President Kennedy’s assassination was a horrible event. To have his wife and the nation having to watch a young President have his brains blown out of his head in front of the eyes of the world, ending a great perhaps, was something ineradicable to those who witnessed it.
That kind of heartless murder is an event every decent human being has to mourn and reflect on. “Each day is yours to live – just as it comes – the rest is luck,” says Euripides. So it was.
But the facts of John F. Kennedy’s career have to be kept in mind. John Kennedy was a brilliant young man. He had a photographic memory, he could write well, and he could immediately understand the heart of a matter at issue as if coring an apple. His handling of the Cuban missile crisis showed a tenacious nerve, a colossal focus, a mind fertile in gradations and expedients and quickness of wit. His conduct has rightly been praised to the roof.
Along with his intellectual abilities was the young Kennedy’s singular character. John had magnetic vitality, (awkwardly called “charisma,”) an ability to inspire personal fascination to an extraordinary degree. He used this power on the men he knew him, spurring them to try equal or surpass him, and this same charm, vitality and attractiveness drew young women to him the way a piece of dropped candy draws ants. It is a truism that we all look for pleasure in life; what is telling is whether we look for it in the right or the wrong way.
John was sick all of his life, and what deserving of the highest praise was his exertions in the face of terrible pain No man or woman was more courageous in making efforts in the face of pain than John Kennedy. That should never be forgotten.
But the founder of the Kennedy family, Joe Kennedy, was basically a renegade. His soul was full of inner rot. The Greeks held that education aimed at fulfilling the idea of a man as he ought to be. In Homer, the really noble man is known by his sense of duty and decency, his concern for personal honor. His preeminence could only be guaranteed by the noble and honest virtues that won it. But in Homer, there was a dark side to this code. The Greek nobles believed that manly virtue was victory in battle – the hero’s whole life was the race for first prize, an unceasing strife for supremacy over his peers.
That last defines Joe Kennedy. Throughout his life, he was a relentless social climber and a political schemer. He was an entirely corrupt businessman who used his corruption to further the life of his children as a matter of pride and as a way of validating his own egoistic ambition. What other end in life was there but power over others? Success meant glory, riches, a name, influence, gaining the highest places, a desire for the family name to appear in bold, proud letters throughout the land.
Proven evidence has shown that the Kennedy family was not an morally sound family in any sense – it was not a highly cultured family, not a highly educated family, not a family with broad or perceptive human views of life. Life to them was an unprincipled struggle to the grab power. They were a ruthless profiteering family using any and all means to obtain their ends which were often vulgar and commonplace.
What were the goods of life for them? Riches, mansions, big hotels, large estates, boats, luxury cars, a life for the children of maids and nannies, and, most of all, attractive and readily available young women. And how were such advantages to be gotten? By vice, by the most blatant kind of corruption. You bought people the way you purchased groceries, and when a man refused to be bought, you bought the man above him.
In other words, the Kennedy family was a completely unprincipled family. The men ran it, treated all people as a means to an end. The married women mainly provided respectability. Young attractive women were to be had at the convenience of the men. Most ordinary human beings are in most cases driven by greed for, political office, notice, praise influence, popularity. They want power in order to be conspicuous, to be able to lord it over those who are less in size and significance. They want power in order to be invulnerable, but do not want to suffer the effects of their vices. They lacked any instinct that burns with the desire to build something that lasts. They were ruled by the moment, its desires, and aims, its cheap, easy and sleazy gratifications
But a big role in the world for Kennedy Sr. was to be had only by the worst and lowest of means. He made his fortune by bootlegging, and this meant corrupting his associates along the way, using them as enablers of his shady rackets.
The Kennedy family consistently displayed a persecution complex. Like the state of Israel, anything hostile, any obstacle to their ambition, they saw as threatening their very existence. The family felt itself cast adrift from the bulk of the American people because of its religion: we were a Protestant country. Groups of people stood above them, and thus the family was left out. Yet the criminality of the father also acted to estrange the family from the mainstream, which made it redouble its efforts to be normal and mainstream while surrendering none of its graft.
From an early age, John Kennedy was spoiled and corrupt, and he floated on the current of his father’s ties to organized crime. There is established evidence of the exchange of monies between Sam Giancana and the older Kennedy. Giancana was a murderer who ran the Chicago mob that ran the labor unions there. Those ties helped John to obtain a seat in Congress, and then helped him win the Presidency. In the West Virginia primary, John won because his father knew that the sheriffs in the state control the political structure, and they were paid off in hefty bribes. In Illinois, another key state, it was the mob that brought in the victory. These facts are not in dispute. (Read The Dark Side of Camelot by Sy Hersh who spent five years writing it.)
The idea of Camelot of an ideal marriage was a dismal misrepresentation of the genuine Kennedy marriage. Everything the Kennedy family did was done by planning ahead, spurred by shrewd political calculation, and those calculations were in many cases, heartless. Only after the baby died, did Jack and Jackie begin to act like true mates.
Throughout his life, Jack’s womanizing never flagged. Jack’s affair with Marilyn Monroe began in the 1950s. John was very cavalier to Marylyn. After a sexual encounter with Marilyn at Palm Springs, he said to her something like, "You're not really First Lady material, anyway, Marilyn,” according to then Florida Senator George Smathers, a good friend.
Jackie knew of his affairs and it made her suffer horribly. But being unfaithful was a habit he had inherited from his father. Heraclitus says it is harder to resist pleasure than wrath, and virtue, like art, is always concerned with what is harder, for good actions are made better by being hard to achieve, he said. Vice negates and undoes this. So it was with John. He mirrored his father who ignored the fact that human beings are put on earth to serve the causes of moral intelligence.
The lovers of Jack Kennedy complained that Jack never indulged in foreplay, on one occasion he told a young lady, “I’m sorry but I only have fifteen minutes.” He indulged in no foreplay with Jackie. Jackie was constantly humiliated by his infidelities. She used to introduce his young women aides in the White House by saying, “This is Patricia. She is sleeping with my husband.”
To me the real tragedy of the Kennedy’s aside from Jack’s murder, is that they lacked any instinct that burns with the desire to build something excellent that lasts. They were ruled by the moment, its desires, aims, its gratifications. For all their striving, they remained commonplace.