As many of you know, I was a history major in college. At the time, I viewed it as a means to an end, a discipline that would hopefully prepare me for law school. Lots of reading and lots of writing. Along the way, however, I actually began to enjoy history. Sure, when you are younger it seems that history is just dates and events, but what actually became more interesting to me were the befores, durings and afters of those events. In a weird sort of way, studying history has actually made me a more effective attorney; because you cannot analyze facts and circumstances in a vacuum. You must first decipher how we got here, then determine which course of action will provide the most preferable outcome. History is, interestingly enough, fraught with people who focused on the during and didn’t pay appropriate attention to the afters. In fact, some of our enemies started out as allies. For example, Russia, one of our allies in World War II, became our most feared enemy only a few years later. Was it because we didn’t think further enough into the future as to the ramifications of our “friendship?”
Despite my interest in history, however, there are aspects of it which have always been off-limits and verboten. Specifically, anything associated with President Kennedy and his term in office.
For whatever reason, one which I cannot fully explain or comprehend, the years of Camelot are nightmare-inducing for me. If I had to guess, I would say that the vast majority of my sleepless nights are because of the Holocaust and the Kennedy assassination. I think we can all agree that the Kennedy presidency was particularly eventful and historical. From the Bay of Pigs Invasion to the Cuban Missile Crisis to the Space Race, President Kennedy found a way to have an eventful two and a half years in office. But the circumstances of his assassination have always loomed large in any studies of those years in office.
Yet there is one aspect of his Presidency and his life in general which fascinates me and of which I am desperate to learn more. No, it isn’t his relationship with Marilyn Monroe. It’s his relationship with his brother, Robert.
I haven’t studied the relationship in great detail, but simply from some of the movie dramatizations I have seen and books I have read, it appears to me that JFK and RFK had a bond and connection that some might find to be unusually close. I find that utterly fascinating.
You may ask why this, of all other aspects of the Kennedy Presidency, captivates me so. The answer is—because I am an identical twin. No, I know that JFK and RFK weren’t twins, but at times it seemed that their relationship was much more symbiotic. Have you seen any of the movies? Perhaps you’ve seen the movie “Thirteen Days” with Kevin Costner about the Cuban Missile Crisis. I had a chance to see the movie again just the other day and the portrayal of the relationship between the brothers was staggering in its intimacy and closeness. But it wasn’t anything overt in the dramatization. It was far more subtle—quick glances between the two, isolated and private huddles, and understated gestures.
At times we feel that it is us against the world, that there is no one out there that we can count on or depend on; that the weight of the world rests square on our shoulders and there is no helping hand or friendly face around. I am sure that President Kennedy felt that way as well, however he knew that despite everyone else in the world who may have second-guessed him, felt that he was unqualified for the job, or just plain ill-prepared to run the nation, his brother was right there with him. It wasn’t JFK against the world; it was he against the world with his brother right behind him.
I have never been alone. I lived with my brother until I was 26 years old and even then, I moved out in order to move in with my wife. Phil and I have a bond that I doubt people understand or will ever comprehend. And since I have never been alone, I don’t know how the other 99% of the population lives. I don’t know what it is like to not have that built-in support system there; to not have that synergy that is forged not just by blood but by a shared language, a shared interconnection. So I am fascinated when I see instances of similar relationships. Look, I already know that being an identical twin makes me a freak of nature. But to what extent?
I doubt that I have done a sufficient job of explaining what the relationship between my brother and me is like. The way we can speak without words but by eye contact; the way we know what each other is thinking and can sometimes even feel the same sensations. I sometimes feel like I am the only person on the face of the earth who feels this way and has this type of connection. I sometimes even wonder if Phil feels it, but I am pretty sure he does. But does it exist anywhere else in the world?
And then I see how JFK and RFK were. Maybe they didn’t have a connection on the same level of identical twins, but it sure seems like they got awfully close. I guess I can deal with the issues of the assassination and the nightmares that may be attendant if only to learn more about the relationship. That fascinates me as an historian but also as a twin.