The Lone Gunman has become an American mythology. A low level nobody shows up, kills somebody we like, has his show trial (or in the case of Oswald does not), and is neatly put away. He’s the archetypical loser. He can’t do anything right. But he has no problem shooting somebody even if his gun is junk, with optics not properly calibrated. He can have success and fame at that. And he never, ever shoots anybody truly evil for the wicked prosper. It is somebody we admire. And then, after the smoke clears, life goes on like before. Only we are left with questions. Questions that are never really get answered and as usual, two camps form to debate the aftermath for years and years to follow. The ways of the Lone Gunman are mysterious and he leaves a lot of things unsettled as conspiracy origins are frowned upon. But the People have that gut feeling that something ain’t right here. And of course it is not.
No conspiracy in the Lone Gunman Mythos? Down through our history there have been four presidents assassinated and five more have come close. Of all of the Lone Gunmen mentioned only John Wilkes Booth is the only one accredited to a conspiracy. The death of Lincoln is the only conspiracy we ever had in our history of presidential assassinations? I doubt it. We are left with the mysterious comings and goings of these men that do the crimes. As if these losers are capable of doing the deed single-handedly. There is most likely a facilitator. The Lone Gunmen are often out of work and out of money but they have no trouble paying for whatever they want, such as the afore mentioned travels. But there are always conspiratorial traces like vanishing footprints in the sand. It is seen in the things that don’t fit. Somebody will always say something cryptic leading to suspicions that launch endless debate.
The irony lies in the fact that the Lone Gunman is not alone. They are always around somebody. That somebody is usually a cloak and dagger chap or somebody as out of place and time as they are. A handler if you will. You can call them the CIA, DIA, ONI, or any name you like. They are the Secret Team, as Fletcher Proudy said in his book of the same name. They have no love for us.
A restless bunch, they constantly travel. Arthur Bremer, who came close to assassinating Gov. George Wallace in 1972, was such a traveler. He would fly to New York and stay in the Waldorf hotel; fly to Ottawa and stay at the Lord Elgin Hotel, the same hotel Nixon’s Secret Service agents used. Not bad for a man who had an income of $1,611. Lee Oswald’s travels are well documented. To and from Russia, sailing back (with a State Dept. loan) on the Holland America Massdam cruise ship with wife and child; a round trip bus trip from Dallas to Mexico City; a Customs agent in Toronto spotted him handing out pamphlets. James Earl Ray, unemployed after the alleged assassination of Martin Luther King had no difficulty buying a plane ticket to England. He was caught attempting to buy another boarding pass at Heathrow Airport. Mark David Chapman, John Lennon’s killer, another guy with a spotty employment record, took a six-week trip around the world. John Hinckley Jr. made many trips around the country from California to Connecticut, finally making his way to Washington D.C. to take a shot at Ronald Reagan. Sirhan Sirhan, born in Israel, traveled with his family to New York before settling in California. All of these men were from someplace else and had been someplace else.
Although not of the Lone Gunmen category, Charles Manson comes to mind. Manson could almost be an amalgamation of all the characters previously listed here. Only throw in a dash of mind control. Mind control that actually works. It has been speculated that Manson was an MK-ULTRA test subject. With Charlie’s mojo he could teach the CIA a few tricks. With a mix of psychobabble, mind-altering drugs and sex, Manson quickly rounded up a bevy of cute hippie chicks to cater to his every need. But like the Lone Gunman he probably had his facilitators too. Released from prison in 1967, and even before his arrest for Tate-Labianca slayings in 1969, Manson had been arrested twice for statutory rape and released in each instance. Both instances should have sent to the Big House. “I want to know who was peeing on my leash?” Charlie asked. Implying he was under protection (and control) from an important someone and it was now over. Shades of Oswald saying, “I’m just the patsy.”
Maybe back in the nineteenth century when Leon Czolgosz shot President McKinley and Charles Guiteau assassinated President Garfield there really were lone gunmen among us. I’ll grant a few nutty loners out there. I just find it odd the Lincoln’s death is the only assassination officially listed as a conspiracy. Is that really possible?
So there you have it. The American Long Gunman Mythos. It’s our long running fairy tale and we are sticking to it. Conspiracy be damned!
Pease, Lisa, The Assassinations; Mars, Jim, Crossfire; Gorightly, Adam, The Shadow over Santa Susana; Kauffman, Michael, American Brutus