The death of Kennedy marked an abrupt and hugely traumatic transition for all of my generation from innocence to experience. It’s hard to convey to younger people how surprising and shocking it was to us that a president could be blown away like that, especially one as handsome and young as Kennedy.
This makes no sense—the beautiful and young are just as vulnerable to rifle shots as the ugly and old, but that’s the silly way the innocent mind works. The subsequent funeral, the killing of Oswald by Ruby, all the strange twistings and turnings, were heartwrenching and frightening for the nation and especially for my generation of young people, who became jaded and suspicious and conspiratorially-minded.
I date JFK’s assassination as the beginning of the widespread acceptability and popularity of dark conspiracy theories in America. Whether or not they made sense, whether or not the evidence supported them (it turns out it did not), people believe in them. How could a nonentity such as Oswald take down a president? How could he have been silenced right under the police’s noses by a weirdo like Ruby? The facts were too strange and too improbable, the people too insignificant, for their large roles in world history. Something greater was needed, and the imagination supplied it.