The assassination of the United States president John Fitzgerald Kennedy remains the ultimate 'where were you?' event in the history of the United States. The murder of what is generally considered to be the most popular president of the 20th century was a truly shocking moment for generations of Americans, and profoundly changed the relationship that many US citizens had with their government. It is often seen as a watershed moment in US culture, where the idealised vision of the nation that is associated with the 1950s was literally blown away in a matter of seconds.
Kennedy's assassination is also one of the most iconic images associated with the decade that gave the world the whole concept of the iconic image. The sixties was a time of revolutionary social and political upheaval, and nowhere was this more the case than in America, where Kennedy's passing was followed by Vietnam and all its attendant protest and outrage.
Then the following decade began with the Watergate scandal, and the perhaps less well-known exposures of the covert US government spying programme COINTELPRO - short for Counter-Intelligence Program - and the equally secretive human research project codenamed MKUltra. Less than a decade after Kennedy was shot, the image of the seat of American political power had undergone a self-inflicted, and entirely deserved, battering, and any idealistic American notions of moral and ethical superiority to Communism - a key facet of the US strategy in the so-called Cold War, particularly at the time of McCarthyism - seemed rather tenuous.
It is perhaps appropriate then that the fifty year anniversary of the assassination of Kennedy comes at a time when the US federal government has been similarly exposed. The dark examples of the abuse of power which first seeped into the public consciousness in the aftermath of Kennedy's assassination have been mirrored once again in recent events.
After the drama of the last month, when the US government literally shut down because it was completely broke, it would be understandable for Americans to hold the federal government in pretty low esteem. But the public estimation of government had recently slumped further into the abyss due to the revelations revealed by Edward Snowden, which proved beyond any doubt whatsoever that the US government had engaged in completely unlawful and unconstitutional spying on the American people, on a scale that can quite accurately be described as mammoth.
In the half a century since Kennedy was assassinated, we have seen time and time again that despite the cachet that is given to the individual who resides in the White House, generations of US presidents have singularly failed to do what they so publicly proclaim will be their modus operandi - to "faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States". It is this sort of execution that should be on the American people's minds at this time, and the anniversary of Kennedy's assassination should bring this into sharper focus still.
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