The Man in the Tinfoil Hat

Correct me if I’m wrong, but is it possible that Donald Trump has been president for a full 61 days and not once claimed that 9/11 was an inside job?

I’ve scoured the internet for possible examples of such a statement from the sitting commander-in-chief, and so far, I’ve come up with nothing.  (For our purposes, we will discount this interview, since it was given on 9/11 itself, before anyone knew anything.)  As it turns out, in the decade-and-a-half since the worst terrorist attack on American soil, Trump has been totally, weirdly consistent in his view that the World Trade Center was brought down by Osama bin Laden and his minions in al Qaeda—and not, say, by a controlled explosion orchestrated by George W. Bush.  As far as our dear leader is concerned, the basic facts of 9/11 are settled science and not worth questioning further.

In light of all the nonsense that this administration has forced us to confront on a daily—if not hourly—basis, let us take a moment to appreciate the grace and maturity exhibited by the 45th president, vis-à-vis September 11, in accepting incontrovertible evidence as objective truth when there are other options open to him.

After all, this is the same guy who glanced at the cover of National Enquirer and proclaimed that Ted Cruz’s father was an accomplice in the Kennedy assassination.  The guy who propagated the theory that millions of non-citizens committed voter fraud because a German golfer told him so.  The guy who pushed hard for birtherism based on sources he never named, and who just recently accused President Obama of illegally wiretapping him based on documentation he has never produced.  And on and on and on.

Given all of this irresponsible rumor-mongering—this obsessive-compulsive embrace of political fairy tales when empirical facts are readily available—we are left to wonder:  Why isn’t Trump a 9/11 truther?  If he can so easily be made to believe that Obama could surreptitiously “tapp” the phones at Trump Tower, what’s stopping him from buying into a Bush administration that could surreptitiously blow up the World Trade Center to justify a war in Iraq?  As the leader of the free world, shouldn’t he be chomping at the bit to expose the would-be greatest crime of his least favorite Republican president once and for all?

You’d think he would be, and if Trump’s rank gullibility and ignorance aren’t sufficient reasons for him to be suspicious, surely his ongoing association with avowed 9/11 truthers would eventually do the job.

That’s right:  At this very moment, there are bona fide 9/11 skeptics within the president’s inner circle.  No, not his chief of staff or secretary of state—I’m talking about people he actually listens to and whose ideas he regularly repeats.  People like Alex Jones—aka the poor man’s Rush Limbaugh—who uses his radio program to scream about how the Sandy Hook massacre was fake and the government is using chemicals to turn frogs gay.  (Google it, kids!)  Or people like Andrew Napolitano, the Fox News contributor who originated this week’s bizarre claim that the (fictional) wiretaps in Trump Tower were the work of British spies.

These men are cooks, yet Trump’s ear seems to hang on their every word.  The president has come to view their hysterical ravings as gospel, thereby nudging paranoid gobbledygook into mainstream political culture.

We already know how pointlessly disruptive the presence of conspiracy theories can be on the daily operations of the U.S. government.  As we speak, actual intelligence officials are being paid actual wages to “investigate” something the president tweeted several weeks back at 3:35 a.m.  Two days ago, the director of the FBI was compelled to discuss those investigations in front of a congressional committee, all of whose members—like every other person in America—already knew those tweets were BS and hardly needed James Comey to confirm it.

The question now isn’t whether anything substantive will be gleaned from these mad accusations.  (It won’t.)  Rather, the question is how Trump will react to being proved a liar in half a dozen different ways.  If his past behavior is any indication—and it always is—he will continue insisting upon the rightness of his wrongness right up until every member of his administration abandons him, at which point he will sheepishly concede that no wiretap took place, quickly adding that he’s proud to have stubbornly suggested otherwise, since the ensuing investigation was the only way for us to know for sure that President Obama isn’t a criminal.  (As you’ll recall, this was roughly how he handled being humiliated about Obama’s birth certificate in 2011.)

However this particular national embarrassment is resolved, we can take it as a moral certainty that life under Trump will only get dumber from here, and you can take it from me that the longer he remains president, the greater the odds are that he will openly question 9/11.

Remember:  Trump’s solution to any big scandal is to create an even bigger scandal, and at the current rate his presidency is unraveling, it won’t be long before he burns through every other shiny object in his playbook and all that’s left is the Hail Mary.  Yes, the pushback will be fierce, and yes, the calls for his resignation will reach a veritable fever pitch.  But what would that matter to a man who believes he can generate his own reality and dismiss all opponents as the instruments of “fake news”?

In other words, the nation is currently engaged in a staring contest with someone who has no eyelids.  For all the unpredictability baked into our 45th president, we can be absolutely sure that a man who has skirted personal responsibility for the first 70 years of his life is not going to change course by the time he turns 71.  As Newton might’ve said, a president under a delusion will remain that way unless acted upon by a majority of the House and two-thirds of the Senate.

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Can You Keep a Secret?

Sometimes everything works out exactly as it should.  At my folks’ house on Sunday, everything did.

You see, my dear old dad had a big birthday this week, so the rest of us threw him a surprise party over the weekend.  The idea was hatched sometime around Thanksgiving, plans were finalized in the first week of February, and my mom and I acted as principal planners and co-conspirators all along the way.

This being the first surprise party in which I played a significant role, it proved a novel and enlightening experience in the fine art of duplicity.

All told, somewhere north of 60 people were invited, then promptly commanded to zip their mouths shut.  We took care to meticulously choreograph the birthday boy’s schedule without him realizing it, while also devising a strategy for handling the many things that could go wrong.  Not to mention the dizzying prep work of preparing and ordering (and hiding) all the food and decorations, and then only having an hour or so to set them all up.

With all the moving parts that were involved, it was quite impressive that our diabolical plot went off without a hitch.  Nobody spilled the beans, everyone arrived on time.  Even Mother Nature cooperated, for a change.  The guest of honor was surprised and delighted, and a good time was had by all.

As a group, we proved wholly up to the task of carrying on an open deception for an extended period of time and executing the final “reveal” with clockwork efficiency.

Indeed, so good were we at pulling off this playful con, I wonder if we didn’t miss our calling to work for the feds in Washington, D.C.

As everyone knows, whenever disgruntled American citizens are not condemning their government for being lazy, incompetent and generally feckless, they are accusing it of conducting secret, evil grand plots of near-superhuman ingenuity.

The Kennedy assassination.  The Moon landing.  The September 11 attacks.  President Obama’s birth.  Conspiracy theorists contend that none of these events occurred as the official record says.  Rather, they were somehow staged, altered or otherwise effected by elements of the American government for one nefarious purpose or other, and done in the utmost secrecy so that no one, to this day, has any smoking gun evidence to prove any of them.

While not all government-related conspiracy theories are created equal, and some have even proved correct—what else would you call Watergate?—there is an inherently low probability that any such plot is real, precisely because of how unlikely it would be for that many people to be entrusted to such a titanic secret, and then for all of them to keep quiet after all these years.

No, what actually happens is exactly what you would expect.  Whenever some governmental entity attempts to pull something over on the American people—particularly with a high number of agents involved—not all of the holes get plugged, and eventually, something or somebody cracks.  Watergate is a classic illustration, but so, too, is the ridiculous plan by the Christie administration and the Port Authority to inflict gridlock on the George Washington Bridge.  Sure, the truth of these schemes was kept under wraps for a certain amount of time.  But then one day, it wasn’t.

The thing about a surprise party is that the period of secret-keeping is finite:  You only need to clam up until the actual party occurs.  After that, you can relax and congratulate yourself on a job well done.  As well, revelers are given only so much advance notice, lowering the probability that someone’s guard will drop.

To wit:  It’s entirely possible for 60 people to stay tight-lipped for a month, as my family proved last weekend.  But what if we gave our guests a full six months’ or a year’s warning?  Would the surprise still have succeeded?  We certainly weren’t prepared to take that risk.

If we might reduce all of this to a general formula, it would be that the probability of a conspiracy remaining a secret is inversely proportional to the number of people involved, as well as to the amount of time elapsed since the conspiracy formally commenced.

If this seems all too obvious, it is nonetheless an essential insight into why conspiracy theories at the highest levels of government tend to be so idiotic, and why they should be taken with multiple grains of salt.

In the long run, human beings in large numbers are just not that great at keeping secrets.  Sooner or later, somebody blows the whistle or sends an incriminating e-mail or tweet.  Whether by accident or by design, some people just can’t help themselves.

Not every conspiracy can be as top secret as a birthday party for your dad.

To Solemnly Forswear

For all the havoc and misery the Kennedy assassination wrought upon the United States 50 years ago last week, it nonetheless yielded one slight, incidental benefit:  The most agreeable swearing-in ceremony in the history of the American presidency.

As you probably know (thanks to a famous photograph), the ceremonial presidential succession on November 22, 1963, occurred in a very crowded cabin aboard Air Force One as it flew the slain president’s corpse from Dallas to Washington, D.C.  Sarah Hughes, a Texas-based federal judge, administered the oath of office to Vice President Lyndon Johnson, who solemnly repeated it back to her and thus formally became the nation’s 36th chief executive.

That was it.  No pomp, no fancy ceremony, no parade, no inaugural balls.  Just a simple affirmation that, yes, the peaceful, orderly transfer of power enshrined in Article II of the U.S. Constitution is still in force, even in the most horrific, disorderly times.

I wonder:  Why can’t the simplicity, dignity and austerity of the Johnson swearing-in be the rule, not the exception?  How I wish that it were.

From an item in the Boston Globe over the holiday weekend, it was reported that Marty Walsh, the incoming mayor of the City of Beans, is seeking private contributions of up to $50,000 to fund his January 6 inauguration and its related activities.

According to the article, the event “could be the city’s priciest mayoral bash ever” and will reportedly include an “inaugural gala” and a “private appreciation” for its most generous donors, with the number of tickets per capita determined by the precise generosity of said donations.  Festivities will also include “events for children and for seniors, and a day of volunteer service.”

Because the full cost of this Walsh-a-palooza will be borne by private entities, be they corporations or individuals, the incoming administration has been made to answer all the usual questions about what these contributors might be getting for their money.

One can hardly be faulted for asking—this is politics, after all—and the situation is made dodgier still by the fact that, as the Globe notes, “Nonprofit inaugural committees are not governed by campaign finance rules and, thus, are not required to disclose donors or hew to limits, and are not required to file paperwork with state campaign finance officials.”

In other words, there is nothing unusual or legally suspect about any of this.  It’s business, and politics, as usual. Austerity be damned—we’re gonna celebrate and it’s gonna be big!

Is this the moral tradeoff for not financing an inauguration bash with public money?  On this Thanksgiving weekend, should we just be grateful our taxpayer dollars are off-limits and not trouble our pretty little heads about what might be going on in the proverbial smoke-filled rooms?

If you answered in the negative to either or both, then you must wonder, as I do, why we bother with these lavish inaugural exercises at all, both at the local level and in Washington, D.C.

Officially speaking, they are completely unnecessary:  Any given transfer of power takes place at the constitutionally-designated time regardless of what anyone does to mark the occasion.  To the extent that the swearing-in itself carries any legal (rather than ceremonial) significance—a subject of constitutional debate at the federal level—no other aspect of the start of one’s term does, and could be abandoned without any legal ramifications.

Marty Walsh got elected Boston’s mayor, in part, on the basis of his reputation as an honest and decent man.  But one need not be an inherently corrupt person to be corrupted by the political process.  Any large-scale fundraising operation is fraught with the possibility of ethical transgressions.  Why bother initiating such an operation if it serves no real public purpose?

Unfortunately, we know exactly why:  Because when it comes to amassing large sums of cash, the public interest is the first thing to go.

A public official may well profess to care more about the little man than the corporate behemoth, and he may well be telling the truth.  But it doesn’t change the fact that our system, at present, is designed for the opposite to be the case:  A politician has to follow the money whether he wants to or not, because if he doesn’t, he stands to lose the only power with which he could possibly help the little man in the first place.

Granting that such a state of affairs is now irreversible—an arguable point—could we at least make the effort to keep money out of inaugurations, thereby returning them to their more modest roots?  Or is that just too much to forswear?

Not Just a Theory

One must never let the facts get in the way of a perfectly good conspiracy theory.

Yet I must confess that, on the matter of the Kennedy assassination, I have done exactly that.

My experience with the notion that President John F. Kennedy was not killed by a single person acting on his own began (boringly enough) with Oliver Stone.  Viewing his 1991 film JFK for the first time (and then a second and a third), I was mesmerized by the web of intrigue that surrounded the late president’s death.

At the very least, the movie suggested that whether Kennedy really had been killed as part of a grand plot, there is a trove of information to illustrate why the idea exists.

Mind you, in the many years during which I counted myself among JFK conspiracy cooks, I never clung to any particular narrative.  Whether the president had been done in by the mob, the CIA, Fidel Castro, extreme right-wingers, extreme left-wingers, or all of the above—that was beside the point.

For me, the case was a simple matter of forensics:  Early analysis of Abraham Zapruder’s film of the assassination concluded the shooting took place in a span of 5.6 seconds, which is simply not enough time for a single person to fire three separate shots with the rifle Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly used.  By definition, that means there were at least two shooters and that the killing was therefore a conspiracy of one kind or another.

Then some time later, I came upon a documentary, “Beyond Conspiracy,” aired on ABC in 2003, which noted that subsequent and more sophisticated examinations of the Zapruder film have established that—oops!—the actual time frame of the three shots is 8.4 seconds—more than enough for someone with Oswald’s background and training.

Since I had based my conspiratorial musings entirely on this one statistic, and since the statistic had now been proved incorrect, I saw no compelling reason to carry on with my investigations and I have suited up with Team Lone Gunman ever since.

Neat, huh?

On this 50th anniversary of that dark day in Dallas, I wish to contest a commonly-held perception about conspiracy buffs—namely, that they are stubbornly irrational creatures who are impervious to facts and data that might disprove their darkest convictions about how the world really works.

Historically speaking, this assumption is entirely correct, except when it’s not.

For instance:  When a wave of paranoia about President Barack Obama’s place of birth crested a few years back, the basis of the claim that Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii, was the lack of a birth certificate to prove otherwise.

When the president produced such a document, the controversy should have ended right there.  Yet the howls of protest continued from some corners of the Internet, with “birther” holdouts proceeding to concoct ever more elaborate explanations for how the objective truth was neither objective nor truthful.

However, this was not universally the case.  For every person who did not listen to reason, there were many more who did.

In a Gallop poll conducted in the first week of May 2011—several days after Obama’s “long form” birth certificate was made public—13 percent of respondents asserted the president was “definitely” or “probably” born in a foreign country.  In an identical survey two weeks prior—that is, when the birth certificate had yet to be seen—the number was 24 percent.

In other words, the size of the “birther” pool was cut nearly in half by a simple disclosure of fact.  For a sizable minority of the public, the conviction that the president was not born in the United States was, it turned out, susceptible to basic logic:  They asked for proof, they received proof, they accepted it and they moved on.  Presto.

I wish the size of this minority were bigger, and that there weren’t such a large gang of reliable idiots whose paranoia overwhelms all their other mental capacities.  The latter makes the former look bad, and that’s a shame.  We need honest skeptics in this society, because sometimes their instincts are right.

The JFK conspiracy theories might be hooey, but some conspiracies are real.  (The Lincoln assassination is one.)  We must take care to recognize this, and to differentiate between the two.

To assume nothing is a conspiracy is no less reckless than to assume everything is a conspiracy.  One generalizes at one’s peril.

The key, as with so much else, is to be all the time led by the facts and the evidence, and not by the lack thereof.

What Might Have Been

Over at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, there is a special exhibit, “To the Brink,” all about the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962.

Among the featured documents on display, perhaps the most arresting is the original typed draft of a speech that President Kennedy never delivered—that is, the announcement that the United States was about to launch an all-out assault on Cuba to destroy the missiles secretly installed there by the Soviet Union.

“I, as president, had the greatest reluctance to order the action that is now being carried out,” Kennedy was to have said.  “I made every effort to clarify my position.  But the Cuban authorities would not listen.  In the face of their open defiance action became inevitable.”

“There should be no doubt on the part of anyone,” he was to add, “that, in carrying out this commitment, the U.S. will be prepared to use all the forces at its disposal including nuclear.”

The American people never heard such an address because such a decision was never made (the president opted for a blockade instead).  But it jolly well could have been:  Several key members of the secret White House EXCOMM meetings recommended such a move, and Kennedy considered it seriously enough to prepare a speech just in case.

In this week of reminiscences of the Kennedy administration—Friday is the 50th anniversary of the assassination in Dallas—the question has predictably resurfaced, “What if Kennedy had lived?”

Minus those three shots fired from the Texas School Book Depository in Dealey Plaza, how might the arc of history differed from the one we have?

Would the United States have doubled down in Vietnam?  Would the Civil Rights Movement have progressed faster (or slower)?  Would the American public have been spared its disillusionment with government spurred by the presidencies of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon?

The counterfactual history industry has long flourished in America, and it’s easy to understand why.  After all, the creative possibilities are endless and, by their nature, cannot be positively disproved.

In the case of Kennedy, the allure of crafting “what if” scenarios is especially potent, given the presidency’s oversized promise and undersized length.  It ended on a series of cliffhangers, and it has been left to survivors to second-guess how it might have played out.

What events like the missile standoff bring so sharply into focus, however, is the fact that the world does not require such horror shows as assassinations for the thrust of human events to change course.

As we know but sometimes forget, our leaders are all the time faced with decisions that could (and often do) prove enormously consequential in the longer term—decisions that were all but arbitrary at the time but are seen as inevitable in retrospect.

Such is one of the central insights of history and of life itself:  Nothing is inevitable.  Events unfold in only one way, but there are a billion other ways they could unfold, with only the mildest shuffling of the cards.

Never mind the decisions Kennedy might have made had he not died.  We cannot possibly sort through all the decisions he could have made while he lived.

Further, by no means is this principle of unknowable-ness exclusive to government and politics.  It also applies to each and every one of us.

Back to the Future was all about how Marty McFly’s parents, George and Lorraine, met and fell in love because George unwittingly stepped into the path of Lorraine’s father’s green Chevy.  As the movie makes plain, had George simply watched where he was going, the marriage would never have occurred and Marty would never have been born.

How many of us owe our own place in the universe to events that could very easily have gone the other way?  Is the alternative even possible?

And so when we talk about how different the world might have been if President Kennedy survived, let us acknowledge the limits of such theorizing by recognizing that the future is far more unpredictable than we give it credit for, that nothing is “destined” to happen until it does, and that we are all the time hostage to the playful randomness of the universe in ways that even a president cannot fully control.

The Less You Know

Here’s a cheerful thought for you to ponder.

Suppose there was a document, hidden somewhere in the bowels of the National Archives, that proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was conceived, planned and executed by some group within the Central Intelligence Agency.

And then further suppose that such a document, having been successfully withheld for some five decades, were somehow obtained, in a WikiLeaks-style coup, and released into the public domain on Monday.

What, then, would happen on Tuesday?

Among the many conspiracy theories surrounding the death of President Kennedy, the 50th anniversary of which we will observe next week, the one involving the CIA is arguably the most plausible.  Not, mind you, because there is any particularly persuasive evidence to suggest such an event actually happened—there isn’t—but simply because it is in the agency’s nature to commit the most unthinkable crimes without detection or any measure of accountability.

Programs such as Homeland might not be accurate in every last particular, but the known history of the real CIA shows assassination to be something of a hobby for our esteemed spy network, be it directly or through snafus known as “blowback.”  Is it really that much of a stretch to imagine its nefarious practices committed on its own commander-in-chief?

This year, thanks to one Edward Snowden, we have experienced a veritable waterfall of disclosures about the heretofore secret and unchecked high jinks of the National Security Agency, which has been found to have tapped the phones and e-mail accounts of pretty much everyone on planet Earth, including the leaders of countries with whom we are supposedly friends.

We disagree about whether—and to what extent—the NSA should engage in this behavior, but tell me:  Now that you know it does, do you wish that you didn’t?  In possession of this information, do you as an American feel morally soiled, or do you rather feel cheated to have so long been kept in the dark?

Never mind the rest of the world and never mind “national security.”  Broadly speaking, is there any information about the U.S. government that, if true, you would simply not want to know?  Something so ghastly—so antithetical to the highest ideals of the American republic—that you would just as well remain ignorant of it for the balance of your natural life?

With November 22 upon us, I return to my original query:  What would it mean to learn President Kennedy was assassinated by the CIA?

For starters, it would mean we live in a country whose government murdered its own head of state—a practice we like to think is reserved for third-world dictatorships in the most backward corners of Africa and the Middle East.  And from a wing of that government, we might add, that has been in continuous operation in the half-century since, carrying on more or less as it always has—in secrecy and very nearly immune from legal recrimination.

In the event of such a revelation, what would the outfit’s current director possibly have to say in his agency’s defense?  “Sorry about that—won’t happen again”?  “Hey, it was a long time ago, let’s just move on”?

We don’t need the Kennedy-killed-by-CIA theory to be true in order to face these grave questions.

In the past decade alone, we have been made to grapple with the fact of our government, in our name, having tortured suspected terrorists—in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions—as well as having used drones to target and kill American citizens at the whim of the executive branch, uninhibited by such annoyances as due process and trial by jury.

The scandal here is not only that the U.S. does these things, but that the public has essentially shrugged them off as necessary and unavoidable byproducts of the so-called war on terror.  “Yeah, it’s unfortunate—but hey, what can you do?”

Is it possible we would regard a hypothetical plot to kill Kennedy in the same way?  With a resigned “meh”?  With a brief series of protests and howls of outrage, followed by obedient silence?

Could it be that the real problem is not that there are certain things we could not bear to know, but rather that we are no longer capable of being shocked by what our government may or may not be doing behind our backs?

I’m not sure that’s something I want to know.

Guilty

One month from today, we will observe the 50-year anniversary of the day when, according to tradition, America lost its innocence.

You know, the innocence we retained as we slaughtered several million fascists during World War II, seeing some 400,000 of our own men go down in the process.

The innocence that got us through a couple centuries of chattel slavery and the Civil War that finally ended it.

The innocence we carried as we plundered our way through the wilderness throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, collecting the scalps of Natives as we marched.

Those whimsical adventures were enjoyable enough, but everything was ruined the moment we learned that when a bullet enters the president’s head, candy doesn’t come out the other side.

But I guess, in spite of that trauma, we managed to reclaim our purity sometime in the subsequent 38 years, since we lost it all over again on September 11, 2001.

Apparently national virtuousness is like the car keys.  You think it’s gone forever, and then it suddenly turns up in the couch cushions.

Today, it is taken as read that the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, was one of those coming-of-age moments for an entire generation of Americans:  A hinge event that marked the end of one era of history and the start of a newer, scarier one in its place.

As we spend the next month ruminating on the meaning of the Boomer generation’s “I remember where I was” moment, let us devote at least a part of this conversation to the possibility that we have overstated the case, both then and now.

Viewed from a temporal distance and in a wider historical context, the Kennedy assassination is not particularly interesting.

In the century preceding Kennedy’s election in 1960, five of the 18 men who occupied the Oval Office did not get out alive:  Three were assassinated, and two more died of natural causes.

As well, the same period saw some half-dozen assassination attempts that failed, either on a sitting president (Harry Truman, Kennedy), a president-elect (Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt) or a former president running for re-election (Theodore Roosevelt).

Further, on the international scene in 1963, bopping off a world leader had become something of a habit amidst the intertwining tensions of the Cold War.  Kennedy’s own Central Intelligence Agency had supported the successful coup of South Korean President Ngo Dinh Diem, who was killed in the ensuing chaos just three weeks before Kennedy’s own death.

What is more, the 1950s had been positively littered with similar CIA-backed shenanigans all over the globe—some successful, some not—and while the American public was not aware of most of these activities at the time, it would have required extraordinary obliviousness for one to assert that the world was not a dangerous place—particularly after October 1962, when the Cuban missile standoff very nearly destroyed the whole bloody planet.

Nor did the Kennedy assassination itself come out of nowhere.  Hostility toward the president for myriad perceived crimes (most of these involved capitulating to Communists) had long boiled over among various extremist groups in various pockets of the United States, not least in Texas.  If such hatred was not as overt as, say, that of the Tea Party for President Barack Obama, it was hardly a well-kept secret.

So what is this piffle about a sudden loss of national innocence?  What could we possibly be talking about?

The Kennedy assassination was a disturbing, tragic episode in a long line of similar calamities throughout the life of the American republic.  It is unique because it is the only killing of a commander-in-chief to be reported on live television and, thanks to a bystander named Abraham Zapruder, to be captured on film.  And, of course, the only such event remembered by people still alive today.

That’s what it was, and that’s all that it was.  Let’s not get carried away.

It is silly and historically ignorant to suggest the murder of the 35th president was somehow the moment everything changed—the biting of the apple that instigated the banishment from Eden and the moral soiling of all mankind.  As if the entire history of the world had been rainbows and gumdrops until a leader with great hair and a charming family found himself on the wrong end of a Carcano bolt-action rifle.

In the fall of 1963, were we really that naïve?  Were we really that dumb?  Are we so solipsistic that we can only comprehend the significance of events that we, ourselves, were around to see?  Do we truly think that the world stops spinning the moment we close our eyes?

We Americans are renowned the world over for our short-term memories regarding even the most basic facts of history.  Must we reinforce this view by tacitly demonstrating that it’s true?

Is there nothing more noble that we can do for our country?