As heartbreaking as John F. Kennedy's assassination was, it bequeathed upon him something that escapes most mortals: the aura of eternal youthfulness.
Most modern-age celebrities, whether glorious or notorious, have to face a grim reality before they face the Grim Reaper. It's the cold awareness that unless they choose to shutter themselves from public view, their aging process will be vividly recorded in high-definition resolution for all the cyberworld to see.
However, for obvious and tragic reasons, JFK will always be retained in our memory and iCloud storage as a handsome, vital 40-something. No Botox-frozen forehead. No time-etched grooves at right angles to a wrinkled upper lip. No stooped shoulders or thinning hair line.
For "Jack" it is a sense of eternal vibrancy that serves to enhance the memory and the mythology about the man. In the minds of most, he will truly always be larger than life.
As I was on business in Dallas recently, I took advantage of a meeting break to wander over to Dealey Plaza, to the building the world had came to know as the Texas School Book Depository. In a tastefully done restoration, the infamous 6th floor has been turned into a museum of sorts.
You can stand beside the actual window where a replica rifle of the "left-wing loner" (as officially described in the montage on the wall) is still propped up on cartons of books.You can visually trace the precise line of fire down onto the street and stare at the exact spot where JFK's fatal lurch was recorded for all the world to see.
Site offers perspective
As an occasional gun-range shooter, I was somewhat taken by the fact that this was not at all an impossible target to hit, despite the reservations of many theorists over the years. The official distance from the muzzle of Lee Harvey Oswald's telescopic rifle to the exposed president was "only 264 feet."
That distance, with that equipment and a slow-moving, confined target, would not even qualify for a marksmanship award for somebody like Oswald, a former Marine sharpshooter.
Contemplating the facts and sad events of that day, right there within the actual historic and geographic context, somehow sharpened the whole focus of what had taken place 50 short years ago.
On the walls and in the halls of that history-changing 6th floor are hundreds of visual, audio and written accounts of the life and politics of JFK. He is somewhat idolized in a number of those exhibits, but nothing to the point of incredulity.
Naturally, I was drawn to his political reflections and positions of the time.
What is fascinating to me is how the perception of where he stood politically is nowhere near as perfectly preserved in the public mind today as it was 50 years ago.
Along the museum corridors are his clearly articulated strong views on a number of controversial issues.
For instance, he was severely criticized, even demonized, by political and media foes for his religious faith. Even his worthiness to hold presidential office was questioned because of his Catholicism. Though he pushed back courageously on those prejudiced attacks it still resulted in him only winning the 1960 race against Richard Nixon by the tiniest of margins.
He was an unabashed supporter of the war in Vietnam. Contrary to some latter-day history revisionists, he never recanted from his position that the U.S. needed to send troops to win that war.
He was one of the most ardent presidents in U.S. history on the issue of reducing taxes. You can read there in Dallas his statements of belief that lower taxation rates eventually lead to more jobs, higher living standards, a better economy and therefore more government revenue for social programs.
And of course, his unflinching belief in the paramountcy of personal responsibility over nanny-state paternalism is forever captured in his blazing clarion call to post-war youth to "Ask not what your country can do for you...."
So my visit to the site of Kennedy's last moments left me with a greater understanding of what took place that fateful day. But it also left me with a weaker understanding of why media reminders of his conservative policy positions are not implanted as clearly today in our minds as his eternally hope-filled countenance is thankfully implanted in our hearts.