Friday, November 22, 2013

Random Thoughts About a Random Act of Violence

(Originally posted on February 4, 2009. I've added a few things--KJ)

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and think Oswald acted alone.

Other times I wake up and think that it was either the CIA, the FBI, the Mafia, the military-industrial complex, or some combination thereof.

Then there are the times I wake up in the morning and wonder:

Why the hell am I thinking about the Kennedy assassination? Don't I got enough problems in my life?

The President and the First Lady arrive in "Big D".

Here's a birds-eye view of Dealey Plaza. Maybe someone should have shown this picture to Kennedy before he decided to drive right through it with the top down. He would have taken one look and thought: Snipers Alley.

The Texas School Book Depository Building, where the Dallas police, the FBI, and a committee headed by a Supreme Court Justice best known for taking prayer out of school (which I don't have a problem with; remembering all the words to the Pledge of Allegiance was difficult enough) claim the one and only shooter shot from. A couple of thoughts. Were all the school books in Texas really warehoused in that one building? Doesn't look big enough to me. And what's with the Hertz sign? Is it on the building, or is it poking up behind it? I can imagine immediately after the shots were fired, a bystander pointing up to the building, and another bystander saying, "This is no time to be thinking of renting a car!"

 The building these days houses county administrated offices. The sixth floor (where Oswald allegedly fired from) is now a museum. The whole structure has been designated a Recorded Texas Designated Landmark.

More landmarks to come, designated or otherwise.

They've put an X on the exact spot Kennedy's limo was when it was hit. As you can see, it's now a tourist attraction. Just don't have your picture taken during rush hour, or you'll end up at Parkland Hospital.

Lee Harvey Oswald, the man thought by the Dallas police, the FBI, and the committee which had as one of its members a future president best known for pardoning the one that came right before him (thus ending "our long national nightmare"--ya think sitting on this committee he'd have some idea what a national nightmare is actually like) as the one and only gunman. Kind of a blurry picture, huh? If I wasn't for the rifle, I'd say he was posing for his driver's license (then again, this is Texas.)

Here's an even blurrier picture of Oswald from his days in the Marine Corp. That's him in the back, possibly in the kitchen, as he was on mess duty that day. That big dude sitting at the table is none other than screen legend John Wayne. He was filming The Barbarian and the Geisha in Japan and decided to make a quick visit to the Philippines, where Oswald was stationed. I know it's weird seeing the two of them in the same picture, but they had something in common. Like Wayne, Oswald was a main character in a violent Western, though his was for real, and for keeps.  

Of course, not everyone agrees that Oswald acted alone. Some feel that he either had an accomplice, or was completely innocent. They also think that some of the shots, maybe all of them, came not from the School Book Depository Building, but from an area across the street known as the "grassy knoll". A policeman is seen running in that direction, proof positive to some of a conspiracy. Too bad that cop, and several others who checked the knoll out, came up empty-handed. 

These days, the Grassy Knoll is NOT a Recorded Texas Designated Landmark. Nor is it a museum. However, there seems to be a concerted effort under way to change that.

Why exactly is it called a Grassy Knoll, anyway? Sure, there's grass, but what about all those big ass trees? Why not call it the Shady Knoll?

Texas Governor John Connally almost literally had a front row seat to history. He probably wished he hadn't. 

Abraham Zapruder. I always thought that name sounded like something out of a 1930s Universal horror film. Instead, he shot his own 1960s Dallas horror film, albeit unintentionally. I also find it amazing that of the 500 or so cameras--both still and moving--directed at the President's motorcade that day, he and only he recorded the actual murder. As valuble as this was to history, it proved to be a bit of a pain in the ass to the Warren Commission. It all should have been so simple. Oswald fired three shots. Three bullets went whizzing through the air. Kennedy gets hit first, then John Connally, and, finally, Kennedy again. 1-2-3. Like I said, simple. Until you view the Zapruder film. Here's the problem: the rifle left behind at the Book Depository Building (talk about leaving incriminating evidence) required 2.3 seconds between shots, about 1.3 seconds too many, and about 18 frames of film too few. Thus, the Single-Bullet Theory was born. What went through JFK ended up in Connally. It's also called by skeptics the Magic Bullet theory, due to the zigzagging trajectory the bullet would have traveled. Don't look to me for answers. I don't even understand the trajectory of Windex spray when it gets toward the bottom of the bottle. As for the shot that tore off part of Kennedy's head, everyone agrees that was a whole 'nother bullet. They just disagree whether it was the second shot, the third shot, the fourth shot, the fifth shot, the sixth shot, the seventh shot...

Outside Parkland Hospital. 

Officer J. D. Tippit, the other man shot and killed by Oswald that day. Unless you believe it's a conspiracy. In which case, I must ask: What in the world did the CIA, the FBI, the Mafia, the military-industrial complex, or some combination thereof have against Tippit? Did he once give J. Edgar Hoover a ticket for loitering?

Tippit's family. Though he may seem to be just an unlucky footnote to the day's events, he did have his own life, his own concerns

That's Lady Bird Johnson peeking out from behind the raised hand. See her?

Strip club owner Jack Ruby, with one of his employees.

A seemingly balder Jack Ruby (it's just the light, folks) wanders around a busy Dallas police station the night of the assassination. Ruby cultivated friendship with cops, so nobody was surprised to see him there.

Two days later, they were very surprised to see him there. Ruby reportedly felt sorry for Kennedy's widow.

Sometimes widows beget widows. 

Johnny, we hardly knew ye, either. 

Had John Fitzgerald Kennedy lived, he would have been 96 today. Really, though, he probably wouldn't be alive today under any circumstance. He was a sickly child, suffered crippling back pain due to an injury suffered during World War II, and had Addison's disease, all of which was carefully hidden from the cameras, ensuring a now eternal image of youth and vigor.

I was born in the final month of 1961. Though the assassination occurred during my lifetime, I was hardly aware of it at the time. I doubt if I was aware of The Flintstones at the time. Yet it was talked about quite a bit when I was growing up, both by people on TV, and by ordinary folks, my parents or whoever. So much so, I sometimes forget I have no direct memory of the event. I've always been fascinated by it. Hence, this post.

What about all the people born since 1963? There's a lot of them, and some could even be called middle-aged. They have no direct memory of the assassination, either. What was a shocking and tragic day for one generation, is merely a bit of history to another. Yet it all evens out in the end.

Some of those born after 1963 had a shocking and tragic day all their own.


  1. What a thoughtful interesting post today.
    I am old enough to have lived through the Kennedy Assassination and I have always wondered what really happened. I can't believe that the police, FBI, CIA and who ever couldn't figure out what happened. Plus what the hell was Ruby really doing there ?
    As a practicing Catholic then, I remember the lead up to the election and all the Church vs Government debate going on and then it was all gone. In a second.

    cheers, parsnip

  2. Well, parsnip, the police and FBI (I don't believe the CIA did any investigating. At least not on American soil, which is prohibited) believed Oswald did it. They were sure of that while they still had him in custody. Unfortunately, and it WAS unfortunate, Oswald was killed before they could find out his motive, or whether anyone else was involved. Jack Ruby was no hero. That so many people even today believe there was a conspiracy is almost entirely due to Ruby's heartfelt concern toward Mrs. Kennedy. Compare this assassination to Martin Luther King's or Robert Kennedy's. Sure, some people believe those were conspiracies, too, but's those murders aren't nearly as contoversial as JFK. Of course, the death of a president was perhaps a bigger deal than that of a civil rights leader or former attorney general (though not by much.) But I also have to believe it's because James Earl Ray (who survived his victim by 30 years) and Sirhan Sirhan (still alive) were both brought to trial, where various questions were resolved. Or how about when Ronald Reagan was shot? Here, I want you read the following sentence very carefully:

    John Hinckley was a lone nut.

    Does that seem contoversial to you? Probably not. Replace "John Hinckley" with "Lee Harvey Oswald" and it INSTANTLY becomes controversial. Hinckley lived--lives--and Oswald didn't. At any rate, Oswald deserved a fair trial. If a building full of policemen could restrain themselves from avenging a fellow officer's death, so should have Jack Ruby, who shouldn't have been there anyway.

    None of this means I'm completely convinced that Oswald acted alone. I MOSTLY believe that (because it's been such a long time) but not completely. And that's due to Jack Ruby.

  3. I will never understand how all these things could have happened to the President and then to his assassin. That they just let whoever wanted to get near Oswald is well, dumb. Which explains why there probably so few books in that book depository. The first time I ever saw my mother cry was the day JFK was killed. I cried too because it scared me to see her like that.
    I really liked your take on these tragedies. It's just too bad they happened.

  4. I didn't get into it, Patricia, but the Dallas police actually held a press conference where reporters could ask Oswald questions if they wanted. Ruby attended the conference (he somehow secured a press badge, though most of the cops present knew he was no journalist) but I don't believe he asked Oswald anything.

  5. A lot of questions answered in here:

  6. Welcome to the blog, notacynic. Hope to read Bugliosi's book one of these days. Just haven't got around to it yet.

  7. Well don't plan on doing anything else that month. It's over a thousand pages. ; )

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  9. Nice report, Kirk! Unlike you I have vivid memories of Nov. 22, 1963. I actually envy you for having only the vaguest recollection of the game changing event on one of the darkest days in our nation's history.

    1. Shady, when I was in the first or second grade a girl actually brought in a picture of Kennedy for show-and-tell. This was about five or sex years after the assassination, by which time Kennedy was already an iconic figure, one of which kids my age was highly aware of, even if it was a posthumous awareness.


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