The other night, I was chatting online with my friend, Amanda. She asked what I was doing, and I told her I was reading a book about the JFK Assassination. There was a long pause while she thought and typed.
Her reply: One thing I don’t understand, and don’t want to read a bunch of books to find out, is why people are still so caught up with the assassination. JFK? The ONLY thing I know about him is that he was shot in the head. And that his wife is named Jackie, and for some reason I know that he was Catholic Why do people still care about him?
For her, that’s a perfectly valid question. Amanda is 24. She was twelve when 9/11 happened; The Cold War—such a big part of JFK’s administration—was over before she started school. For Amanda and her peers, 9/11 is their defining event, her generation’s equivalent of the JFK assassination.
I wasn’t alive when JFK was killed, but I grew up with the legends of Kennedy’s Camelot, of his vitality and wit, and of that terrible day in Dallas. My parents talked about JFK when November 22nd rolled around. My teachers—also Baby Boomers—talked about it. What I told Amanda was that for a couple generations of Americans, the day JFK died, something in America also died.
For Amanda, that day tolled shortly after 9/10/01 turned over to 9/11/01. That was when her generation’s innocence was lost, and it’s understandable why the Kennedy assassination doesn’t resonate with her.
For me, though, it does. Since I was in middle school, I’ve read books about JFK, his administration, his family, especially his assassination. My conclusions aren’t important here. My point is that for millions of Americans, JFK still matters.
And most Americans don’t buy that a scrawny Marxist nutball named Lee Harvey Oswald—acting alone—killed the most-powerful man in the free world.
The government’s official findings—The Warren Report—say there was no conspiracy in Dallas: that Oswald killed JFK, period.
In the preface to “Not in Your Lifetime,” author Anthony Summers quotes a 2009 CBS News poll that says 76% of Americans believe there was a conspiracy. Similar numbers think there was a government cover-up to hide the truth from the American people, and that we will never know exactly what happened that day.
“Not in Your Lifetime” is Anthony Summers’s intelligent, scholarly study of the JFK Assassination. It was originally published in 1983 under the title, “Conspiracy.” Since then, Summers has repeatedly updated his original work, essentially rewriting it by now. He changed the title to jibe with what Chief Justice Earl Warren said to a reporter asking when all of the information would be released: due to security concerns, “Not in your lifetime.”
Over the past fifty years, documents were released here and there, until the early 1990’s, when tens of millions of pages were released regarding the JFK Assassination.
Summers has examined many of these, as well as other fresh sources. He has conducted dozens of interviews with key players in the JFK assassination. Summers has a theory as to what happened on November 22nd, 1963, and he explains it here, with impeccable documentation.
Could one man kill President Kennedy from a sixth-floor warehouse window? Or was there an intricate plot involving various groups inside and outside the government?
While today’s twenty-somethings may have moved past the day JFK was shot and Camelot crumbled, millions of people still chew-over facts and fairytales, trying to make peace with what happened. As long as the debate continues, we can hope Anthony Summers keeps updating his wonderful book, “Not in Your Lifetime.”
(nb: I received an Advance Review Copy from the publisher via NetGalley)