It’s a good thing to talk it over again and again, if only because far too vast a percentage of our population today wasn’t around then, and needs the benefit of all of our first-hand recollections.
Almost all of us from that era mark it as a turning point in the national psyche. It was a moment of collective national demarcation. Everything seemed a little darker after it. It was harder to experience joy in quite the same way. Cynicism and disdain for genuine empathy seemed to fester like an unrestrained cancer on both the individual and body politic.
But why? Why was it such a huge deal? Why have we still not gotten over it?
One needs to step back from the particular event, and look at the broader picture, the trajectory, or intersecting trajectories, that were impacting the world then. From that standpoint, consider some things:
The assassination came just a couple of months after the September 1963 March on Washington, when Dr. Martin Luther King’s inspired “I Have a Dream” speech elevated the civil rights struggle to a new, higher, more universal level.
If anything, that was the seminal event that, as President Kennedy began to become responsive to its impact and to align with the cause of civil rights, set in motion the assassination that followed so quickly.
Let there be no mistake that the CIA was operating with great zeal both domestically and internationally in the decade leading up to 1963. A significant amount of its operations were made public in the mid-1970s Rockefeller Commission and Church Committee investigations.
The best, most accurate and detailed record of the CIA’s efforts in that area are contained in the book by John Marks, The Search for the ‘Manchurian Candidate,’ first published shortly after all the documentation from the Church Committee hearings was made public.
Knowing Congressional investigations were coming, then CIA Director Richard Helms ordered all the records of CIA domestic operations destroyed, those under the code name MK-ULTRA, including massive domestic LSD testing and distribution that was in full force in the 1950s. So, despite all that came out in the hearings, there was so much more that can be divined only by insightful extrapolation from secondary impacts.
As much as the CIA was obsessed with stopping communism abroad, and its threat to unfettered capitalist exploitation in the developing world, so it was also mobilized against the same perceived enemy domestically. The shallow-minded right wingers atop CIA covert ops, like Allen Dulles, saw no problem deploying the fruits of their experiments in mind control – ranging from drugs like LSD and “magic mushrooms” to sleep deprivation, general intoxication, hypnosis, brainwashing and cult propagation – against domestic populations.
These forces saw the rise of the civil rights movement as a threat to national security. Their right wing paranoia was spiced with a very palpable racism, and they unleashed the entire range of their mind-bending and muddling arts on a generation of American youth. The goal was to turn them away from the struggle for civil rights and economic justice to a mindless celebration of “sex, drugs and rock and roll.”
That’s right, the CIA mainstreamed the counterculture of the 1960s, accenting their efforts with the killings of JFK, Malcolm X, Dr. King and Robert Kennedy.
With all that, no wonder the American population became bummed out in the years after JFK’s assassination. A CIA-orchestrated national paradigm shift was underway, encouraged and cheered on by the powerful elites who were its beneficiaries. By 1987, the idealism of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was supplanted by Gordon Gecco’s “Greed is good” speech in the movie, “Wall Street.”
Why, even today, do over 60 percent of Americans still think that Oswald did not act alone? Because the evidence on its face points that way. But also, from the standpoint of cui bono? (who benefits?), there was too much motive and capability for powerful, nefarious forces not to do it. And look at what the result has been.