Editorial License -
It Was 40 Years
Ago Today. Sgt. Pepper Brought the Band to Play! JFK's real legacy,
how the Beatles saved America, and their message to the future.
JFK’s legacy has been tarnished to dullness, shined up again, and clouded by conspiracy theories that have done more to damage the dreams that he stirred in a nation, even in a world, than the actual assassination itself.
While the official history of JFK’s presidency would probably list “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” as the slogan which expresses his legacy, I submit that “Trust no one.” is the real, if unintentional one that will endure. Ironically, whatever truths remain buried about the JFK assassination, I do not believe that this outcome was envisioned by either Lee Harvey Oswald, or anyone who would have wanted the domestic regime change whether they had a hand in it or not. JFK did for the conspiracy theory what JC did for martyrdom two thousand years earlier.
Readers of SF who are also conspiracy theory fans should read The X-President by Philip Baruth, which isn’t about JFK but a more recent denizen of the White House and opens up whole new dimensions of conspiracy. My favorite bit in this book, which involves a secret government time travel project, is when the operation sends a Lear Jet back in time to 1950s Nevada, landing at an arranged site to meet government agents of that era. Doesn’t a VTOL Lear Jet raise eyebrows in the 50s? Not a problem, the book explains. It’s just government stuff that you folks don’t need to know. It was a kinder, gentler time. No, make that just a more paranoid one. No, just more gullible. Or one that hadn't read enough Science Fiction. Real gullibility is buying into not being able to trust anyone, especially anyone in authority. That way lies anarchy…and as much as I like personal freedom, I’m fairly well convinced that if you go to sleep in an anarchic state, you’ll wake up under the thumb of a warlord.
So JFK’s death was a really bad thing, even if he wasn’t the white knight young Americans wanted to believe he was.
The Beatles came along with the first good news after a long hard night here in the USA. American Rock and Roll was exciting, but it had always been about rebellion. The Beatles, though they spoke to rebellion in their own way, were about finding your humanity. About loving each other when we were all pretty scared. Going forward I think it's important that we don't forget to do spare some time from worrying about government conspiracies and the corporate assimilation of everything to do some of that.
It's not enough to avoid the world we don't want to live in, we've still got to create one we do.
Ernest Lilley - Editor, SFRevu