question: What would have happened if Jack had lived?
Of course, that eternal question must be qualified.
- IF he had still been struck with those two bullets but somehow had survived, what had been left of him may have been catastrophic to say the least, and really, who would have ever wanted that for Jack?
- Even IF Jack had only been hit in the throat, he may have still lost his voice and/or may have had to breathe with the help of a trachea tube.
- And worse still, IF by some miracle Jack had survived the head shot then We would have been left with another severely brain-damaged Kennedy sibling, Jack then following in the sorrowful footsteps of his eldest sister, Rosemary, who had been born with rather severe cognitive difficulties and then forever brain-damaged by the frontal lobotomy Joe Kennedy Sr. authorized all those many decades ago.
But let’s assume for Hope’s Sake that he escaped those bullets or any grave bodily harm that day in Dallas, what would the future have held for JFK and for Us All?
Maybe Jack would have never had the votes to pass the Civil Rights Bill (for many agree that LBJ’s ability to get Jack’s Bill passed so swiftly through Congress after the assassination was out of sheer sympathy for the slain President) BUT he may have finally seen the futility of the Vietnam “police action” and pulled out his “advisors” well before thousands of troops ever hit the ground running, fighting an unwinnable war.
The math, had Jack pulled out of Vietnam: 50,000+ American soldiers saved and millions of Vietnamese saved as well, a country not ravaged by Napalm and Agent Orange. Maybe, unlike his predecessors, Jack would have had the courage to publicly admit the error of his ways to help the French with their own Colony and to call Quit to a bad decision. We darn well know that LBJ, Nixon, Bush Senior & Junior were not born with the “I was wrong and I am sorry” gene…maybe Kennedy was.
And, of course, like fateful dominoes do, the “Vietnam-No-More” swan-song that was never sung by the 60’s Hippie Generation would have laid way to sing and obsess about something else, the war never becoming their “Cause Celeb”. But what Cause would have taken its place among the Daisy-Chain-Making, Peace & Love, Cumbaya crowd? One wonders if these kids would have ever coalesced as a societal group at all without Vietnam but then again maybe the majority of these spoiled brats would have stopped being militant, started acting mature and began heading back to school, being a far more productive sect of society than they ever were, merely because of that slight shift in Fate. The parents of the Flower-Power Generation would have been freed from a decade’s worth of familial dysfunction and angst, and as their parents, received the respect and gratitude from those kiddies that they most assuredly deserved, being without a doubt the Greatest Generation of our time.
Oh, the domino affect of Fate can change its trajectory in a heart beat…just like the wobble of two full metal jacket missiles going over 2000 feet per second.
What most likely can be assured is the End Game of JFK even if Our Destiny will always be in doubt, for even if he had won the ‘64 election and gained a second term as President, Jack had a target on his chest that included severe ailing health and a likely eventual “outing” of his highly risky womanizing. As the mid ‘60s approached, we cannot be sure that the Media would have continued to turn a blind eye and ear to his philandering, especially if any continued Mob association (it has been documented that JFK had a lasting affair with Mafia Leader Sam Giancana’s moll, Judith Campbell) or blackmail attempts (by his former mistresses looking for fame/money) had come further to the foreground . It may have simply boiled down to the fact that the “Story” finally had to became King to reporters, the reputation of the man or skeletons in his closet be damned.
As for Jack’s health, Time was ebbing away even without Lee Oswald pushing the sand faster through the hour-glass.
Due to his long suffering stint with Addison’s Disease whereby vertebrae in his back were disintegrating, Jack, during his short stint in the White House, was on a potent line-up of drugs, ones we now know can be very debilitating in and of themselves and very addicting. The line-up given to Jack by “Doctor Feelgood”, aka Dr. Max Jacobson (said to have “treated” various celebs to include Elvis and Marilyn Monroe), has been said by various documentarians to at least include the following;
- 7 injections in the back per day of Novocaine
- Codeine, Demerol and Methadone for pain
- Cortical Steroid for Addison’s Disease
- Paregoric for bad digestion
- Nembutal to sleep
We will never know how such a dangerous cocktail of drugs would have eventually affected his state of mind or his decision-making capabilities, possibly a question we may not want to have answered, given that as President of the U.S. and Leader of the Free World, it was his finger on the Red Button and not Ours. Knowing what we know now, the success of the Cuban Missile Crisis and of Humanity’s continued existence seems all the more a miracle.
Jack, despite his failings and weaknesses, was a enthusiastic liver of Life and although his End was horrible beyond comprehension, the thought of a lingering and torturous or embarrassing End for that man seems infinitely worse. He had seen his Father linger and wither after his stroke, I sincerely doubt he had ever wanted that for himself. Jack was a fighter and if the fight to live well had truly been taken away by merely living longer, merely existing, the young, swarthy forty-six year old would have probably chosen a bullet. Sad but True, this is my sober take on the late, great John Fitzgerald.
The Haunting of Clint Hill
Of the seven Secret Service Agents in the Follow-Up car in Dallas that day, it was only Clint Hill (whose special duty it was to protect the First Lady) who managed to reach the Presidential limousine at all during those eight seconds of terror in Dealey. Yet, for many years, by his own admission, Clint agonized that he had not done enough to save John Kennedy. All the Agents who were on duty that day were made to testify before the Warren Commission and all did state at one time or another that the team, that day, had failed in executing their one and only duty: to protect Jack from harm.
Often reason will get drowned out by emotion, the head being silenced by the heart, and in this case and for many years I think that is exactly what happened to Clint Hill. In the subsequent documentary, “The Kennedy Detail”, Clint admits to suffering for many years with depression and having a problem with alcohol and ultimately had to retire after seventeen years with the Secret Service due to neurological problems stemming directly from the trauma he lived through in Dallas that day. Today, I’m sure, Clint would be diagnosed with PTSD but in 1975 understanding of such mental trauma was like walking on the dark side of the moon. The interview he gave with Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes following his retirement shows a broken man, mental exhaustion and utter torment plastered on his face, worry and concern for the man staining the face of his wife, Gwen. Ultimately Clint and Gwen become divorced and one wonders if their marriage wasn’t just another casualty from November 22nd.
Being ultimately promoted to Assistant Director of the Secret Service, Clint, in interviews today, some 38 years after his retirement, looks like a new man. Elderly now he is, of course (aged 82), but with a healthy demeanour, what I would describe as an intact, mature awareness of what was done and what could only have been done on that fateful Friday. You still see the sadness and the regret but now those emotions are kept in check. The drinking and depression are definitely albatrosses of the Past and Clint now talks with pride in a job well done. And let Us not forget that the job Clint did that day and all the days of his tenure was well done. In the many film clips taken of him protecting the Kennedys, the seriousness and passion he held for his work was more than evident, that to take a bullet for Jack or Jackie any day would have been welcomed if it meant “Lancer” & “Lace” could survive and thrive.
Clint Hill is a hero in my eyes, a combat warrior-of-sorts who faced horror, was slain by it for a time but who ultimately won the emotional war even if the battle was beyond fierce.
The Public is always focused on the loss on November 22nd, 1963 but we must also remember the gains. Men like Clint Hill were forged that day in Dallas with indestructible mettle and with that rough-gained experience they have gone on to give birth to a new, more knowledgeable generation of Protection Agents. Without men like Clint, Standard Operating Procedures in Protection today would be far less effective. The Secret Service motto, “Worthy of Trust and Confidence” describes Mr. Hill to a T.
Clint Hill does not know I exist and he may never read this post but I want my words to him to exist in the “Etherspere”…regardless;
Mr. Hill, you were the one bright shining light of Camelot that day, not Jack as Sir Lancelot, but you. King Arthur could never have held court as long as he did without the loyal devotion and protection of his most formidable knight, Lancelot, and you, my Good Man, were the reason Our White House Camelot lived in vigour as long as it did. You were there, maybe unseen by Us but there nonetheless, in difficult times, yes, but in joyful times too, and Mr. & Mrs. Kennedy knew that all too well. LBJ expressly chose you to cover him when he had an assassination premonition about attending the MLK memorial - you and no one else, Mr. Hill. You were their protector and you were Our protector too that awful day at Dealey, for without your efforts, without any Agent at least trying, We would have given up all hope, Our Trust in Agents like you, Then as Now, lost to the winds.
Jack, from his celestial sailboat would say that Success is in the Trying, a Life lesson well learned on him. And you, Mr. Hill, exceeded all of Jack’s expectations. You are the living embodiment of Professionalism and Integrity in the Secret Service and if time could be reversed and you were 31 again, there is no doubt in my mind you would still be chosen as the primary Protector of our modern-day Presidents.
Live well, Mr. Hill, and be so very proud of all your achievements because We certainly are for you. You are the essence of Success in every way and Jack would be the first one to nod and give you that toothy smile of approval…you know that.
Much has been said (too much really unless you like verbal and prosaic refuse) of the Spector of Conspiracy which surrounds this assassination, with reason and logic being assassinated along with Jack that day in Dallas. That to believe the murder was carried out by a Lone Nut as assessed by the Warren Commission is to put oneself on the side of denial, so say the Conspiracy Theorists, verging on insanity, they would jibe, that any reasonable, God-fearing, patriotic American believing Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone is almost tantamount to Treason.
Oh, and to not go the way of the daft and dense Populous makes you an automatic Outsider.
God forbid that school yard antics actually pervade mature Society.
To date, some 62% of Americans when polled (November 2013 Gallup poll) believe that Oswald did not act alone. That is a terrifying percentage, for that forces me to believe that only 38% of Americans are the least bit open to intelligent assessment. But, then again, these numbers probably correlate nicely with the percentage of Americans who think that “Must See TV” is American Idol and People of Note are the Kardashians and Paris Hilton.
Americans fear most a terrorist attack from abroad when an attack of ignorance invaded and well damaged their Homeland decades ago.
But then again, in defence of those same Americans, all humans have a need to control their environment and to do so demands a natural balance. And at its core, the Lone Nut doing in the Great Lancer is as unbalanced as you can get. And if you allow yourself to think such imbalances can occur in Life then one must admit that we really have very little control over our own lives, that if great and powerful men can be so easily slain by such lowly creatures with even lowlier weapons, where then can there be hope for any of Us?
But as so many very astute lawyers have stated, this crime at its core is as simple as they get, that if Oswald had shot at Joe Nobody, the police investigation would have been most likely closed within days, the trial would have been swift and sure and the charge of Guilty would have easily been on offer from the Jury, Oswald ultimately put behind bars and quickly forgotten.
But the victim wasn’t Joe Nobody, it was John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, a man who had spent his 1000 days in Office expounding on the virtues of Peace, attempting to show that the world is not comprised of Them & Us but of all mankind born with the desire to live in harmony and to seek happiness - virtues not solely the property of Americans. JFK’s views were foreign to Us who had suffered long under the post WWII Cold War but Jack knew geo-political reconciliation had to occur if a third World War, possibly one of apocalyptic form, was to be prevented.
Yet, historically the Lone Nut Assassin scenario should be well accepted by the American Populous for their political history is rife with examples, some successful, some thankfully not;
- John Wilkes Booth with Lincoln in 1865
- Leon Czolgosz with William McKinley in 1901
- Richard Paul Pavlick with JFK in 1960 (the first attempt at assassination after Kennedy became President-Elect)
- Sirhan Sirhan with Robert Kennedy (Presidential Candidate) in 1968 and
- Arthur Bremer with Presidential Candidate George Wallace (although Bremer’s main target had always been President Nixon) in 1972.
James Earl Ray with Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968
with most recent attacks including;
- Jared Lee Loughner with U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords in 2011
- James Eagan Holmes with Aurora, Colorado movie theatre goers in 2012 and
- Adam Lanza with the Sandy Hook Elementary children in 2013.
50 years have gone by now and with the hordes of CTers within those five decades expounding on a plethora of scenarios and supposed involved bad guys, no credible evidence has ever been on offer to suggest anyone other than the lone Oswald or any other faction was responsible for the murder of America’s 35th President. It is now time to face facts and put this case to rest, once and for all.
In 1964, most Americans when polled believed the findings of the Warren Commission and we need as rational people to get back to that rational percentage, possibly by actually READING COVER TO COVER the Warren Commission 26 Volumes and not merely Tell-All books. Hey, there’s an idea, Folks!. Thankfully, this year, more 50th anniversary documentaries have been produced to expertly present the evidence of what truly happened in Dealey Plaza that day, well drowning out the usually baseline list of Shock & Awe Conspiracy Tell-All shows that have previously assaulted our senses. One can never completely silence the nut-jobs who will marry themselves to one conspiracy theory or another until the day they die but it is my hope that well-reasoned American citizens rightfully reclaim their history and finally see in the light of day what had always been there to see.
Lone Nut assassins are real and are a fact of Life - a sad and horrific yet an all too natural occurrence in our Human Experience.
Rest well, Mr. President and may the rest of Us finally breathe in the clear, crisp air of Truth, however painful it may be.
These Eternal Epilogues, maybe at least in my mind today, finally written.
Title Photo: Timer – blocs.mesvilaweb.cat; X –twincities.com; Flame – newsday.com; Funeral Bunting – independence-bunting.com