I have spent the week avoiding as much coverage as possible on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Anyone who has asked what I was doing on the day when the news was delivered about the shooting and death of JFK, receives an abbreviated account of what I was doing on that day.
It is not like I cannot give a full accounting of what I was doing. I can share that moment with a lot of details. I can also share my memories of the days that followed.
The discussion that I would like to see occur regarding assassinations goes beyond the death of JFK. I would like to see it expand out to what type of impact of living with the knowledge of repeated assassinations has had on my generation.
No one ever asks what I was doing when the news of Malcolm’s, Martin’s or Bobby’s deaths reached me. JFK is always the person of inquiry during those moments.
The group of individuals that are mentioned were all assassinated. The death of JFK dominates because he was a sitting American President. But in reality, all four of these men were murdered for different reasons.
If we really think about it, Malcolm X is excluded from the traditional grouping of assassinated leaders.The traditional grouping is Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. John F. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy. This grouping was formed in a song and has remained a solid image in the minds of many Americans.
I realized during a private moment during this past week, that Malcolm and Martin’s deaths were often framed as expected events. While the deaths of John and Bobby Kennedy have always been treated as unexpected events. What type of message does this send to people within the American society and the global community?
The era of assassinations spanned from childhood years into my mid-teens. To declare that I have been indifferent to this type of domestic terrorism would be a lie. Each of those murders had an impact on my life because the individuals had some form of direct or indirect influence on our lives.
I have no doubt that if people of my generation were questioned on how assassination shaped our view of America, there would be a plethora of answers. Those answers would be based on how individuals felt about the individual leaders, their political or social justice stances, their race and their class position within the society.
The Boomers are identified as being the youth culture that forced a lot of change within the American society. However, it should be noted that there were also conservative youths as well.
I suspect that the “radical” movements have always been the focus of the different eras because of changes that occurred within the society. I have no problem with understanding why there is a sector of the national American population that wants to see the cultural setting return to the era prior to the movements. Those were eras in which the truth had been altered to create a hybrid existence that did not hold the society at large accountable for policies and social customs that oppressed„ degraded and even killed people.
One of the things that I am willing to share about the affect of living with the reality of assassinations is this. When you are a child, assassination sends a message, that if you are daring enough to be in opposition of the current cultural norms, you run the risk of being killed for that position. Violence is held up as the way to resolve conflicts and that home grown American terrorism has no trueboundaries within our society.
The belief that if the individual is murdered, their death will stop whatever movement or impact that an individual has on the society at large will cease is totally incorrect. If anything it will make that individual take on a dimension of being a martyr and whatever ideas they were forwarding become even more important because their blood was shed for those reasons.
What I have also learned is the fact that the truth about the lives of assassination victims are often polished to cover over whatever truths or flaws in their character existed prior to their deaths.
One of the annoying things about the re-visiting of the JFK assassination is the doses of truths that are being released to the public fifty years later. Facts that have been held hostage because someone decided that the public at large was not capable of handling those truths or flaws. They are released in neat little dosages long after the victims are laid to rest. Those timed releases are reminders that we still reside in a nation that is unwilling to admit that violence is a tool used to stop disruptions of the society. That the stories we were lead to believe were true are often gleaned from the events to make things appear to be set in one frame when in fact they are often larger than the original story line.