IMAGE | Vår förmåga (och önskan) att låta oss luras av bilder tycks vara oändlig. Det är inte bara en tom kliché att en bild kan säger mer än tusen ord.
Oavsett alla avslöjanden om president John F. Kennedys föga imponerande politiska liv – för att inte tala om hans privatliv – tycks vi ändå alltid välja att bli mer imponerade av bilden av honom än av vad vi verkligen vet.
Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic, har reflekterat över hur dessa bilder än idag har en förmåga att forma hur vi ser på Kennedy och hans familj.
You know the pictures. They’re the ones we’re still looking at, still marveling over, the ones that fuse some powerful ideas together and that make us fall in love all over again with a family we’ve never met and specifically with the man at the center of that family, who was apparently willing—eager—to contain the most vital and alluring of his protean energies within it. These photographs have had an outsized effect on our assessment of JFK’s presidency, and our collective feelings about them have served as his magic fishbone, getting him out of one scrape or another as the years pass by and the revelations and reassessments pile up.
Those pictures make me realize anew what a patsy I’ve been. How could they be anything more than a shrewd campaign, one that plays on the very sentiment—an essentially bourgeois regard for what is nowadays called “the sanctity of marriage”—for which JFK himself had such obvious contempt?
As for John Kennedy—what did he do for us? He started the Peace Corps and the Vietnam War. He promised to put a man on the moon, and he presided over an administration whose love affair with assassination was held in check only by its blessed incompetence at pulling off more of them. […] He fought for a tax break the particulars of which look like the product of a Rush Limbaugh fever dream, he almost got us all killed during his “second Cuba” […] and he brought organized crime into contact with the highest echelons of American power. More than anyone else in American history, perhaps, he had a clear vision of what his country could do for him.
But most of all, he made us feel good about ourselves; he inspired us. Toward what? Mostly toward him. […] The typical progressive woman thinks she is drawn to him because of his groovy, feel-good work on behalf of civil rights, but that’s an assertion that doesn’t bear 15 minutes’ exploration. John Kennedy voted against Eisenhower’s 1957 Civil Rights Act; he made lofty campaign promises that assured him the black vote but then sat on his hands for all of 1961; his nickname for James Baldwin was “Martin Luther Queen.” The reason so many women love him really has nothing to do with his actual accomplishments and everything to do with his being the kind of man whose every inclination runs counter to their best interests.
JFK was a man whose sexual life remained a central fact of his existence, who did not allow it to be diminished by anything—not his political ambitions, not issues of national security, not his Catholicism, not loyalty to his friends and his male relatives, not physical limitation or pain, not the risk of infecting any of his partners with the venereal disease that regularly plagued him, not fear of impregnating someone, not the potential for personal embarrassment, and certainly, certainly, not his marriage.
He was a winner, and we like winners. He’ll get out of every scrape history can serve up. All the aging hookers and cast-aside girlfriends with book contracts better take notice: We don’t care about you. JFK is more important to us than you can ever be, so you might as well keep quiet. The cause endures, sweetheart. The hope still lives. And the dream will never die.
Bild: Ett foto taget av Cecil Stoughton som var Vita husets första officiella fotograf. Under bilden har Kennedy skrivit: “For Captain Stoughton — who captured beautifully a happy moment at the White House / John Kennedy.”