I am of the Baby Boomer generation. Born, in fact, the same year the National Security Agency was formed, and Mr. Potato Head was the first toy advertised on television.
Our parents had suffered bloody wars for our freedom and taught us we were lucky to be American. Boomer children were conditioned to believe that they could do anything. We set out to change the world… via peace, love, and understanding.
Borrowing from Jacqueline Kennedy’s Camelot myth, we got ourselves a strong young King, who made beautiful children with his glamorous Queen, and promised to lead us to prosperity through strong defense and non-aggression.
The establishment, the old guard, on the other hand, saw us as out of control, willful children who were too nosy for our own good. They’d concluded that there were some things in government we just didn’t need to know, for our own good.
A Culture of Secrecy
That was my culture growing up, and so I’ve always been suspicious of so-called “necessary secrets.”
You know, the kind devised and perpetuated by leadership, “for the good of us all.”
Yes, some measure of that is necessary; we live in dangerous times. I’d rather not know, for instance, if a warhead is traveling toward my neighborhood, and there’s zero chance of escape or survival; just let me tootle in my garden to the end.
By November 1963, however, political assassination and cover-ups of truth seemed to be absorbed and accepted as the modern conduct of government, in the interest of national security.
A-Bombs in our glorious Oceans were accepted. And for several years, the American military kept B-52’s in the air 24/7, armed with tons of nuclear bombs… just in case.
Nobody messed with America
This kind of retro thinking influenced the setting of my novel, No One Can Know. But before I could write it, I had to examine the myths around Kennedy, particularly his assassination in my hometown.
I thought I’d make use of the twenty-twenty hindsight that being a grownup afforded me. Wrong.
Opening that particular can of “necessary secret” worms blew me away.
First, the sheer number of avenues to explore was staggering. Before this anniversary year, there were roughly 1,400, gulp, nonfiction books on the John F. Kennedy assassination, ranging in value from thoughtful and scholarly, to rants of paranoid delusion.
But hey, I told myself, you could have picked Abraham Lincoln at a whopping 3,300 titles.
Google gave me 5M hits when I searched “JFK Assassination.”
So, I went in search of trustworthy sources for my research. For a piece of fiction, the research function is not very academic; I use the history books for conceptual ideas, or to add credible strength to my story… or to discover factoid gems. Lots of skimming and caption reading is involved
But my goal is to inform, within the context of my fiction, so reliable information is vital.
Librarians are wonderful and they were my initial guides to books and websites to study the subject. I was totally daunted at first, but quickly enamored with the still riveting mystery of his death.
I am not a historian, or conspiracy theorist, but early on in my research, I could grasp why that awful day still haunts us.
Even as a girl of ten, I remember the pervasive sense of hope that radiated from the First Family in our White House, and that was in rural Texas where, according to old news clips, we hated him.
Because of the media, I didn’t know any better, and I grew up believing that a crazy man named Oswald shot him dead. President Johnson and the news people said so.
Now, it’s astonishing when I still hear, “There’s no proof Oswald didn’t kill Kennedy.” Authors who present that argument, IMHO, are employing those dreaded smoke and mirrors. But I think what they want to say is that there is no prosecutorial evidence to redirect the finger of blame elsewhere.
There is no proof that Oswald shot a rifle that day, either. Nitrate tests produced zero residue on his cheek.
So I guess there are voices out there that still just want it over, much like the voices that still just want the truth.
No One Can Know
Thanks to a massive post-assassination effort designed to assure there is never a prosecutorial leg to stand on, Oswald was just one of the first convenient disposals of a dupe, or a document that might have strengthened a prosecutor’s case. Classic misinformation, and it continues.
Today, even as more archives become available, questions keep mounting. But answers that bubble up can’t get beyond supposition, because trails to proving who, or why, are so thoroughly and intentionally fouled. Clear answers are an impossible task.
It IS clear to most researchers that our government participated in covering up the truth, even if they didn’t kill JFK. But why?
Effort to keep the public from asking too many questions was, and is, an immense, strenuous, and expensive undertaking. Not to mention deadly. Disputes still erupt every week in D.C. over the release of classified documents and information about the crime.
The status of “never knowing” must feel like supreme agony by those affected. Remember the milk box children of the 1980s? Seeking answers; raising awareness of genuine monsters lurking… Dear God, we all think when faced with examples, how do you live with that?
That question turned my research inward. The impact on our national psyche, our collective identity of never being allowed to face the forces that stole our innocence. It definitely influenced my novel.
Do you still wonder why, in this CSI world of today, we can’t put the matter of JFK’s assassination to bed?
IMHO, the lack of answers should not die quietly with the population who lived it.
And just maybe the truth—no matter how hard or ugly it is to accept—will heal something.