10 rules for writing about the 50th anniversary of the day John F. Kennedy was shot.


Useful suggestions from Althouse. On reflection, I have violated least half of these rules–did I mention that I was in Dallas in 1963? While true, perhaps Althouse is right and it’s become a cliche–and will probably violate a few more by the time November is over. But since it’s Friday Nov. 22, and I’ve included a lot of coverage of Kennedy this month, Althouse’s list of 10 rules is a welcome addition.

Althouse writes: It’s coming up next Friday, and I’d like to help with that op-ed or blog post you might have in the works.

1. Don’t repeat the cliché that everyone who was around at the time remembers where he was and what he was doing when he heard the news.

2. Don’t tell us — especially don’t tell us as if it were not a big cliché — what youhappened to have been doing and how you’ve always remembered that. After 50 years, can you not finally see that it doesn’t matter?

3. Don’t even attempt to say that the assassination had a profound effect on people. There is no new way to say that. We know!

4. Don’t make up alternate histories of what would have happened if Kennedy had not been killed. Everything would have been different; we would all have been different. If you’re American and under 50, you can assume that you would never have been born.

5.  Don’t recount the conspiracy theories. Here‘s Wikipedia’s article on the subject. If you’re into that sort of thing, enjoy it some day in your spare time, but don’t lard your 50th anniversary writings with that. It’s tawdry and undignified, and we’ve heard it all a thousand times. And by “all,” I don’t really mean all. What’s the one about the Federal Reserve? I just mean, if that’s what you’ve found to talk about, just shut up.

6. Don’t connect the story of JFK to Obama. I know it seems as though everything is about Obama, but resist. It’s cheap and inappropriate.

7. Don’t tell us about other Kennedys. Don’t drag in the recent news that Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg’s son Jack appears to have reached adulthood in nonugly form and has grown a large head of hair and is therefore presumptive presidential material. That’s annoying and off-topic.

8. Don’t commemorate murder. A man managed to kill the President. He’s already gotten far too much press. He doesn’t deserve our endless attention. I’m sick of “celebrating” a death day. We don’t make anything of Lincoln’s death day. We celebrate his birthday, like Washington’s, because he was such a great President. We don’t celebrate JFK’s birthday — I don’t even know what it is — because he was not great enough. We celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday, not the day he was assassinated. Why? Because of his greatness, and because we don’t want to direct our attention toward his murder. So why do we focus on Kennedy’s death day? It must be because he was not great enough, and because of points #1, #2, and #3, above. It’s about ourselves. A man died and we morbidly relive it annually, for some reason that must make little sense to those under 50.

9. Do write to end the annual ritual of death commemoration. Nail down the coffin lid and give the dead President some peace. Inspire us to move on to modest acknowledgements of the date at 10 or 25 year intervals up until 2063, when we — those of us who survive — can go big for the centennial.

10. Do make it — if not original — short.


3 Comments on “10 rules for writing about the 50th anniversary of the day John F. Kennedy was shot.”

  1. […] The Butcher Useful suggestions from Althouse. On reflection, I have violated least half of these […]

  2. The problem with Althouse rules on writing about JFK is that no matter which perspective you write about either JFK or the assasination, your going to have to touch on themes as the conspiracy theories. On 22nd November 1963, a politician was not only murdered – a man elected by the people was taken from us. A person (or a group of people) bypassed the ballot process and removed JFK by force. Writing about JFK is as much the property of the ordinary people as it is the property of historians, conspiracy theorists, political and social commentators, criminologists etc. Let the people remember and write how they want to remember JFK. Let ordinary people indulge in a remembering a time when the world was full of promise and optimism and when one man gave us hope before they took him away from us. JFK belongs to the people.

    • The Butcher says:

      “Let ordinary people indulge in a remembering a time when the world was full of promise and optimism and when one man gave us hope before they took him away from us.” — Really? “one man” ‘gave’ you hope, and promise, and all that? Sounds pretty dreamy and idealized. While I agree anyone can write about JFK any way they like–which means they are perfectly free to include or exclude conspiracy theories or conspiracy nonsense, as they wish, and focus on other aspects of Kennedy–People are not sheep, they don’t need a false, sugar-coated memory of JFK. Nor do they need to have ‘shadowy forces’ mythology (usually, a convenient story about ‘right wing shadowy forces’ in Dallas) to help them avoid confronting that JFK was killed by a figure of the far Left–a radical communist–a shock that Democrats never fully got over. So much baloney has been pumped into popular history to reinforce a mythical belief that “if only JFK had lived (then fill in whatever wishful thinking that suits their ideals) and so many falsehoods ascribed to JFK’s ‘promise’, that contradicts known history, it does a disservice to future generations to keep propagating these myths. If JFK ‘belongs to the people’, then they’re making him into a puppet fantasy figure, instead of an actual president. I’d suggest that JFK belongs to history. And the more accurately and honestly we can see him, the better people we are.

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