JFK still dead, Baby Boomers still self-absorbed

The big, broad, deep lessons of the Kennedy saga have been duly taught, if routinely forgotten when it serves our fleeting partisan purposes. Among them: that history is a series of strange and often ugly contingencies, good-and-bad-faith mistakes, and wanton acts of evil, insanity, or a mixture of both; that our leaders—especially the ones with whom we fall in love—often lie, cheat, and obfuscate their way to power, which they then routinely abuse; and that governments cannot and should not be trusted, especially when they claim to speak the truth. “Trust but verify”—Ronald Reagan’s wise dictate toward Soviet compliance on disarmament—is equally true when applied to our government, media, and power elite.

Americans knew all of this even before Kennedy became president and was gunned down not by a generalized atmosphere of right-wing “hate” (as Frank Rich would have it) but by a self-declared Marxist-Leninist who had defected to the USSR (Peter Savodnik’s new The Interloper: Lee Harvey Oswald Inside the Soviet Union is a real addition to the Kennedyania published over the past half-century). And if we as a nation refused to grok fully the dark side of power prior to JFK’s assassination, everybody got it by the time the Warren Commission report and the Pentagon Papers came out, Dion scored his last huge hit with “Abraham, Martin and John,” Teddy Kennedy strategically donned a neck brace, and Dick Nixon flew off to San Clemente…

In such moments, the baby boomer’s deeply engrained generational arrogance and solipsism is made clear. Since they were born, they were told—and came to believe—that the world existed always and only for them (remember when Steven Speilberg, while promoting Saving Private Ryan, declared, “It was as simple as this: The century was either going to produce the baby boomers or it was not going to produce the baby boomers”?). Their obsessions, their memories, their hopes and dreams and fears are everybody else’s.