Sunday, March 24, 2013

Review: Killing Kennedy

  Looking up at my mother crying over my 6 year old body in an ambulance. That's my answer to the question "Where were you on the day  President Kennedy was shot?" I had crossed the road in my neighborhood in Walnut Park in Gadsden, Alabama and gotten hit by a car. I think I read somewhere that C.S. Lewis also died that day. At any rate the assassination of President Kennedy scarred this nation's psyche like no other single event until 9-11 in my lifetime. So, it was with great interest that I read "Killing Kennedy" by Bill O'Reilly and historian Martin Dugard. I had already been surprised by how much I enjoyed reading "Killing Lincoln." I didn't think I could have enjoyed a book by Bill O'Reilly since I'm not a real zealot when it comes to picking a political party. I have my opinions but I don't see it as good vs evil. More like bad vs badder. But, back to the topic.
 I enjoy a good conspiracy theory and I don't get real worked up or mad about "proving" one right or wrong. So, I have read a few articles and started a few books that dealt with the "conspiracy" to kill the president. I put them in the category of u.f.o's and psychics. Interesting but ya got to wade through a lot of b.s.  I knew this book wouldn't be that type and would stick to more of the facts as they are known. It really brought the president and those times back and gave a "human" face back to Jackie Kennedy and to the president that some of the glitter and pop culture had taken from them. The background conflict between Bobby Kennedy and L.B.J. was also interesting as was a cameo or two by Herbert Hoover and Frank Sinatra. Marlyn Monroe and Greta Garbo. John and Caroline Kennedy and the baby Patrick that died shortly after coming into this world. The war experience of J.F.K. and the time his ship went down and he took charge to get him and his men rescued while behind enemy lines in the pacific. But, it wasn't fluff and also showed the hesitation at the Bay Of Pigs in Cuba that cemented Castro's power. Kennedy had some reservations about Vietnam but was still of the mindset that we couldn't let it fall to the communist. The civil rights movement and Martin Luther King as well as Birmingham are touched on. Also, the famous photo of the Buddhist Monk who set himself on fire in Vietnam is touched on. If you were born in the late 50's or early 60's these were themes you knew well from childhood and school. It also goes into some detail on the famous Cuban Missile Crisis and the president stood his ground and we are all better off because of it. If you were born before the 50's you lived these times as a young person or an adult and it is indeed a glimpse of history. I can easily recommend this to history buffs and especially American history fans such as myself. But, I do take some issues. While I admire the fact that the writers don't try to completely discredit all the questions surrounding the possible conspiracy talk. They don't always make the full case that Oswald had the proper motive. On the other hand how can somebody really ever know the "motive" for killing another human in cold blood? They do go to pains to point out that Oswald did indeed have the required "skill" to make the shot and also make good case for the so called "Magic Bullet" that some have used to discredit the lone assassin theory.
 Still, I remember seeing a documentary not very long ago on the assassination. It was fascinating to me because it had a wealth of archival footage even down to a local Dallas news crew. That documentary quoted a Dallas police officer on Jack Ruby. Jack Ruby is of course the nightclub owner that killed Oswald. The book "Killing Kennedy" states that Ruby had motive because he was patriotic and cared about Kennedy. But, according to the documentary I saw the Dallas officer said that if you knew Ruby then you knew that he didn't do it because of patriotism or loyalty to the nation. So, I guess you can take that for what it's worth. I just think maybe the authors didn't bother to do a whole lot of homework on the assassin of the assassin. There are some things we just don't know. Anyway, all in all a good quick read about a period and a man in our history that still has an impact on people of my generation and the generation before us.