Why assassination talk is taboo
SHOCK RAN through many of us when Hillary Clinton raised the specter of Robert Kennedy's assassination 40 years ago this week to justify her decision to stay in the presidential race. Although Clinton regarded her comments as innocent, they were disturbing because fear for the safety of Barack Obama has been a disquieting undercurrent throughout the primary season. Clinton's remarks only served as an incitement.
While writing a biography of Lee Harvey Oswald, I learned that there is a web of associations in the mind and emotions of the assassin that leads him toward his victim. Almost anything can contribute.[even the CIA, hehe!]
Oswald, for example, may have begun to consider committing an act of political violence as early as 1962, when he was living in Minsk, which was then in the Soviet Union. There, he heard a relative of his wife, Marina, recount in hushed, frightened tones the details of a shooting attempt on Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev that had just taken place at a nearby hunting lodge. Commenting on the secrecy that surrounded the attempt, Oswald said, "If this had happened in America, it would have been in all the newspapers and everyone would be talking about it."
For Oswald, another suggestive event appears to have occurred on June 12, 1963, when civil rights leader Medgar Evers was slain by a sniper outside his home in Jackson, Miss., a city close to New Orleans, where Oswald by then was living.
But the associations that affected Oswald most had to do with President Kennedy himself. Oswald was attracted by Kennedy's youth and the spirit of hope he conveyed. And there were personal resemblances. Kennedy was, like Oswald during the summer of 1963, a husband and father of a young daughter, with another child expected soon. We know that these similarities were in Oswald's mind because he talked about them to his wife, Marina. When the Kennedys' child Patrick was born prematurely in August and died, the Oswalds took it to heart and were afraid that something similar would happen to their child. Oswald had often told Marina that he wanted enough children for a "whole football team," like the Kennedy family, and, during the summer of 1963, he boasted that he would be president or prime minister some day.
Not only does a chain of suggestion sometimes lead an assassin to his victim, the act of assassination itself is, to an appalling degree, contagious. As convicted bank robber James Earl Ray watched reports of President Kennedy's assassination on a rickety television set at the federal penitentiary in Jefferson City, Mo., in 1963, he jumped up, a fellow convict later reported, and shouted that he was going to kill the Rev. Martin Luther King. Less than five years later, he did.
There are other signs pointing to the contagious nature of assassination, among them the succession from the Evers shooting in June 1963 to that of John Kennedy in November the same year to those of Malcolm X in 1965, King in April 1968, Robert Kennedy in June of that year, and, finally, the attempt on former Alabama governor George Wallace in a Maryland shopping center in 1972.
Not only is the crime of assassination contagious: Most people, at some level, know it. That knowledge accounts for the curtain of silence that until recently has enveloped the anxiety many people - and not only blacks - feel about the peril that constantly confronts Barack Obama. Even the dismay that greeted Mike Huckabee's careless gaffe before the NRA recently failed to inhibit Hillary Clinton.
Clinton, who has been shielded by the Secret Service since 1992, raised the taboo subject, and in a way that could only lead emotionally troubled members of the public to thoughts of her rival for the nomination.
The trouble is that because of the contagiousness - and, for many, the parricidal appeal - of the act of assassination, Clinton's intentions do not matter. A remark such as hers only compounds the atmosphere of suggestion.Priscilla Johnson McMillan is author of "Marina and Lee."
WHAT A LOAD OF CRAP!!
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