Writers on Kennedy

What we think about when we think about JFK

Debbie Nathan
Debbie Nathan

'A Wonderful, Glorious Place'

The true legacy is not live Kennedy but dead Kennedy.

I'm a Houstonian from a Jewish, liberal family. In eighth grade, I attended junior high near the headquarters of the ultra-right John Birch Society. Birchers roiled with conspiracy theories. The civil rights movement was a commie plot. Water fluoridation to prevent cavities was a commie plot. My teachers parroted these propositions in class. They thought JFK was a plot. When word came on the intercom that he was dead, every kid and adult in sight laughed, except for me and the Latin instructor. 

Writers on Kennedy

Deceased Kennedy signaled the end of hegemony for right-wing conspiracy theory. Thereafter, the biggest ideas came mainly from liberals and lefties.

First, of course, was the theory that the CIA helped kill Kennedy. More florid claims have followed. The government started AIDS. The CIA turns little children into Manchurian Candidates via Satanic ritual abuse in day cares. Bush knew all about 9/11 before 9/11.

Perhaps weirdest is the idea that if only Kennedy had lived, America would be a wonderful, glorious place. I never got that one. Kennedy was basically a Don Draper, but instead of Don's serial women and Madison Avenue ad accounts, he had serial women and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Kennedy live? What kind of legacy is that? Sadly, the post-mortem conspiracy stuff is way more entertaining.

Debbie Nathan's books include: Women and Other Aliens: Essays From the U.S.-Mexico Border, and Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case.

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at austinchronicle.com/opinion.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Debbie Nathan
The Border Patrol Myth
The Border Patrol Myth
The most dangerous policing job? Not so.

March 9, 2018

How DPS's Occupation of a Border Town May Have Crippled Its Economy
How DPS's Occupation of a Border Town May Have Crippled Its Economy
Rio Grande City sees a marked decline in sales and tourism

Oct. 6, 2017

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle