After the Anniversary

The much-anticipated 50th anniversary of the JFK Assassination is now gone. There are many reasons that one may adduce to explain why the occasion was marked with such predictable outpourings, but it is the fact that the truth of the assassination remains mysterious, the culpability of Lee Harvey Oswald as against that of the government still in question, which fundamentally accounts for the multitude of museum panel discussions, mass oral histories, gala remembrances, poets laureate and not intoning ad infinitum about idealism lost, and James Taylor lilting at the Kennedy Library.

It may be scary that the government, or one or more of its agencies or instrumentalities, might have been involved in the killing, but it is more unnerving not to be able to know this as a solid fact one way or the other, once and for all. The protracted irresolution around the Kennedy assassination, even at a time when the U.S. government has never more openly listed toward tyranny, announces to a society that it has been incapacitated from collectively uncovering an essential truth about itself, no matter how ugly, and about the world in which it is situated. In a putative democracy, this revelation induces tension, because its members feel they cannot be completely who they are.

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