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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (July 22, 1999)
On a day like this
Death of JFK Jr. inspires paranoia, indifference
MARK BALDRIDGE is a
senior English major.
Climb to the top of the Capitol
building, look out over the city and
observe the thin veil of acrid smoke
hanging, diaphanous, in the humid air.
You can smell it from here, the
burning of transmissions as gears
grind in the minds of conspiracy
You can almost taste it, like an old
penny under the tongue.
It is a shadow of a doubt. It is the
veil of tears.
It’s the tangible paranoia of a gen
eration and it stretches, this black haze,
across the nation — from the Pacific
to the coast off Martha’s Vineyard
where a search and rescue boat rocks,
with a gentle motion, the broken body
of a child of a son of the 20th Century:
JFK JR, lost at sea.
Whether, by now, the body of his
wife and sister-in-law may have been
recovered, I can’t tell. Maybe we’ll
never see them again.
And maybe we never really saw
him very clearly in the first place,
growing as he did in the shadow of his
famous dead daddy, his famous dead
uncle, in the shadow of his own fame -
which conceals more than it reveals,
never doubt it.
Some people can’t seem to figure
out why we care so much.
What, they want to know, is anoth
er dead Kennedy, more or less?
You can catch them, decrying the
media attention, on all media - the
subtle radio waves grown heavy and
thick, the pages of newspapers black
ened, websites cobbed with it: this is a
non-event, they say, we shouldn’t be
paying so much attention.
And they keep right on saying it
because they have to, because, like the
rest of us, they are caught staring, rub
bernecking at the bad wreck in the
Younger people, who have no
memories (as I have none) of “where
they were” when the first young
Kennedy got his in a Dallas motorcade
have some excuse for pretending not to
know or understand the horror, the fas
Others want to fit this into a more
complex design, a much more com
plex design, a mind bogglingly com
plex design of magic bullets and
grassy knolls, lone gunmen in endless
succession - a cracked, crazy cabal of
The numerology of conspiracy the
ory pays close attention to anniver
saries and July 18 was pregnant with
It was thirty years to the day after
uncle Ted drove off Dike bridge and
left poor Mary Jo Kopechne at
For some reason he failed to report
the incident to police until the follow
ing day. Somehow he got away with
this. Go figure.
But there are stranger coinci
dences, for stranger coincidence
On the same date in 1974 the U.S.
Justice Department ordered John
Lennon (a man with his very own
Some people can’t
seem to figure out
why we care so
much. What, they
want to know, is
Kennedy, more or
“lone gunman”) out of the country
because of his guilty plea in England
to a 1968 marijuana possession
Another Catholic got uppety on
this day in history: In 1870, make no
mistake about it, the Vatican Council
declared Papal Infallibility a doctrine
of the Church.
And other empires have been
destroyed: In on the same day in AD
64 Rome burned. Nero fiddled. It must
have seemed like the end of the world.
But the end is not yet.
We will go on trying to make sense
(or nonsense) of this fatal weekend.
The cloud of unknowing will dissipate
only slowly over America, if at all, if
But we’ll keep diving in the frigid
waters of history here for a long time
JKF et al, rest in peace.
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