So much has happened since President Kennedy was slain. The average citizen has access to exponentially more information than any person in 1963. We’ve gone through 10 Presidents in the ensuing decades, witnessed a revolution in personal computers, satellite imagery and the digitization of documents and photographs. Most importantly, any person with access to a phone or computer has the power to share information with billions of others. And yet we still can’t read the last of the JFK documents. As with so many of his daily lies and constant boasts, “President” Donald Trump has gone back on his promise to release the last of the JFK files. What’s worse is that we don’t even have an accurate count of just how many files are being held back. According to the Trump administration the documents in question could cause damage to national interests that is”of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in immediate disclosure.”
We know that last of the JFK files contain one of two things. Something or nothing. If it’s the former, we have a right to know. If it’s the latter, what’s the big deal? Odds are it’s not some smoking gun and I’ll give even better odds that whatever damage it could cause is not of any “gravity.” If we’ve learned anything about the assassination, it’s probably just something embarrassing. In light of the current state of affairs in our Federal Government, the real question is what could possibly be more embarrassing than our own Chief Executive?
More than just a man died on November 22nd 1963. The office of the Presidency was also dealt a fatal blow. The position has been perverted into a seat of unparalleled power inherently compromised by the corruption required to ascend to it. Trump and Nixon proved the power of the Presidency can only be checked by acts of self-destruction, leaving increasingly polarized voting coalitions actively seeking to undermine or consolidate the power of the Executive Office. Meanwhile the President can unilaterally engage in foreign military adventures, monitor the communications of innocent civilians and prevent people of specific faiths from entering our borders while stacking the Supreme Court with those who will interpret legislation according to their own religious belief. As Edward Snowden put it, we’ve created a “turnkey dictatorship.” We need but find a man who is willing to finally turn the key. The current occupant of the Oval Office seems as likely a candidate as any. The descent from the mid-century optimism of the Kennedy administration to the full-throated rallying cry for fear, isolationism and xenophobia is as shocking as it is dangerous. Kennedy was no angel. He authorized his fair share of coverups and coup d’etat and was no stranger to extramarital affairs. But there remains a stark contrast between the “Ask Not” Presidency and “Grab ’em by the p*ssy” administration.
In light of the current domestic turmoil, looming constitutional crises, incoherent foreign policy, institutional voter suppression and an epidemic of school shootings and fatal police encounters with people of color, it may seem inconsequential to raise a fuss over a secret stash of 55-year-old documents. Surely those larger issues should be the main concern of all free-minded citizens, but the smaller indignities and injustices also matter. It still matters that our government treats tax-paying adults like children. It still matters that 55 years after our nation’s destiny was irrevocably altered by an assassin’s bullets we still don’t know the complete story. I hope that at some point in my lifetime the charade will end and the JFK files will truly be opened to public scrutiny. Until then, the great lie of the 20th century endures in the 21st.