Fifty years later, doubts endure. Here's why the case will never be closed
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We have lived with it for half a century, and still what happened that day in Dallas is shocking beyond almost anything else in American history. One minute the President of the United States is smiling and waving. A moment later, he stiffens and clutches at his wounded throat. Then his head explodes; blood and gore bathe the First Lady, who crawls onto the trunk lid of the moving car in a wild and hopeless attempt to collect the pieces.
The victim was one of the most powerful, glamorous, wealthy, charismatic individuals on the planet. Snuffed out in an instant. This whiplash convergence of extremes — so sudden, so horrific, such enormity — makes the assassination of John F. Kennedy an almost uniquely deranging event. In a matter of seconds, the mighty are rendered helpless; the beautiful is made hideous; tranquillity turns turbulent; the familiar becomes alien.
Like a tornado, the Kennedy conspiracy theories have spun off whirlwinds of doubt about other national traumas and controversies, from 9/11 and FEMA camps to TWA Flight 800 and genetically modified foods. The legacy of that shocking instant is a troubling habit of the modern American mind: suspicion is a reflex now, trust a figment.