"If one takes the normal American ambition to be the pursuit of happiness, and charts the ways in which that pursuit is so cruelly thwarted, sooner or later one strikes across the wound profiles of Dallas, Texas on 22 November 1963. In those 'six point nine seconds of heat and light' or those 'seven seconds that broke the back of the American century', some little hinge gave way in the national psyche. The post-Kennedy period is often written up as a 'loss of innocence', a judgement which admittedly depends for its effect on how innocent you thought America had been until a quarter of a century ago. But, while Presidents had been slain before, they had generally been shot by political opponents of an indefinable if extreme sort, like Lincoln's resentful Confederate or McKinley's inarticulate anarchist. Moreover, the culprits were known, apprehended and questioned. With Kennedy's murder, the Republic doomed itself to the repetitive contemplation of a tormenting mystery. Here is a country where informative technology operates at a historically unsurpassed level; where anything knowable can in principle be known and publicized; where the bias is always in favour of disclosure rather than concealment; where the measure of attainment even in small-change discourse is the moon-shot. And nobody is satisfied that they know for certain what happened in the banal streets of Dealey Plaza."-- Christopher Hitchens, 'Where Were You Standing?' TLS, November 1988.
I remember exactly where I was standing: in the living room on the farm where I grew up. The news had just come up on the teeve as a 'News Flash' (remember them?). I was ten. I also remember exactly where I was when I read this paragraph. It was the winter of 1992 and I was sitting in the living-room of my friend R's flat in Balmain, overlooking Sydney Harbour, with the sun coming in through the window. R was in the kitchen making coffee, and I had idly picked up the copy of Hitchens' For the Sake of Argument that was lying on the table and opened it on the page where this paragraph appears.
I thought I had been struck by lightning. I really did. This, it seemed, was what writing could do if it tried.