Death of Kennedy, history diverted: Matt's Memo

They have to keep the trees trimmed back so as not to hinder the view from the 6th floor of the former Texas Book Depository building. From that window you can visualize the blackest of moments in American history. The curve from a downtown Dallas street to the entrance ramp to the freeway. The grassy knoll that oddly sits watch over the precise spot on the pavement where the bullet fired into the president's head. A fraction later Mrs. Kennedy reflexively reached back to the trunk of the convertible.

A half century has passed and two generations have been raised since that moment where history diverted. Just as the motorcade switched to Parkland from a planned return to Love Field our national, even global, path changed.

History is filled with moments where decisions change the course. At times the grandest of moments are determined by the most mundane factors. A general waits for weather to clear before waging an attack. At other times the smallest of choices are influenced by seeking a place in history. An off kilter assassin, known to the FBI, decides the sixth floor is the best spot to fire a rifle to kill the president.

We can not accurately project what direction the world would have taken had the shots not come from an expert marksmen. What if Oswald missed? The president lives. Oswald is caught and tried for an attempted assassination. The Kennedy Administration gets past 1,000 days and wins a second term. President Johnson remains Vice President Johnson. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy continues to serves as his brother's closest advisor.

Five years later 1968 as we remember it turns into a second Kennedy Administration. Dr. Martin Luther King carries his message into his maturing years. We can go on, but we never know.

We tend to project a string of positive outcomes when we try to erase the darkest turns in our national story. Only a fool fails to see the negatives that might also arise. President Kennedy himself was known for astute analysis of the Cold War tension with the Soviet Union. He had the vision to look for the black swan. In an administration that teetered on the brink of nuclear war it is reasonable to hypothesize that another crisis over a Cuba or Vietnam might have sent the United States down the road to war.

At wakes, funerals and 50th anniversaries we do not allow ourselves to consider the dark side of the coin that was flipped with one of those choices that alters our course. Instead we see an eternal flame of hope that grew from a fateful decision to walk up to that 6th floor window in Dallas.

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