On John and Jacqueline Kennedy

If a film so provoked my interest, I have to research about it. Here’s what I found after watching Jackie (2016).

John F. Kennedy, in his pursuit of young Jacqueline Lee Bouvier,  gave her several French books to translate for him. Poor Jacqueline, much in love with him, spent months labouring for him. They married in 1953.

Unlike John, who was candid, charming and a people person, Jacqueline was an introvert who preferred to read and write. When John became the 35th President of the United States, she had to step into the limelight. Her shy demeanour was obvious as she gave her first awkward waves from the car.

During the political career, John was ridden with copious amount of stress, with meetings after meetings. In 1961, he faced his first defeat. He sent 1500 U.S. trained Cubans to the Bay of Pigs, with the intention to spur a rebellion which would overthrow the communist leader Fidel Castro. It was a failure. The Cuban government captured or killed the exiles and he was forced to negotiate for the release of the 1189 survivors. His wasting of lives, of these men brought him to tears, according to Jacqueline.

In his years of service, John’s back problem returned with a vengeance. He had to walk with crutches and manage his pain throughout long hours of meetings or travel. Jacqueline said “I felt so sad for him.”

Often, Jacqueline accompanied him as they met leaders around the world. In later accounts, she would reveal her fiercely truthful opinion of these people. She once noted that Martin Luther King was “a tricky” person, and that she hates “all french people. They are all for themselves.” Her perceptive accounts of people, and her ability to bring them into conversation, brought many advantages to John’s career.

For the White House, she had not merely spent the people’s money for vanity. She refurbished objects of historical value, in order to piece together a narrative for America. So meticulous was she in her observation that she noticed similarities in engravings of different furnitures. She later put them next to each other to form a coherent picture. She had a true taste in Art, and the historical and cultural knowledge to back it up. The photographs before and after her work, are astounding.

Unfortunately, John was assassinated on 22 November 1963. The second bullet collided with and chipped off part of his skull, leaving a gaping hole. He slumped over onto Jacqueline’s lap. Later, Jacqueline returned to the plane and refused to change out of her blood-stained pink suit. She wanted the world to see the violence committed against her husband. Even after the traumatic experience, she remained under control and held herself in dignity.

In the aftermath of the assassination, she made the decision to have a funeral procession, in order to honour the legacy of her husband. Not since the funeral of Britain’s King Edward VII in 1910 had there been such a large gathering of presidents, prime ministers and royalty at a state funeral. Even in the midst of huge security concerns, the new president Lyndon Johnson, marched behind the caisson.

Sadly, this was not the last Kennedy funeral Jacqueline would attend. On 5 June 1968, John’s younger brother, Robert Francis “Bobby” Kennedy, was assassinated. He was fatally shot in the head by a Palestinian immigrant, just because of his “sole support of Israel and his deliberate attempt to send those 50 bombers to Israel to obviously do harm to the Palestinians”. The date of the assassination was the first anniversary of the start of the Six Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbours. In the war, about 1000 Israelis were killed, whereas about 15000 Egyptians, 6000 Jordanians, 2500 Syrians  were killed.  Perhaps, we can begin to understand his reckless hatred.

In a world of conflict, people in positions of power will always bear the risk and consequence of their decisions.


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