By Manifesto Joe
We, the baby boomers, are still talking about it 50 years later. We even indulge in gallows humor. My old man, who won five Bronze Stars in the Pacific Theater of World War II, was a much better shot than Lee Harvey Oswald, and I recall that Christmas as being one more generous and affluent than we could usually afford. Was he, my old man, the dude on the grassy knoll?
More seriously, the question that keeps coming up is, where were you when ...?
My memory of it wasn't very remarkable. I was in the second grade. We were playing during noon recess, right after lunch, when a teacher came out to the playground and told us that the president had been shot and wasn't expected to live. Our house was only a few blocks away from the schoolyard. When the teacher told us we were dismissed for the day, I walked home.
My dad owned and operated what was then a Humble gas station in our small town in South Texas. He was at work. I found my mother at home, crying, with the TV on. Walter Cronkite was crying, too. Funeral dirges went on for days on the tube. Instead of missing my favorite shows, I watched the proceedings. I was a fan of Jack Kennedy, but at that age I don't think I understood much about politics. What I saw was that he looked like the hero in the Westerns, while Dick Nixon looked like the dude with the black hat.
One of our neighbors, a very proper Southern Baptist spinster, was shocked at Roman Catholic funeral protocol. "They're passing around the beer!" she exclaimed scandalously. My mother didn't correct her, but did explain to me that the correct word is "bier."
Then Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald. A few years later Ruby died in prison. Then Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, followed quickly by Robert F. Kennedy. Assassinations were commonplace, to be expected damn near all the time. Conspiracy theories abounded, for many years, decades.
I never thought the Warren Commission had much credibility, but the plethora of conspiracy theories became a laughingstock in itself. The one that seemed most plausible to me: The Kennedy brothers had done a lot to piss off organized crime during those thousand days in power. That was about the last period, the 1960s, when U.S. organized crime figures would have been able to pull off a military-style hit on a person that prominent and powerful. Oswald wasn't much more than a fair shot, and he was using a World War I-era Italian bolt-action rifle. My guess is that he was just a chump, a patsy, and it was Jack Ruby's job to shut him up -- for good. Then, later, Ruby had to be silenced.
But, there have been so many theories, so many lecture tours, so many books written, that the theories are like a smorgasbord. Take your pick. In the end I doubt that we'll ever really know what happened. But I can't bring myself to believe that Oswald acted alone.
In any case, the JFK assassination was one of the events that defined a whole generation. Just about all of us born between 1946 and 1958 can remember something about where they were, what they were doing, when they heard that JFK had been murdered. There are millions upon millions of memories in The Naked City. You just heard one of them.
Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.