Quick, have we overturned every single stone for the 50th Anniversary JFK-palooza? Because I think there's someone out there we can still peg as the unanswered riddle in the whole thing. Hmmm, maybe Lee Harvey Oswald's widow? She's still around, right?
Ugh, these 50th anniversary things where everyone decides we're supposed to feel more about a thing in the past because an even, tidy number of years have occurred since it originally happened is super effing RANDOM. But we love that shit. You bet who doesn't love it? Marina Oswald, now Porter. Because in the midst of all the pieces on the JFK assassination, from drudging up old witnesses to remaining mysteries, is the continued idea that maybe Marina Oswald could've prevented the whole damn thing. Yup. Gross.
It started up again when British tabloid The Mirror published photos of the very much still alive Marina Porter, a long-since-remarried grandmother living in rural Texas just trying to live out a quiet life that has probably never been near what any of us might consider normal.
Porter hasn't been photographed for 25 years on purpose, and according to the Mirror piece, the death threats and hate mail and requests for interviews and films have not stopped.
Says the Mirror:
In numerous books and documentaries she has been branded everything from a prostitute to a spy and a co-conspirator.
But she has resolutely stayed out of the spotlight for the last 25 years, shunning the offer of millions of dollars from Hollywood film makers, TV producers and authors to tell her side of a story.
She is rarely seen, even by her neighbours in rural Texas, and is said to live the life of virtual recluse.
Other pieces followed suit as part of the 50th anniversary brouhaha, such as the Dallas KERA News piece "Whatever Happened to Marina Oswald," which basically re-aggregates her greatest TV hits and reminds us of how the two met:
In the spring of 1961, Lee Oswald met Marina Prusakova at a dance in Minsk, Belarus. Six weeks later, they were married at the home of her uncle, who worked for Soviet domestic intelligence. In October 1962, they moved to Dallas. By the fall of 1963, they were living with a woman, Ruth Paine, in Irving. Marina and Lee Oswald had two children, Rachel and June.
You know what comes next: JFK/blown away/what else do I have to— anyway, she remarried after Lee Harvey Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby — to a guy named Kenneth Porter, while news helicopters swarmed overhead. She worked at an Army Navy Surplus store a few miles from the scene of the crime for some 20 years before retiring. She stopped giving any interviews or making public appearances, I presume because she realized it wasn't going to improve the contours of her life to keep granting them. Besides, she had two daughters to raise and terrible old life to not be reminded of. Go figure.
Regardless of the remaining speculation about the assassination — and "there is still no accepted story about the assassination" but also no real evidence of a conspiracy — the majority of the stuff focused on in the media rehash right now includes the impact on presidential security or more personal stories, or unanswered questions, like: Were JFK and Governor Connally hit by the same bullet? Why did Jack Ruby leave his dog in his car? Why was the original JFK autopsy report burned?
That's all fine: I understand that as long as it's never really wrapped up Scandal-style, this political maelstrom will be a source of endless fascination, possibly forever. But yes, some of the stones being overturned are dumb ones that don't need overturning. Like asking What if Marina Oswald had just taken her husband back when he asked?
Wut? For that you might need a little context: In 1963, the Oswalds were bustling back and forth between Dallas and New Orleans as Oswald became more entrenched in leftwing groups like the Communist Party and the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. Says a piece in the International Business Times of the Oswald relationship that year:
As 1963 progressed, Oswald and his wife drifted further apart. In April, he told her that he had shot Edwin Walker, a retired rightwing general whom Oswald regarded as a fascist. When she confronted him about the assassination attempt, he replied: "What would you say if somebody got rid of Hitler at the right time? If you don't know about General Walker, how can you speak up on his behalf?"
The two started to argue about Oswald's fantasies, as she called them, and in November they were estranged.
Cool guy! Man, if only she'd wanted to work things out? Oswald was working at the Book Depository by now, and was living in a boarding house under the name OH Lee. Marina was still rooming with a divorced Ruth Paine who also had a child. On November 21, 1963, Paine returned home to find Lee Harvey Oswald was visiting Marina.
He spent the night trying to convince Marina to give their relationship another chance - but she refused and rebuffed his attempts to kiss her, according to the Dallas News.
In the years following, Marina told journalists that her rejection of Oswald may have triggered the murder process in his mind. Author Priscilla Johnson McMillan, who wrote the 1977 biography, Marina and Lee, believed there was some truth in these fears.
"I do think that if Marina had said yes, that might have changed things," she said.
Yeah, like she would have taken back a shitty dude. Oswald, it turns out, had left behind his wedding ring and $187 (Marina recently auctioned it for $118,000). And as the Dallas News thankfully adds to their story: Though Ruth Paine and Marina Porter are no longer friends and haven't been for decades, Paine also thinks it is a shit move to still ask the question of what would've happened if Marina had said just said yes to Oswald's requests to get back together.
"I think it's very sad to go in that direction," Paine said. "You need to know that Oswald prepared a paper packet out of material he found at the School Book Depository, material he wrapped the gun in. He clearly had decided that he was going to do this. I have felt that it was totally unfair to blame her, and I hope she doesn't blame herself for saying no to him at that point."
I hope so, too. Because she, and her children, have suffered enough. But that hasn't stopped conspiracy theorist debunker Gerald Posner — he wrote the popular 1993 book Case Closed, the JFK book that "cures" people of their conspiracy theories — from stating that whether she could have stopped the assassination by simply staying with her dick husband remains "one of the unanswered riddles of history."
Would Kennedy have lived, had she simply said yes to her husband's requests?
I'm sure it is the world's biggest unanswered riddles — to you, dude. Yes, Marina admitted that she has lived with the guilt:
"Guilt, tried to prove that I am worthy of this country, tried to go backwards to please people. … 'Please like me, I'm OK,'" she said.
"You learn to live not with the guilt that you shed because you are you and you're not responsible for somebody's doing, whether it's your child or husband, gradually you get out of that guilty conscience," she said. "I'm sympathetic to Lee, many times, but I'm also angry at him. He left me to swim in the dirty water. … So many times I questioned: 'Did he use me as well? Does he really care for me at all?'"
But the thing is, Oswald was a known fabulist, a controlling, abusive guy, a story corroborated by his own friend, who describes him as incredibly threatened and temperamental. Marina herself may have gone over that night in 1963 over and over again — such is the right of all humans to dwell on their own fates — and it may still very well be the "stone she could not get rid of," but she also did what she thought was right for her and her children. And the idea that we should be speculating over whether that choice was right 50 years later seems utterly preposterous, proof of how out of hand the JFK thing still is.
And as this op-ed on leaving the Oswald relatives alone points out:
We forget that these were ordinary people: Marina, a frightened Russian emigre with two small daughters and a crumbling marriage to a husband who seemed to be coming unraveled. Robert Oswald, a Dallas brick salesman whose younger brother seemed to be sinking under the weight of his own failures, delusions and frustrations. … To his daughters, he is "Lee," a stranger they can't recall, a "father" only by an accident of biology. And to Marina Porter, he's an odd, angry man to whom she was briefly married nearly a lifetime ago.
So let's make this anniversary be the first year of stopping this nonsense. Can't we just talk about all the ladies JFK bagged instead?