Thursday, July 14, 2011

How I developed an obsession with JFK

Back in April I was preparing to enroll in courses for the fall semester when my advisor informed me I had the option of taking two history electives. I flipped through the curriculum book, debating whether I preferred spending a semester learning about medieval Europe or colonial America, when I saw the title that wiped all other subjects from my mind: The Kennedy Assassination. "Is this open?" I immediately asked my advisor. He flipped through some papers, then nodded, informing me that this totally awesome class was, in fact, available. I signed up right away.

I've never been particularly enthralled with the Kennedy family, but there has always been a bit of fascination with them; John F. Kennedy's confusing death, the bad luck that seemed to follow the Kennedys everywhere they went. I think it was after JFK, Jr.'s sudden death that I began to feel a curiosity about them, though I never took any steps to learn about his death, or that of JFK's nearly fifty years ago. Yet suddenly I was presented with the opportunity to learn all about the mysterious assassination of one of America's (and possibly the world's) most charismatic and interesting people.

I decided I needed to learn as much about JFK as possible prior to taking this course, so as not to walk into a senior-level class unprepared. I went on Netflix (who I am NOT happy with right now, by the way) and started ordering every documentary I could find, then to Amazon in search of any books that would be helpful. The professor for this subject, Michael Kurtz, has previously written two books on the subject of Kennedy's assassination, and is considered to be one of the nation's leading experts on the conspiracy theory. I purchased both of his efforts, Crime of the Century: The Kennedy Assassination from a Historian's Perspective and The JFK Assassination Debates: Lone Gunman versus Conspiracy.  In addition, I purchased Trauma Room One by Dr. Charles A. Crenshaw, who attended to both JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald.

Wanting to know the views on both the lone gunman theory and the ideas of a conspiracy theory, I also checked out The Kennedy Detail by Gerald Blaine from my local library, which is told from the views of the men who made up the secret service detail for President Kennedy and Jackie.

After reading Trauma Room One and The Kennedy Detail and watching several documentaries, I'm leaning more towards conspiracy. Based on the medical facts alone (given by Dr. Crenshaw), there's no way it was a single gunman who inflicted the wounds received by JFK and Governer Connally. I have just started Crime of the Century, and hope to have both it and Kurtz's other book finished by the time the semester starts in mid-August.

Hubs has joked that my interest in JFK has become more than just fascination. I argue with him, of course, but I surprised even myself with how excited I was to see his grave in Arlington, and my tendency to be overly-thrilled every time we came across something having to do with the Kennedys throughout our visit to D.C. I turned into one of those annoying tour guide people, saying things like, "Oh, this is where he laid in state!", "Can you believe Kennedy gave a speech from this very spot?" and other irritating facts. Hubs put up with me, thankfully. That man loves me more than I deserve.

Around mid-June I forced myself to step away from the Kennedy books and documentaries. I decided to read a few other novels, watch other movies and basically just force JFK out of my mind. I did pretty well with it, but now that the fall semester is bearing down on me, I feel like it's my responsibility to get back on the bandwagon and continue this fevered enthrallment with the man, the myth and the legend.

Don't worry, I don't have any cardboard cutouts of him hidden under my bed. Yet.


  1. It is has always fasinated me JFK's death so I think it is great that you are able to do the course and maybe learn something new...hope it is all you think it will be...........

    1. I'm sorry Jo-Anne, but every time I study the JFK assassination, I end up with more questions than answers.

  2. My middle school principal (who is now the district superintendent) went through a huge Kennedy phase when I was in 6th grade. Decorations, quotes, references, everything. And I say phase because every year or so he picks a new famous figure to dote upon. When I attended my friend's Commencement 2 years ago his newest kick was comparing Abe Lincoln to Obama...and he spent an unnecessary amount of time talking about this subject because kids who graduate high school couldn't care less about Lincoln.

    So, at least you're committed to only one :D

  3. I understand the fascination. Just watching The Kennedys (with Katie Holmes) I want to know more xx