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March Mania

OUR OPINION: Smile at the legend, reflect on the man

"When the legend becomes fact," says a newsman in a classic movie, "print the legend."

Not any more.

These days, not only would the fact be televised upon exposure of the legend, so too would the speculation, the interviews with the legend's ex-wives and the exclusive videotape from the night it all came down.

And isn't that one reason why we're still mourning John F. Kennedy today?

For Kennedy was the last of the "Marble Men," the leaders whose images seemed as clean and heroic as those of statues of generals on horseback.

The Kennedy image was one of vibrancy and youth. In reality, the president "suffered from more ailments, was in far greater pain and was taking many more medications than the public knew at the time," The New York Times reported in 2002.

The Kennedy image was one of faithfulness in marriage. In reality ... well, we all now know what the reality involved.

Clearly, part of America's nostalgia for Camelot is our longing for the days when our leaders lacked feet of clay.

And yet ...

Would we ever really want to go back?

When children grow up, it's not just that they learn the truth about Santa Claus. They learn the truth about their parents, too. And about their country, their planet and maybe even themselves.

We're a fallen species. And for five decades, starting with the assassination of JFK, we've had our noses ground into that fact.

Still, adulthood has its rewards, including (if you're lucky) friendship with your parents and rich wonder at the world. The valleys are low. But the Rocky Mountain peaks can be high -- high enough, at least, so that returning to the fingerpainted hills of childhood has little appeal.

As for Kennedy ...

Kennedy the legend is inspiring in his fatherly way. But Kennedy the man is enlightening -- flawed, brazen, keeping up appearances despite personal struggle and physical pain. As is our nation. As are we all.