Why We're Sick of Hearing About JFK

His assassination did not 'change everything,' Steve Friess argues
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 20, 2013 12:40 PM CST
This Nov. 20, 2003 file photo shows a display of photographs of President John F. Kennedy at the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas.   (AP Photo/LM Otero)

(Newser) – Friday will be the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination, and we're sure to see endless genuflection on the occasion. But Steve Friess at Time is sick of hearing about the assassination, and thinks most people under 50 are, too. "All those magazine covers and books and documentaries are far less about historical accuracy than they are about Baby Boomer self-obsession," he argues. Here's why:

  • The assassination didn't 'change everything.' Even if Kennedy had lived, the US still would have gone to war in Vietnam—war architect Robert McNamara was his guy. TV still would have become an ascendant news medium. Civil Rights would have still passed, perhaps even more slowly. "The only absolutely clear legacy of JFK's slaying is that it legitimated conspiracy theorists."
  • It didn't 'shatter American innocence,' either. Adults at the time had been through World War II, the Red Scare, and the Korean War. They weren't innocent. All it "shattered" was the "fairy tale" that Jack and Jackie were a perfect, Camelot couple.
  • JFK nostalgia harkens to a pre-Civil Rights era. When people say the pre-assassination era was a "simpler" one, they might mean that it was before white America had to really confront ideas about racial and gender equality. Kennedy died the same year that Martin Luther King told us about his dream, and the Feminine Mystique called feminists to arms. "Folks who recall pre-1963 with fondness probably weren't black or female—to say nothing of homosexual—at the time."
For more, see Friess' full column. (Read more John F. Kennedy stories.)

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