It’s hunting season, but I’m not going after deer. If there is one thing I’d like to kill this November, it’s the notion of a conspiracy to kill President John F. Kennedy. As we near the 50th anniversary of his death on Friday, Nov. 22, we should acknowledge once and for all that it was coincidence, not conspiracy, that killed JFK.
Lee Harvey Oswald had a friend of a friend who helped him find a job at the Texas Book Depository shortly before the president’s visit. Employment along the presidential tour route was not planned. It was a coincidence that Jack Ruby was able to kill Oswald. Unforeseen delays prevented Oswald from leaving the police station on schedule. Ruby was downtown that day and just decided to stop by after his errand. Countless other coincidences have produced countless conspiracy theories.
Despite what First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy said in Dealey Plaza, “They’ve killed my husband,” despite what Jesse Ventura titled his new book, “They Killed Our President,” despite the testimony Abraham Zapruder gave to the Warren Commission, “They killed him, they killed him,” despite what the hawkers and barkers on Elm Street say, “they” didn’t do it. It was a lone gunman that killed Kennedy.
In the 1970s, almost 90 percent of Americans believed there was a conspiracy to kill JFK. Today, it’s closer to 50 percent – and that number is shrinking. The battle between Conspiracy Theorists (CT) and De-Bunkers (DB) will continue, but it will lessen.
Skepticism is a healthy notion in a civilized society. We should be skeptical of conspiracies as well. Why would one want to believe there’s more to JFK’s death than an insignificant malcontent with a $12 rifle? Answer: Balance.
We know terrorists conspired to create the events of 9/11. Multiple hijackers crashed several planes on the same day. This was a catastrophic tragedy and it came about by a consortium of evil. In a sense, there was balance. Our human minds are repelled by the tragedy but are satisfied with the equilibrium.
Six million Jews were exterminated in World War Two. And it took a massive effort utilizing the latest in technology and streamlined processes to accomplish this annihilation. Our logic can understand the equation between this destruction and the nefarious entities behind it.
But there are times when we seek a reason for coincidence. We say a tsunami was caused by an act of God. Such a monumental catastrophe can be understood and accepted if we believe there was an omnipotent force behind it. Some philosophers may claim there are no accidents. Some religious folks may say everything happens for a purpose. But discerning minds can recognize the coincidences in everyday life.
Some of the conspiracies surrounding JFK’s assassination are more bizarre than others. One theory would have us believe that Officer J.D. Tippit conspired with Oswald in an escape plan. They had similar builds so Tippit even had a spare police uniform in his patrol car. But the plans went awry so Oswald shot him.
A related theory was that Tippit had a similar build as Kennedy. And Kennedy wasn’t really killed. Their identities were switched and Officer Tippit is actually buried in JFK’s tomb. If this theory is true, I guess old Jack is down in Cuba, smoking cigars with Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.
No scenario of the conspiracy theorist is too extreme to gain a following of faithful adherents. Because the namesake of the Warren Commission did not find evidence of a conspiracy, some believe he must be in on the conspiracy. Same goes for reporter Peter Jennings. He produced a documentary, “The Kennedy Assassination – Beyond Conspiracy,” and a viewer wonders why Jennings would have been a part of the conspiracy.
Some conspiracy theorists don’t even provide a motive. Most are doubly contradicted. Generally, they deny all evidence of a lone gunman. Secondly, they cannot prove evidence to the contrary.
True, the 888-page Warren Commission report is flawed. It contains errors because it was written by humans – and humans are flawed. Have you ever been intimate with the details of a lengthy article in the newspaper? Then you probably have read incorrect details, quotes, or other wrong information. Most reputable publications have no problem printing corrections if warranted.
There have been many challenges to the Warren Commission but no consequential items evidence has been presented. What’s more, three other investigations have substantiated the Commission’s findings. The 1968 panel set by Attorney General Ramsey Clark, the 1975 Rockefeller Commission, and the 1978-79 House Select Committee on Assassinations all came to the same conclusion – that two shots from the same source killed Kennedy.
Most CTs change their suspect when presented with facts, but still insist there was a conspiracy. The individual – and society as well – may change their theory according to the fear of the day. If our greatest fear is the communists – as was the case from WWII to Vietnam – then it’s easy to blame Khrushchev or Castro. If our distrust in our own government is high – as was the case during the Watergate years – then it’s easy to blame the CIA, FBI, or LBJ. The Mafia, the Military Industrial Complex, a disenfranchised participant of the Bay of Pigs – all have all been in the sights of the CT; anybody but a lonely and deranged gunman.
What most CTs do not figure is the fallibility of the human organization – and a conspiracy is nothing but an organization of individuals. The truth will out. Somebody brags to a buddy, a girlfriend, or a cell-mate. Somebody breaks under questioning. Someone rats out a confidant. Someone feels remorse and confesses. But in the 50 years since the assassination, no one has admitted being part of a conspiracy.
Watergate, for example, brought about an investigation into the highest levels of government. But the facts were eventually uncovered. Three decades after the fact, we learned who “Deep Throat” was. Yet the search for who killed Kennedy was more far reaching than any Nixon inquiry.
The movie by director Oliver Stone was a great film, but also a great fictions. The de-bunker for many was the 2003 documentary by Peter Jennings. Using modern technology, Dale Myers created a 3D computer module of Dealey Plaza as it was in 1963. Images from the Zapruder film were fed into this program frame by frame. The resulting images can be rotated to show the assassination from any viewpoint.
Would a bird’s eye view of the assassination change the mind of a CT? What about a view from the other side of Dealey Plaza? Suppose you were a bug ON the street – with X-ray vision? Viewing multiple angles of the trajectory of a bullet from the Sixth Floor to the X on Elm Street is enough to diminish the CT rate to below 50 percent.
There are countless pieces of evidence that Oswald, acting alone, killed Kennedy. With time and advances in technology, the concept of a consipracy will continue to diminish.
Don Mathis served as president of the Texoma Poetry Society in 2011 (a Sherman member of the Poetry Society of Texas). And in 2010, ‘Dionysus Don’ was crowned champion of the McKinney Poetry Slam. Don is very involved in the poetry community in Bexar County. He is a founding member of the San Antonio Poetry Fair and participates regularly with Sun Poets and La Taza writers’ group. His poetry has been published in anthologies, periodicals and has appeared on local TV and national radio. He currently works for St. Philip’s College.