What better time could there be to discuss the phenomenon of “dying as a career move” than the 40th anniversary of the JFK assassination?
This phenomenon, hardly new, raises up certain people, after their “tragic” deaths as larger-than-life heroes, inflating their good deeds beyond any conformance with reality, while erasing their mistakes and misdeeds like magic. Note that I say “certain” people. Despite his far greater popularity when president than either Lincoln or Kennedy, and his two landslide presidential election victories that surpassed anything that either of those two could muster, who today cares about William McKinley, slain early in his second term in Buffalo, NY?
And that’s hardly the only contradiction that comes from creating heroes out of whole cloth. While revered by today’s Democrats, JFK was by far the more hawkish presidential candidate compared to his opponent Nixon. In his campaign, he harped on the so-called missile gap (a presumed Soviet superiority over the United States in the number of nuclear-armed missiles), and the new communist government in Havana. Nixon insisted that there wasn’t a missile gap, unless Kennedy was referring to OUR superiority over the Ruskies, and was proven right in a manner that was to scare the Hell out of our country and the rest of the world.
Following through on his promise to defend Cuba with Soviet arms, and figuring that JFK was little more than an empty suit with a pretty face (based on the Vienna summit), Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev began shipping medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles to Cuba in the summer of 1962. Clearly, he would not have risked bringing the two superpowers to the brink of war if he had the technology to launch from offshore, or possessed an intercontinental range capability. Gosh, Dick Nixon was right all along.
Not missing a single opportunity to foul up any purely diplomatic solution to the problem, JFK ordered a naval blockade of the island. The October, 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis ended only when Kennedy yielded on the key issue of inspections for compliance, and agreed to withdraw our missile installations from Turkey (which he denied).
The keepers of the JFK flame spin this using the same technique employed by the purveyors of the Lincoln cult: Much like the War Between the States, the Missile Crisis was a kind of natural disaster—something that just happened, and was masterfully managed and brought to a conclusion by the mythical hero, who bore absolutely no responsibility for its occurrence.
Another obnoxious effect of “dying as a career move” is the proliferation of contradictory and idiotic assassination conspiracy theories. After all, how could our secular saint have been cut down by some loser acting alone? It would take a small army of dedicated evil men working overtime to accomplish such a feat, wouldn’t it?
In a word, no. A reasonably skilled marksman, stationed where Oswald was on November 22, 1963, could easily have gotten off the shots to kill JFK. That one can recite a huge list of powerful people who hated him scarcely demonstrates the existence of a labyrinthine plot to kill Kennedy. Besides, were these shadowy figures any better off under Lyndon Johnson, who proved to be far more socialistic than Kennedy ever dared?
As to Lincoln, the only “conspiracy” that could ever be proven was that there was a group of men from the former Confederacy who wanted to kill several high government officials, including the president. Considering that Lincoln was despised throughout the South, and through much of the North as well, this was not exactly an earthshaking finding. Moreover, John Wilkes Booth, a distinguished actor, knew his way around Ford’s Theatre, and had no trouble tampering with the outer door of the presidential box so that it could be jammed shut from the inside. He could enter at an opportune moment and cap the unguarded president. But please note that Booth didn’t even know that Lincoln would be attending the evening performance of Our American Cousin until the morning of April 14, 1865—the very day of the assassination. Imagine that. He had HOURS to craft his detailed plan!
Would you be surprised to learn that a conspiracy theory within the conspiracy theory mushroomed at the time, whereby the man shot and killed at that Virginia farm, and identified as Booth, wasn’t the assassin at all?
So what are we to make of all this?
Regardless of our functionally atheistic environment, and the brutal suppression of religion to “its place,” all people need God. Unfortunately, many will find Him in overblown mortal figures, most of whom are not worthy of respect, let alone worship. All the while they seem to miss the One whose truly tragic death could, I suppose, be interpreted as a career move, but I doubt if Jesus of Nazareth thought of it quite that way.