Forty-five years ago we lost a President. One that was glamorized and romanticized even while he was alive.
Forty-five years later many people are still trying to make sense of the assassination.
The official story, as you all know well, is that Lee Oswald took a rifle up to the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository, fired three shots, hit twice, and ended the Kennedy Presidency.
The Conspiracy stories, as you probably also know, are Legion. Some of my favorites include:
The driver, a CIA plant, did it. (See the unaltered Zapruder film for proof)
The driver did it because Kennedy was about to blow the lid off the secret that there are aliens living among us ready to take over the world... and the driver was an alien plant.
There were gunmen in the sewer.
There were gunmen on the grassy knoll.
There were gunmen in the chase cars, the lead cars, the bridge overpass.
Why do we love conspiracies so very much? I was talking with the Wife about it. Here are some thoughts...
Humans just love to be 'in on a secret'. Admit it, when you see group of people huddled together and whispering, you really want to know what they are talking about. How many times have you heard someone say they'd love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.
Humans also have a thirst for order. When something chaotic occurs, a presidential assassination, planes crashing into buildings, etc. people want to know that what happened was in some way orderly. Our brains have trouble believing that something so dramatic happened so randomly.
Along the same vein, people want to believe that huge terrible events are the work of those who are much better (for lack of a clearer word) than an ordinary Joe. Three shots at the president and two hit? Could not have been Oswald, he was a lowlife failure! He didn't even shoot well in the Marines! There had to be other shooters! Planes crashing into the towers and knocking them down? Those towers couldn't have been brought down by those little planes! It must have been a conspiracy!
It's much more comforting to think that there are large groups of highly trained and sinister people doing these things than just run of the mill nut jobs. Perhaps because it makes us feel more secure in a way. Nothing I can do against a huge secret organization, why worry? Random nut job though, they might live next door or down the street. That's a scary thought!
I think, in my heart of hearts, I would love to be a conspiracy theorist. The intrigue, the drama, the feeling that I am "in the loop" as it were, and not foolish enough to be tricked by those pesky sinister secret plotters. Hence the gas watch conspiracy! (The Saudis will invade us by June of 2009 by the way. With George Bush being the "inside man" with the codes to the secret entrances to all of the government buildings.)
In reality though. I think I believe that Kennedy was shot by a lowlife failure of a man, who made the shots of his life on that day. I remember in boot camp, spending so very much time training to shoot, and firing so many practice rounds downrange. I wondered how anyone could not be a pretty good shooter when they finished training. Yet we had one guy who just could not seem to stay consistently on target, and in fact, did shoot other targets from time to time. He barely qualified with the rifle, and had the lowest score in the entire company.
But there was one day during practice. One golden day, when the stars aligned, or his brain cleared enough to understand the concepts behind marksmanship, no one is really sure what happened. But on that one day, he shot like a champ. Center mass after center mass. Head shots from 500 yards. It was the talk of the range that day. And we all believed that he had finally got it!
But not really, because every other time, he sucked. Perhaps Oswald, hyped up on adrenaline, flush with finally making his mark on history, managed to pull off the best shots of his life. Stinks to think that he did it alone. No order to it. No deep secrets or government plots. Just a nut job who got lucky.
I tend to believe that the simple explanation for something is often correct. In my job, I've seen coincidences that would convince the most resolute cynic. But sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence, and crappy things happen for no good reason.
Any way you slice it, in the grand scheme of things, these "monumental human events" don't change life all that much. The sun still comes up. We still go to work to earn money to pay the bills. Some folks win the lottery, some die in bizarre accidents. There really is very little rhyme or reason to it. But we humans sure want there to be. Very much so.