Tuesday, November 22, 2005

JFK Assassination Anniversary

Today was the 42nd anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination, but I don't think I have seen one of these anniversaries go so little remarked in the press. It may be a good thing when the media forget to do their typical rote anniversary stories, but I also wonder the country is turning some sort of corner on this issue, towards a point where the public will not care quite so much and historians will able to approach this event in a relatively rational way. Meanwhile the conspiracists soldier on. Here's the one piece I saw on the assassination today, from Joel Achenbach's Washington Post blog:

Kennedy Assassination 42 Years Later: Case Closed?
It was the Mafia. It was the CIA. It was anti-Castro Cubans. It was LBJ. It was the military. It was the Dallas police. It was Howard Hunt. It was the Umbrella Man. It was Marilyn Monroe. It was the Martians. In fact, they were all responsible -- the ultimate crossfire. The Single Conspiracy Theory doesn't wash. How could one conspiracy, by itself, explain the astonishing number of quirks,
inconsistencies, and evidentiary gaps in the crime that happened 42 years ago
today in Dallas?
Yesterday George Lardner, Jr., who knows more than any other Post eporter about the Kennedy Assassination, had a piece in the paper about a
weekend meeting of assassination researchers. Lardner's piece starts out with the poignant observation that a lot of these people have gotten gray and bald over the years as they've tried to crack the case. There was much talk at the meeting about bullet fragments, echoes in Dealey Plaza, the Zapruder Film, and the unhelpful schemings of CIA agents. "CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Dyck said the agency had no immediate comment," the story reported, which was a let-down, because I was hoping for a line saying, "CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Dyck admitted that the agency had murdered the president, and apologized profusely."

The Kennedy Assassination isn't like the Deep Throat mystery, where there was always the promise that, someday, we'd know the truth. Even if someone stepped forward and said, "I shot JFK," assassination buffs wouldn't be satisfied. There's always More To The Story.Reality gets fuzzier under closer scrutiny. It must be some kind of law of physics. (Actually, I think it's called quantum mechanics.) You would think that abundant evidence, steadily compiled, would make everything clearer, but the opposite is true. Partial knowledge gives us a simple picture of the world and its phenomena -- an extension of the ignorance-is-bliss rule. Look deeper and you wind up scratching your head. The world was simpler when it didn't move, when it stood firmly at the center of the universe. Since Copernicus, things have gotten a little crazy around here. One of the premier skeptics of our time, Carl Sagan, who vociferously argued against tales of alien abductions, telepathy, and all manner of anti-scientific thinking, and who believed that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, still believed that JFK was killed in some kind of conspiracy (or so he led me to think when I interviewed him not long before his death). According to Lardner, three out of four Americans believe JFK was killed as the result of a conspiracy, and nearly as many think there was a cover-up.

For the record, I am among those crazy, goggle-eyed knuckleheads who think that Oswald shot Kennedy. Just a lone nut in the window. But I recognize that many intelligent and rational people have different thoughts on this, and I am willing, potentially, in theory, because of my great mental dexterity and openness, to ponder alternative scenarios, and perhaps even change my mind and admit that Oswald wasn't even there that day. Maybe there were two Oswalds. Maybe the real target that day in Dallas wasn't JFK, but, as one dingdong wrote a while back, the limo driver.