On the History Channel I found a program about the JFK assassination. There have been dozens of programs on the subject, of course, and most address various conspiracy theories. This program mentioned those things as a kind of side issue. Mostly it attempted to explore Oswald's motivations. Jack Ruby's too.
What appeared to put Oswald over the top was not his communism-obsessed belief system. Rather, it was his obsessive desire to be a big shot - pun not intended - within that belief system. To make his mark, and get respect in the process. He posed for iconic photos with his firearms, and offered himself to the Cuban and Soviet embassies. (Both turned him away.) Oswald's fatal flaw was not that he was a communist. It was that he felt a need to be a star, and became overwhelmed by frustration when the world - even the communist world - didn't raise him above the rest.
And then there was Jack Ruby, the Dallas strip club owner who associated with penny-ante hoods and liked to hang out at the police station. Loved JFK. Wanted to feel important. No, more than important: he wanted to be elevated to the status of hero.
Are we noticing a pattern here? I am, especially when I added the third data point: stresses and frustrations I've felt building lately - one friend accurately called it being very prickly - when I point out to the world that it's not conforming to my vision for it, and the world glares back and says, "Who the hell asked you?"
It was quite a revelation, this business of recognizing some part of me, some part of a lot of us I suppose, in vilified historical figures whom we've always felt safely separated from. That their cases are much more extreme is just a detail, and doesn't excuse the more basic form of the problem others of us have inside us.
There's a book I quite literally keep right next to my Bible. It's an AA book called, "Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions," known to AA's as the "12 and 12." (Although I'm not a drinker, and some of what AA presents is specific to substance abuse, I've found the majority can be thought of as "take out drinking and fill in your favorite self-destructive behavior.") This has, for me, been a life-changing book and if someone out there is feeling a little lost you might find it so too. But I digress...
Part of the chapter on Step Four - "We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves" - reads as follows: "It is from our twisted relations with family, friends and society at large that many of us have suffered the most...The primary fact that we fail to recognize is our total inability to form a true partnership with another human being...Either we insist upon dominating the people we know, or we depend on them far too much...We have not once sought to be one in a family, to be a friend among friends, to be a worker among workers, to be a useful member of society. Always we tried to struggle to the top of the heap, or to hide underneath it. This self-centered behavior blocked a partnership relation with any one of those about us."
A few hours from now, when on the train commuting to work, I think I know what I'm going to get back into reading.