The Fog of History: The Oswald Enigma

Oswald NOLA mugshot

Frontline is consistently one of the best non-fiction shows on teevee, so it’s not a big surprise that Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald is one of the best entries in the macabre 50th anniversary sweepstakes. Did I really say sweepstakes? Yeah, just deal with it.

The Frontliners give us a comprehensive look at one of the most baffling aspects of the whole story: what drove Oswald to do what he did. The puny and unimpressive nature of the man himself is one reason that so many people have a hard time believing that he killed a great man like Jack Kennedy. There are many assassination buffs who take Oswald literally when he claimed to be a patsy. I am not one of them. Oswald clearly fired at least 2 shots on that horrible day in 1963. The argument lies in whether or not he had help in doing so. I think that he did but there are strong arguments on the other side. For one thing, Oswald was a loner and *not* a joiner to say the least.

Oswald was an elusive and rather slippery character. Just when you think you have a firm handle on his character and motivation, something else catches your attention and leads you down a rabbit hole. It’s like trying to nail Jello to a wall, not that I’ve ever tried that; that sounds vaguely Midwestern, actually. Frustration thy name is Lee Harold Oswald.

The Oswald story has become so familiar that it’s easy to forget how fucking weird it is. A skinny dumbass from New Orleans studies rudimentary Marxism, joins the Marines, moves to the Soviet Union, becomes a pro-Castro activist, then an anti-Castro agent provocateur and finally murders JFK and a Dallas cop. He is then whacked by a Jewish strip club owner with mob ties. It doesn’t get much stranger than this, y’all.

Oswald was born in my town, New Orleans, and spent a good chunk of his weird and pathetic life being weird and pathetic here. As much as I hate to admit it, the kids at the Picayune and are doing a pretty good job covering the extensive links between Oswald and our fair city. Oswald did most of his growing up in NOLA and retreated here in the months preceding the murder of President Kennedy. The Picayune’s team has assembled two swell maps illustrating what they call “key locations for conspiracy theories” and a map of places that weird Lee livedas both a child and an adult. The latter map is of special interest to me because the place on Magazine Street, where he lived in 1963, is 3 blocks away from Adrastos World HQ. It’s a double that looks neither sinister nor imposing, sort of like the assassin himself.

I’ve pondered Oswald for many years and remain puzzled as to what made him tick. I didn’t necessarily learn anything new from the Frontline film, but if you haven’t wasted much time trying to understand Oswald you’ll learn a lot from this film. In the end, it’s damnably hard to explain the inexplicable, and everything about Oswald was damned enigmatic.

That is all.

5 thoughts on “The Fog of History: The Oswald Enigma

  1. Waiting in line at a book signing, I chatted with an interesting fellow with an eccentric fetish for photographing places in town where Oswald lived. I can’t verify the story, but he said Oswald was a Patsy, was very moody, and – most bizarre – claimed that Oswald was known for standing on the second floor balcony of the Magazine location while “dry firing” a rifle at passersby. Hard to believe, but not really. Interesting to think about, though.

  2. New names, writing about old arguments. When looking at “THE” film of the assassination, anyone with any knowledge of ballistics and physics can plainly see that the true killing shot came from the front and the left. Irrespective of what Oswald did or did not do, his shot was not the one that took off a great mans head.

  3. as you point out, here was a guy *who studied Marxism in the 50’s*, presumably not in a way to see its weaknesses like a good patriotic McCarthy era Security wannabe would, but seriously. He enlists in the Marines, becomes a good enough sharpshooter, then *defects to the Soviet Union* where they suspect he is a CIA agent, marry him off to a (pretty) general’s daughter, and let him and the daughter return! Like *everybody and their dog* does that. He’s then a pro-Castro no anti-Castro activist. This MO sounds like an agent of some kind. He then is very conveniently assassinated by someone who owes who owes the mob a lot of money. Yes the mob makes sure they get paid.

  4. Eric:
    I defy you to prove by the mathematics of physics that what you see in that film is NOT an exit wound / explosive decompression of the President’s braincase in response to a 6.5 FMJ round-nose rifle bullet coming in at near-supersonic speeds.
    JFK was known to wear a back brace. There is some thought that had he not had it on that day, the throat wound would have driven him out of the line of fire for the head shot. It would most likely have cost us John Connally’s life; and the throat wound well might have killed JFK. But we’ll never know, because Lee Harvey Oswald sent three rounds downrange, and the last one — as he must surely have seen thru his scope, else he could have fired again — killed the President.

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