News of Jack, part 2
Safeguarding JFK and his family was evidently one of the most daunting tasks ever performed by the American secret service (The Kennedy Detail, Discovery, 20th of November). President Kennedy realised that his popularity depended on close physical contact with the people. During motorcades, accordingly, he would make impromptu stops and immerse himself in the adoring crowd. At such times, he was almost impossible to protect. Indeed, Kennedy himself pointed out how easy it would be to kill him. Well before the events in Dealey Plaza, the requirements of presidential politics and personal security were at loggerheads.
It was surprising to learn that the members of this elite group, “the best of the best” according to their own reckoning, were so badly paid. Yet there were compensations. Required to spend long periods away from their own families, they became part of Kennedy’s extended family and shared in its joys and sorrows. Predominantly men of humble origins from small towns, they had ample opportunity to meet the famous and glamorous people who surrounded the first family. Today, they remain fiercely loyal to their former boss, who despite his exclusive background clearly possessed the common touch. No mention was made of his well-documented peccadilloes.
In programmes like this, it is the incidental items that stay in the mind – Jackie’s blood stained stockings and the struggle to get the President’s cumbersome coffin into Air Force One. One member of JFK’s entourage recalled being asked how bad the President’s injuries were. “It’s as bad as it gets” was all he could manage.
There is a striking similarity between mourning and melancholia, as Freud observed. The men of the Kennedy detail, who experienced both, bear witness.