John F. Kennedy is dead, that is how Denis Johnson commenced his thick story, “Tree of Smoke” which is perhaps one of the few books who dared to traverse through the heart of the Vietnam War and how it propelled history after. I should credit Listverse for meeting the book, which I thoughtlessly purchased in Booksale for 75 pesos, just a little over 10 centavos per page.
Then my current online writing occupation impelled me to look through David Lubin’s Shooting Kennedy: JFK and the Culture of Images, albeit only through reviews and commentaries since there seems to be no way that I could have an online access to the entire book. I am blindly tasked (who did the order, but someone, perhaps a lazy, perhaps an insipid, or perhaps someone just goddamn rich kid who badly needs to find ways to spend his money) to write a ten-page paper on how pop culture contributes in the making of the “star.” A very old idea, so I am seeing myself blabbering and stretching my special lexicon for two hours or so to supply a stranger with a final requirement that could make or break his standing in one of his subjects.
But back to Kennedy, JFK – as if he already owns those three letters, like Fernando Poe has FPJ. Incidentally, in abrupt mental drifts, I find it cute that Karl Marx could have KM. JFK. I do not know him, and it would be pointless to argue about the semantics of “knowing.” But I know him only through written texts, interviews about him, magazine articles about him, movies about him, testimonies about him. These are all stories, varied one. Everything can definitely have claims to truth, perhaps they really have some truth to offer, but most definitely only partially. No one needs to hark back to elaborate gibberish on the pliability of truth here.
Ironically, and cutely perhaps, for me, Denis Johnson begun with JFK but did not exactly focused on him. Rather, he focused on the things that succeeded that eventful moment in American history, in the process working on how a singular incident can be mythologized by the people to whom its repercussions are most significant, if not most dramatized. How did the assassination relate to the Vietnam War? Can we compared Kennedy’s death to a gasoline sparking the fire of Communism, and eventually, leading to its so-called death, lest one argues that some fire can be eternal? We can have a lot of answers here; and every answer is a story. It seems like all we have left now are stories.
In Saramago’s Blindness, we were told, or at least, I read how stories are so ironically powerful:
“…that all stories are like those about the creation of the universe, no one was there, no one witnessed anything, yet everyone knows what happened” (265).
There are no witnesses but there is credibility, there are patches of belief. There are no first-hand experiences, no unmediated first-hand experience, but people are talking about the stories being told, and all of them have something to say. Some are even moved enough to raise a gun, to slap someone in the face, to reclaim a claimed loss.
In Kurosawa’s classic “Rashomon,” Foucault talks: on how narratives are not exactly deceptive, but not exactly purely truthful either; on how truths are claimed but only half-truths, perhaps three-fourths truths. Every story has every little bit of everything, but how do you quantify truth, is there a 100% truth? Why 100% is the yardstick of fullness? Why not 101%?
John F. Kennedy had died. And people have a lot to say. Just like when man bites dog and Obama was elected President and when education budget in the Philippines is slashed by millions. Listen to the stories, believe afterwards, subscribe much afterwards.