Roger Martens struggles to unravel what really happened in the JFK assassination through a series of provocative labyrinths in an article for Currents Magazine.
Searching Through The Lee Harvey Oswald Labyrinth
Once again, he invoked the “Man in the Maze” from the Pima Indians—with its gingerbread figure standing at the doorway. The mythic and mischievous Siuku, who played tricks on you when he visited, and sometimes burgled your lodge. The Papago tribe called him “Litoi.” A figure of Native American myth.
As Roger tried to conjure Siuku, he happened to open an article about the Blue Brain Project in an old issue of Currents mapping the brain for its pathways. And suddenly it, too, looked like a maze. The human brain, itself, was a labyrinth. For the task at hand, it seemed all too fitting.
He drew freely from Rachel’s biographical notes, integrating them with his own.
Rather than go in chronological sequence, he decided to orchestrate the Lee Harvey Oswald Labyrinth by themes. When it came to using Lee’s own writings, he was faithful to each word, but corrected Lee’s many misspellings.
The First Circle: Ten Biographical Highlights
Two months before Lee’s birth, his father died of a heart attack in New Orleans. His mother remarried and then divorced. He was raised in an orphanage with his two older brothers for two years before his mother retrieved him. Together they lived a nomadic life in New Orleans, Dallas and New York.
- At the New York Youth House, he encountered problems in school. He wouldn’t salute the flag, and he didn’t like his teachers or his fellow students. Instead he proclaimed, “I like myself.” He was put on probation under the condition that his mother get in contact with a child guidance clinic where he could be treated by a male psychiatrist to help him get through his need for a father figure.
- After the family left New York for New Orleans, he was teased because of his Northern accent, and several white boys beat him up for sitting in the ‘Negro’ portion of a bus. As he grew up, he became an avid reader. He liked Karl Marx. But he also had a fascination with the Marines.
- On Oct. 7, 1955, he forged his mother’s name and lied about his age in an unsuccessful attempt to get into the Marine Corps—where he would eventually serve in Atsugi, Japan.
- In autumn of 1959 he traveled to the USSR. By March 1961, his Russian was so good that Marina, his future wife, mistook him for a Soviet citizen who came from the Baltic region.
- After he returned to the United States in 1962, Lee told his mother, “Mom, not even Marina knows why I came home.”
- In the summer of 1962 Lee and Marina were welcomed in by the local White Russian community and befriended George de Mohrenschildt, the son of a Czarist official, who consulted for Texas oil companies but also doubled as a CIA intelligence asset.
- Lee was outraged by the actions of General Edwin A. Walker, who called for 10,000 civilians to march on Oxford Mississippi in violent protest after JFK ordered the National Guard to support James Meredith’s attending the University of Mississippi. He told George de Mohrenschildt that “America is moving towards Fascism.” Lee later ordered a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle under the alias A. Hidell. On April 10, 1963, he shot at Walker while he was sitting at his desk in his dining room. The bullet struck the wooden frame of his window and missed. The rifle Lee used would later link him to JFK’s assassination—after some contention that it had been planted there falsely.
- On July 27th of 1963, Lee was invited by his cousin, Gene Murrett, to give a lecture at the University Jesuit House of Studies in Mobile, Alabama to more than 50 student priests, all of whom were college graduates taking a 4-year course for the priesthood. He spoke for 1 hour and 10 minutes. The topic was politics—given his insights into both the Soviet Union and America. He championed neither one, but added this comment about the United States— “Americans are apt to scoff at the idea that a military coup in the U.S., as so often happens in Latin American countries, could ever replace our government. But that is an idea that has grounds for consideration.” If it were to happen, Lee suggested that it might arise from a smaller group than the army or navy and proposed the Marines.
- According to multiple sources, after Lee’s arrest, Marina was taken in to custody where the CIA arranged for a writer to spend time with her. The Agency threatened Marina with deportation if she didn’t do what she was told, while her children would remain in the United States. In other words, they would have been raised as orphans. At the CIA’s instigation, Marina generated a book that she later claimed contained a number of falsehoods.
The Second Circle: Six Excerpts from Lee’s Diary and Other Writings About His Experiences in the Soviet Union
- Diary note when Lee attempts suicide in the Soviet Union in 1959 after his request for citizenship is denied and he may be forced to leave: 7:00 p.m. I decide to end it. Soak wrist in cold water to numb the pain. Then slash my left wrist. Then plunge wrist into bathtub of hot water. I think when Rimma comes at 8 to find me dead, it will be a great shock. …Somewhere a violin plays as I watch my life whirl away. I think to myself “How easy to die” and “a sweet death” … Rimma Sherikova, his Intourist Representative and liaison finds him at 8:00, screams and runs for help. While he is never granted citizenship, his stay is extended.
- Diary note on emigration to the Soviet Union: Emigration isn’t easy. I don’t recommend it to everyone. It means coming to a new country, always being the outsider, always having to adjust. But to me, my reasons are strong and good. I believe I am doing right.
- Diary note as he becomes disenchanted with the Soviet Union: As my Russian improves, I become increasingly conscious of just what sort of a society I live in. Mass gymnastics, compulsory after-work meetings, usually political information meetings. Compulsory attendance at lectures and the sending of the entire shop collective (except me) to pick potatoes on Sunday…The opinions of the workers (unvoiced) is that it is a great pain in the neck.
- Note after his marriage to Marina: Marina arrives back, radiant, with several jars of preserves for me from her aunt in Khkov.
- Two requests to his brother, Robert, while in Russia:
1. If you like, you can send me a football (they only have round ones here). Just deflate it a send it to me like a letter, also, you can pick up diagrams of players at any filling station and send them along also [as] these Russians seem interested in learning how to play, so I thought maybe you could help me out and together we’ll show them a little bit of American sport.
(2) In the future if you send me some books, you can send me “Time Magazine” not “Ford Times.”
- Comments on Russian films: Films carry the propaganda ball where books and newspapers leave off, with 90,872 movie houses in the U.S.S.R. with collective farm clubs bringing the total to 118,000 movie houses; the average number of times a Soviet citizen goes to the movies per year, including men, women, and children, is 16.5 times.
The Third Circle: Four Excerpts from Lee’s Political Observations
- In a letter to his brother, Robert: In this [American] system, art, culture and the spirit of man are subjected to commercial enterprising. Religion and education are used as a tool to suppress what would otherwise be a population questioning their government’s unfair economic system and plans for war.
- After returning to the U.S. he writes about his disillusionment with the Communist Party in America: The Communist Party of the United States has betrayed itself. It has turned itself into the traditional lever of a foreign power to overthrow the government of the United States, not in the name of freedom or high ideals, but in servile conformity to the wishes of the Soviet Union.
- Written in preparation for a debate regarding his concerns about segregation in America: My reason for concern is that undemocratic, country-wide institution known as segregation. It is, I think the main action of a segregationist minority and the great body of indifferent people in the South who do the United States more harm in the eyes of the world’s people, than the whole communist movement.
- Notes made on Holland American Line in return to the U.S. in preparation for future interviews: …it is the much more subtle aspects of industrialization and mechanization which bring the greatest hardships among the people—a general decay of classes into shapeless society without real cultural foundations, and regimentation—not so much of people, since industrialization actually provides far more free movement of classes around each other, but rather of ideals…
The Fourth Circle: LHO’s views about JFK:
On July 1, 1963, Lee went to the New Orleans Public Library and checked out William Manchester’s cameo of JFK, Portrait of a President. Two weeks later, he read Profiles in Courage. Then he took out The White Nile by Alan Moorehead, because Manchester said that the president had recently read it and enjoyed it.
He told Marina that he “liked and approved of the president and believed that for the United States in 1963, John F. Kennedy was the best president the country could hope to have.” He listened to JFK’s speeches that summer and explained to his wife that the president was making an appeal for disarmament. “Some critics blamed Kennedy for losing Cuba, whereas the president would have liked to pursue a better, more gentle policy toward Cuba but was not free to do as he wished.”
The Fifth Circle: Three of Lee’s Last Moments While in Custody
- At 7:00 p.m. on November 22nd, when Lee is brought into a small room filled with reporters and Justice of the Peace David Johnston read the charge: “This isn’t an arraignment. This isn’t a court. How do I know this is a judge?” And to the reporters. “I didn’t shoot anybody, no sir. I’m just a patsy.”
- Later in an interview with Dallas police Captain Will Fritz, Fritz remembers: “I asked him what he thought of President Kennedy and his family and he said he didn’t have any view of the President. He said, “I like the President’s family very well. I have my own views about national policies.”
- To Marina when she comes to visit and expresses her concerns about bruise marks on his face: “Oh no, they have not been beating me. They are treating me fine…You’re not to worry about that. Did you bring June and Rachel [their young children]? …There are people who will help me. There is a lawyer in New York on whom I’m counting for help…Don’t cry…If they ask you anything you have a right not to answer. You have a right to refuse…You are not to worry. You have friends. They’ll help you. If it comes to that, you can ask the Red Cross for help. You mustn’t worry about me. Kiss Junie and Rachel for me. I love you… [as she’s walking away] Be sure to buy shoes for June.”
The Sixth Circle: Three Opinions After Lee’s Death
- Fidel Castro after Lee’s arrest: Is he really guilty? Is he a scapegoat? Is he a psychopath? Or is he perhaps a tool of the most reactionary U.S. circles? Who is this man? Why did he go into action precisely when circumstances were least favorable for a left-wing fanatic to assassinate the U.S. president?”
- John Robert Conrad, ex-CIA agent claimed to have been assigned to watch over Lee: If I was mountain climbing, I would trust that guy to hold the end of my rope in a crisis. He had a lot of control over himself. He was articulate, though you’d never get that impression from reading what he’s written, because his spelling was atrocious. He could hold a good conversation on just about anything political. He was cautious. Certainly no raving maniac.
- George de Mohrenschildt, CIA liaison years after the assassination during an interview, shortly before his death: Whatever you write, Lee was as smart as hell. They make a moron out of him… (but) He was the most honest man I knew… ahead of his time, really, a kind of hippie of those days. And I’m sure of this. He did not shoot the president.
This time Roger stood at the edge of the maze, the entrance to the labyrinth. And once again Siuku was invisible—the mischievous creature obscured by too many twists and turns. But now, at least, Roger thought he saw Siuku’s shadow. And a fleeting trace of Lee Harvey Oswald, much like the presence of the wind is visible in the motion of the trees it touches. You cannot see it. But you can feel it. And you can at least begin to imagine its motion.