(Apologies for deviating from non-heavy material – Dennis Oxley)
As I’m writing this (November 20th, 2013), I’m watching “Killing Kennedy” (2013), a National Geographic film based on Bill O’Reilly’s book, that I recorded. It’s not an especially good movie and a terrible title. Pretty wooden (Outta 5 — 2.25). It seems as though Nelson McCormick’s direction was primarily to blame. I have my suspicions that the book wasn’t much either. Rob Lowe is pretty good as JFK (he even seemed to get the visual & mannerisms of JFK down) Jack Noseworthy is pretty good as RFK, and Francis Guinan Is decent as LBJ. Michelle Trachtenberg as Mrs. Oswald and Will Rothaar as Oswald are okay, just not very dimensional. Poor Jennifer Goodwin as Jackie… she just didn’t get the direction or a good enough character on the page to work with. The rest of the cast aren’t worth mentioning. The film deals with how the stories of Kennedy and Oswald progress from the point of Kennedy’s election and intersect in Dallas November 22th, 1963. One thing I had not remembered was Oswald’s assassination attempt on Gen. Edwin Walker (a political opposite of Kennedy), that was interesting. Spoiler alert: The film basically states that Oswald acted alone, and not as an agent of any group or nation ini his act of assassination.
There was one aspect of watching this film that was of interest… Friday will be the 50th anniversary of the assassination of our president. When that event happened in 1963, I was in the 1st grade at Wakefield Elementary in southwest Little Rock, Arkansas. What I remember of that day was that at some point (I think) some adult came in and whispered something to my teacher. Her name was (ironically) Mrs. Fitzgerald. I remember her visibly shaken. Then she started sobbing. There was kind of a weird moment where the room full of 6 year olds was wondering what was going on. There may have been some kids crying as well, scared, not knowing why their teacher was upset… not sure. Then Mrs. Fitzgerald spoke to the class. Her exact words, I’m not sure, but she did say that President John F. (Fitzgerald) Kennedy had died or had been killed. She may have told us where, I’m not sure. Not long after that, over the intercom, we were told that President Kennedy was dead and school was letting out for the rest of the day. We all lived within blocks of the school, so it was a short walk home. Vaque memory of seeing Ruby shooting Oswald on television and days later, watching the funeral procession on television. The flag draped casket drawn by the horses.
Watching the film, I kept thing about where I was and what was going on in my 6 year old mind at the time. I do remember getting the impression that this wasn’t something that happened all the time… Of course later I’d find out that it happens quite a bit. Definitely got the feeling that things weren’t as “safe” as I thought.
As far as the man, John F. Kennedy, my thoughts have changed over the years. At his death I, like most kids, respected the President. It’s what we were taught, directly and through observation. I guess there were some kids that were taught differently. But as I got older I came to the conclusion that men (and women) are multi-faceted with good points and bad. The recent reveal of the extent of JFK’s womanizing has made that aspect of his character even more deplorable. My basic personal belief is that no matter who inhabits the office, the President of the United States of America deserves our respect and support in the extent that he (or she) does represent us and our wishes to the rest of the world. We can disagree with White House policies with all due respect for the office.
I think the part of the Kennedy tragedy that still makes people feel remorse is the iconic part, the part that has transcended reality and leads us to feel as though a portion of America that put us above the fray was lost… “Camelot” if you will. I think the reality is that the veneer of the United States and the 50s was cracked that day.
Now, here we are 50 years later, these same kids that were shocked out of some of their childhood are now, basically, “in charge”. Shouldn’t we have learned something from that tragedy? Have we? Let’s see…
We are attacking ourselves and ripping this country apart with obstructionism, racism, calling on violence against the opposition, domestic terrorism, political terrorism, rampant paranoia, disrespecting the office of The President of the United States… so, no. Nothing has changed and we haven’t learned anything but to do all of the above more efficiently.
Don’t really want to end this writing on a negative note, and that’s one aspect of the American character that still survives and, I think, defines us… hope. Hope for the future. Hope that we can disagree without being disagreeable and can move this country forward.
Here is a link to the “Killing Kennedy” trailer: