Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Just Finished This

It took me three months off and-on to read through Vincent Bugliosi's 'Reclaiming History'  If I had dedicated all of my spare time to it I probably could have made it through in a month.  I would occasionally break off not because I disliked the book but because I do have other things in my life on some occasion.  I highly recommend it as a matter of fact and I'm anxiously looking forward too the "Parkland" movie which I'm told is something of a Cliff-notes version of it. 

the best parts of the tome are easily the 'straight histories'.  The opening 'Four Days in November' section and extensive biography of Lee Harvey Oswald and a chapter on Jack Ruby's murder trial.  The sections where Bugilosi tears down the various JFK murder conspiracy theories do get a little priggish and even bitter.  Bugilosi describes himself as a 'very serious person' towards the end of his book long after this has become very clear.  A fiction writer with a more humane love of absurdity like Wallace or Eggers could have made some real gold shredding into say rumors of Ruby and Oswald being boyfriends or Jim Garrisons theory of a dozen elite shooters lining up at three or four different angles and than missing their target completely on half of their shots.  Bugilosi makes some smart-alack remarks that mostly fall flat and in the main is too aghast that the holy historic record has been distorted to have any real fun.  This is understandable and even admirable in its way but still a buzzkill.

It's been noted that conservatives are more likely than liberals to buy into conspiracy theories.    I would guess that conspiratorial thinking serves a similar function for the right as Christian or constitutional fundamentalism; to delegitimize the more multicultural, urban, communitarian path we're evolving towards as an artificial distortion of our true natural form.  'New World Orders' are perfectly routine folks.  Always have been.   

And I think the left's embrace of JFK assassination theories is at least partly inspired by similar motives;  to delegitimize the setbacks that followed the loss of an effective liberal politician.  To place such things as the Vietnam war, the importance of stabbed-in-the-back-theories regarding our failure there in fueling the Reagan-Bush coalition and all the lingering meanness and inequality wrought by that as all something that by natural right shouldn't have happened and therefore is not really truly of us.  Well sorry folks; but it is.  The rise of the right-wing at the end of last century probably would have happened with or without Jack Kennedy.  (He was, after all, in Texas for a probably doomed effort to hold off the defection of Southern Conservative Democrats)  It is a rise brought about by internal bigotries and great-power arrogance that had always been within us and that mid-century liberals had only danced around, ignored or even incorporated for their own ends.

Bugliosi is the rare creature of politically liberal prosecutor.   He is also damned old, to state it plainly.  A throwback to the Kennedy/post-New Deal era when liberalism was still the polite establishment norm. (Though mind you this was hardly a golden age when everyone was happy to help everyone.  A liberal establishment is still an establishment and this one was rather more militaristic and dismissive towards ethnic and sexual minorities than modern progressives could stomach.)  This is probably why he takes Very Serious Offense to the New-Left style fantasia of JFK murder conspiracy theories, and while it isn't much fun it is in the main a great public service.  Come on now people.  This was a flesh and blood man who was murdered, no symbol of this or that.  And it is provably obvious that his murder was nothing more epic than the act of one wife-beating wannabe communist  asshole.  Conspiracy godfather Mark Lane is a provable fraud.  Jim Garrison was the sort of tyrannical abuser of innocents that every good man of the left should despise and Oliver Stone is a greasy creeper with a messiah complex.  (Platoon is still really good though.  Don't get me wrong.)  Isn't it about time we got well and over this thing now?

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