Not An Original Thought

February 6, 2013, 3:36 pm

John F. Kennedy really is a blank slate to be used for whatever grand narrative someone wants to tell about 20th century American politics, foreign policy, or just about anything:

Their next hero, two decades later, is President John F. Kennedy. Startled by the Bay of Pigs fiasco two years earlier, Kennedy in 1963 was supposedly on the verge of rejecting cold war orthodoxy and leading “the United States and the world down a…path of peace and prosperity” along the lines that Wallace had prophetically laid out. But JFK, like Wallace before him, “had many enemies who deplored progressive change.” Stone and Kuznick stop just short of blaming Kennedy’s assassination on those hidden enemies, as Stone did in his conspiracy film JFK (1991). But they say his death handed the country back to those who “would systematically destroy the promise of the Kennedy years as they returned the country to war and repression.”

I include professional historians in this behavior (Kennedy was going to pull out of Vietnam! No, he wasn’t! Yes, he was! See here for one extended thread on this).

In this, oddly, Kennedy resembles no one so much as Marilyn Monroe, who is also made into whatever the viewer wants. Norman Mailer, writing his biography of Monroe, was not interested in her, but in his image of her. He wrote (in the third person, because, hey, Norman Mailer):

At the end, if successful, he would have offered a literary hypothesis of a possible Marilyn Monroe who might actually have lived and fit most of the facts available. If his instincts were good, then future facts discovered about her would have to war with the character he created.

Dying early and young meant that neither ever had the chance to reclaim themselves. They will always be at that moment of utmost vulnerability, being used for whatever point an observer needs to make–even this one.

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