Monday, October 30, 2006

A Bunch of Postings

Who Killed Kennedy?

The question really wasn't: Who killed Kennedy?

It was: Why do people want to believe conspiracy theories? Why do they refuse to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald, a nutcase, did it alone?

Was it because the idea of a lone gunman changing the course of history was frightening? Was it because things don't happen that way in fiction? Was it because of the paranoid style in American history?

At Fact magazine, in 1965 or so, I asked a new researcher to telephone well-known people and interview them. Why do so many Americans refuse to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald did it alone?

I told her: Don't ask "Who killed Kennedy?"

Ask: Why do so many Americans not believe that one person did it alone.
The new researcher had had mental problems, but she was a sweet person.

I hesrd her telephone.

Her voice was very nervous.

"Do you believe that Oswald did it alone?" she asked.

Hannah Arendt said she didn't want to respond to that question, and hung up.


Jury Duty

I was eager to be chosen for the grand jury, but now I'm not so sure. I cannot write about it--it's secret. And I'm afraid that 22-23 people all will want to talk and chatter and get attention. I see this more and more -- people dying to stand in the spotlight.

When asked by the judge whether he would serve as leader of the jury, a fellow said: "I don't see why not." He should have just said: Yes.

A bad sign.


Outrageous Question

I was on a panel to ask questions of candidates for Bergen County county executive. Sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

I asked the usual questions. About the blue laws. About improving New Jersey schools. About bringing more businesses to the county.

Then it occurred to me: I really wanted to know how the candidates felt about Iraq. Would the Democrat do a Lieberman, support the President? Would the Republican assert his independence by (at least) saying we should set up a timetable to get out?

Pandemonium. The League officials ruled that the question was out of order. The woman running the meeting told me that she had established that only questions pertaining to Bergen County should be asked. (Not true.)

Even the audience -- suprisingly-- didn't seem to like the question.

But...wouldn't it be germane to know if either candidate had ever been convicted of a crime? If either candidate had served in the armed forces with distinction?

When we vote for a candidate, don't we want to know all we can about his character...his thinking...his personality? (And hers.)

So, why did a question about Iraq elicit such a negative response?

Perhaps: Too emotional. Too painful. Too much outside the box.



Embarrassment

I was to have dinner with the restaurant critic of the Bergen Record.
I arrived first.
Do you have a reservation? I was asked.
I guess so, I said.
What name?
Hmm. She would have used an assumed name.
I think I just looked dumb.
Smith? he asked
Of course, I said.

After I had been sitting a while, the Smiths came in.

I moved.

When the restaurant critic arrived, she told me she always used her own name to make a reservation. Restaurants never recognized it.

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