For much of this month, I have been a Kennedy-aholic, devouring all the televised specials about John F. Kennedy.
Actually, I've been a Kennedy-aholic most of my life. I've been to the Kennedy Library in Boston a couple of times, visited the eternal flame at Arlington National Cemetery, sat in the Kennedy booth at Boston's Union Oyster House, etc.
Hey, I even devoted almost half an hour to Bill O'Reilly's "Killing Kennedy." That's half an hour more than I would ever spend watching O'Reilly's regular show. I have my standards.
During the past month, I have heard more than enough about conspiracy theories, including those of former wrestler and joke-of-a-governor Jesse Ventura. I happen to be firmly in the "Oswald acted alone" camp. In fact, I'm more firmly in that camp than ever, since nobody has ever proven anything to the contrary in the 50 years since Kennedy died.
There will be more television specials this week, building up to Friday's 50th anniversary of the horrible day in Dallas.
The interest in Kennedy's death is never-ending. Many Americans remain fascinated by everything surrounding the assassination, even though a vast majority weren't alive then. And they wonder what might have been had Kennedy lived.
But the nation — particularly those who were not alive during the Kennedy presidency — could do well by fixating on how he lived, and why the nation felt the way it did about him.
Kennedy sincerely looked like he enjoyed his job. He smiled a lot. He poked fun at himself. You rarely see that in any level of government today.
Kennedy, agree with him or not, always gave the impression he was decisive, reassuring and knew what he was doing.
Kennedy, after years of older presidents, made the nation feel younger. Following Dwight Eisenhower, and before him Harry Truman, much of America couldn't imagine a president as youthful as Kennedy.
Kennedy could make you believe. When Kennedy talked about getting an American on the moon during the decade of the '60s, you wanted to sign up to go. Same with the Peace Corps. Two years in poverty-stricken Africa? Why not? Anything's possible.
Kennedy's obviously had vast wealth. When you have "compounds" in Hyannis Port and Palm Beach, money isn't a problem. But Mitt Romney should have studied JFK's touch with the common person. Go back and look at tapes of how the coal miners in places like West Virginia gravitated to him during his 1960 primary campaign, when he brought attention to their plight while also showing a Catholic could appeal to Protestants.
Kennedy seemed like he enjoyed being a father, even if he made sure the cameras saw him often playing with John John and Caroline. Americans had never seen a president with little kids running around.
Kennedy made it cool to actually believe in a politician, to actually like a politician, to actually want to vote for a politician rather than against one.
Kennedy made it okay not to be cynical. It was okay to be idealistic.
All of that left us on Nov. 22, 1963. In many ways, we've been seaching for it, without much success, ever since.
Yes, we have learned a lot about John Kennedy politically and personally in the last 50 years, a lot more than we learned while he was president. A lot of it is not flattering.
But those who were around in the early 60's remember the feeling of optimism, how we were on the verge of something great.
Fifty years later, we have cynicism and shutdowns and holding your nose in the voting booth.
How Kennedy died is important for many reasons. How he lived is even more so.