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.

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