What would President John F. Kennedy have thought about the enigmatic circumstances of his murder?
Fifty years later, I think we don’t ask this question often enough. Instead we argue about what Rachel Maddow and Bill O’Reilly think. Media criticism is important, but it is no substitute for historical analysis. There are certainly other ways to think about the story.
Counterfactually, for example.
Imagine JFK had survived the gunfire in Dealey Plaza. What would he have said about its causes?
Kennedy, of course, did not have time to comment on the gunfire that claimed his life, other than to say, after a bullet struck him in the back, “My God, I’m hit.” But that exclamation illuminated his instantaneous awareness of a lethal situation. JFK had been a soldier/sailor in World War II. Twenty years before he had faced gunfire. He had seen men die from it. He knew that he had been shot. Before he could say anything more another bullet struck him in the head, fatally wounding him.
That was not inevitable.