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John F. Kennedy, Jr.: Still Dead (And Other Observations)
In Dissent, Number One Hundred and Twenty
by Brian S. Wise
6 July 2003JFK Jr.

The challenge is to consider the new accusations without lending credence to them.


Tuesday came the news that North Korea may be fashioning smaller nuclear devices, to make it easier to attach onto existing missiles and detonate somewhere in Japan.  An interesting turn of events, and something I had planned to write about today, until I heard there was a new book coming out about the Kennedy family, that some particularly scandalous charges were made in regards to Mr. and Mrs. John John, and that some lower form of chaos had erupted.  The challenge is to elaborate on the issue without lending any credence to the accusations, and so …
           
The book is called The Kennedy Curse: Why Tragedy Has Haunted America’s First Family For 150 Years, by “Kennedy family biographer” Edward Klein, published by St. Martin’s Press.  Now, writing about the Kennedy family is not only relatively easy to do (in terms of fodder and research), it is a cottage industry: just about anything with the name Kennedy on it is going to sell, because if we are anything as a country, we are a people who cannot forget about things that should be forgotten, while ignoring things that should always be on the top of our heads.  (For example, take away worship of the Kennedy's and put in its place the lessons learned from the Tragedies, you will be a far better person.)
           
Anyway.  Excerpts of the book have been published by Vanity Fair, and among the (alleged) startling revelations: John Jr. had confessed to a friend that his marriage was deteriorating, that the Mrs. (Carolyn Bessette) had problems with cocaine and bad temperament, that she refused to have sex with him when he broached the topic of children, that he called her a “cokehead,” that she was having an affair and – and you simply will not believe this – that she was depressed and self-absorbed.  (As hard as it is for you to believe anyone connected to the Kennedy family can be self-absorbed, try to gather your composure and continue with the column, please.)
           
There is another cottage industry built around the Kennedy family, its timely and vociferous defense.  A man named John Perry Barlow – “longtime friend of JFK, Jr.” – took to the Keith Olbermann program Tuesday night to suggest that the mere existence of a book making these claims amounted to grave robbing, an insult made much worse when you consider, and these are Barlow’s exact words, the subject is “too dead to defend himself.”  Well sure, that would be an impediment, being too dead to defend yourself.  Part of the claim makes sense in its own way, part of it is silly.  Is it being suggested that any historian who digs up dirt on someone long dead is a grave robber, or just someone you like?  But Klein is not a historian, he is a “family biographer,” goes the argument.  Point taken.
 
Amidst the string of denials and allegations of grave robbing (they have continued all week, if you have listened for them you have heard them), no one has asked what seemed to me the most obvious question: If we are discussing 150 years of what is called the Kennedy family curse, what do decisions made of free will – infidelity, drug use, frigidness – have to do with anything?  When one thinks of the Kennedy curse, he remembers that the president and the senator were both assassinated within five years of each other, that the future senator impregnated (allegedly) and killed a woman in his car before walking back to the party, that the lawyer / publisher died in a plane crash, et cetera.  And in this you must agree that enough awful things have happened to the family – in the last 40 years, forget 150 – to bring about some pause.
 
But to say there is something dark and sinister hanging over the Kennedy's ignores entirely their great fortune, in that they have had one president and two senators, all of some significant note, in the family, and various public servants scattered throughout; that they have amassed fantastic wealth in a nation that allows them to amass it; that they have remained remarkably strong in their resolve and religion despite the fantastic pain they have been subjected to.  I concede that the Kennedy’s have been forced to endure outrageous fortune, but am struck cold by the idea that everything bad that has happened to them is entirely out of their individual control.  John Jr. did not die because he was cursed, he died because he was a bad pilot.

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