I can’t remember if I’ve said anything on here, but I am, in fact, currently in a show. “Assassins the Musical,” with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and the book by John Weidman.
First of all, it’s very good, and I totally expect all of you whom I know (or am related to) to come see it.
I’m Emma Goldman, who is a small role, and not, in fact, an assassin–she’s an anarchist–but she inspired Leon Czolgosz, who assassinated William McKinley (even though she denounced violence as an effective way to incite change, but that’s beside the point).
Aaaaanyway, as a part of the rehearsal process, which is largely a workshop, everyone in the cast has to research their character and their character’s gun (if your character has no gun, like me, you pick a gun from the show to research). As a result, I’m becoming quite familiarly acquainted with the assassins and attempted assassins of US Presidents, and let me tell you, they aren’t the sanest bunch.
DISCLAIMER: these won’t be in order. They’re in order of how you see the assassinations in the show, but they are not in chronological order.
First and foremost, you’ve got John Booth. Super angry about the Civil War, he killed Lincoln in revenge, in what is self-described as a last-ditch act to save the country Lincoln, a total tyrant, was destroying.
Next up to bat is Giuseppe Zangara, who attempted the assassinate FDR. Zangara’s convoluted logic is … well, convoluted, but what I’ve basically been able to glean in this: he worked in super poor factory conditions (I think it was factory, but I don’t feel like fact checking Zangara, so don’t quote me on where exactly he worked) which resulted in “adhesion of the gallbladder” which made him experience cripplingly painful stomach pains. Said pains made him a little loopy, and he blamed the capitalists (those who he worked for in aforementioned poor-conditioned job) for his constant pain, and by killing someone powerful he’d get his revenge on the capitalists. Roosevelt, he decided, would do nicely for that purpose. (Fun fact, he was SUPER PISSED that there was no press at his electric chair execution).
Leon Czolgosz. Killed McKinley, like I said. Influenced by the heavy-hitter anarchist Emma Goldman (me), he decided that McKinley represented oppression, and, as such, should die. He acted on this decision. When the police searched his apartment, they found a crap ton of Emma Goldman … merch, for lack of a better term. Kind of creepy.
Next, John Hinckley. Even before you get to his whole attempted assassination of Reagan thing, this dude’s pretty gross. He was, like, OBSESSED with Jodie Foster. Like seriously obsessed. Like, “I’m in love with Jodie Foster and I want to marry her and for her to have my babies.” Like, that obsessed. Which is creepy enough, but made creepier when you take into account that this obsession began when the thirty-something saw Jodie Foster in one of her movies when she was around THIRTEEN. Ew. Pedophiles, always grody. He decided he needed to do something big and dramatic to get Jodie’s attention, so they could fall in love like they were obviously destined to. Killing the president is pretty dang attention-grabbing. Funnily enough, Jodie Foster wasn’t all that crazy about him.
Ah, Guiteau. One of my favorites. Not in that I support his assassination of Garfield, but in that he’s delightfully cray-cray. So this guy’s a political type. Lawyer, writer, ya know. He wrote this speech supporting Garfield during his campaign–was only spoken like twice–and patted himself on the back after Garfield won, for putting him in office. Since Guiteau believed he was the reason Garfield got elected, he figured he deserved something for it. He wanted Garfield to give him an ambassadorship, deciding Ambassador to France would be pretty cooli. Garfield was like, “Um, no?” Guiteau persisted, asking again and again and again. He kept getting turned away, until, finally, he stopped even getting replies to his requests. This made Guiteau angry. He decided, in lieu of his ambassadorship, to kill the President that had so insultingly slighted him. So he bought a .44, learned to shoot it, and camped out in the park across from the White House for a while, waiting for his opportunity. Interestingly, Guiteau had several opportunities, but he found something wrong with each of them–too many innocent bystanders, he couldn’t shoot Garfield in front of the sick First Lady–before he finally shot him at the train station.
Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme and Sara Jane Moore, attempted assassins of Gerald Ford, their attempts only 3 weeks apart, and the only females who have attempted assassination of a president. As far as we know, anyway, but assassination attempts tend to be pretty noticeable. These ladies had some issues. Mainly of the father variety. They both got kicked out of their houses at a relatively young age, and had some severe psychological issues. Lynette had a romance with Charles Manson–I don’t know that you need much more evidence that she wasn’t quite right. Moore tried to kill Ford because she was a Left-wing radical, and she felt Ford taking office in lieu of Nixon’s resignation added insult to injury–and she was just an angry kind of gal. Fromme tried to kill Ford as a political statement to everyone who didn’t stop or attempt to stop pollution and its adverse affects on nature. Her gun, however, failed to fire, and she was stopped and taken into custody before it ever even got off a shot.
Samuel Byck was a political fanatic (are you sensing a pattern here?) who felt betrayed by Nixon, after having voted for him, feeling Nixon betrayed his voters’ trust by not keeping any of his campaign promises and leading the country astray. He attempted to hijack a plane, intending to crash it into the White House. That didn’t work out for him.
Lee Harvey Oswald. Killed Kennedy. He was an unhappy kind of guy. He subscribed to Marxism from a very young age, proclaiming himself as a Marxist at age 15. He was in the Marines, and when he came back, his personality–which can only be described as surly and pretty violent–had only worsened. He became involved in numerous petty and not-so-petty crimes, culminating in his assassination of Kennedy. There was no real reason Oswald decided to kill Kennedy specifically–he just hated American society and government, and rebelled against it, so the death of the President was an extreme form of that rebellion.
So, yeah. Pretty dang crazy. That’s “Abridged and Wikipedia-Supplemented History with Emma.” I don’t know if that was at all interesting, but I find it interesting.
“See” you Thursday.