JFK through the lens of Merton

James Douglass’ book JFK and the Unspeakable, unlike other books about the assassination, is partly written through the lens of Trappist monk and writer Thomas Merton (an intriguing figure himself). Early in JFK’s presidency Merton was writing about peace, an endeavour that his monastic superiors banned him from publishing, one assumes because of the political implications, though it seems they might have been also worried about one individual gaining too much publicity. Merton got around this by simply sending lots of letters to various people (which were disseminated and eventually bound together for publication). In these letters he makes some interesting comments on JFK, particularly that JFK is shallow, a typical politician’s trait. But then, prophetically, Merton suggests that if Kennedy made a turn to a deeper understanding of the need for peace in the midst of the Cold War, a turning Merton obviously thought was a possibility, he (JFK) ran the risk of courting the assassin’s bullet.



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