In Mr. Lavin’s U.S. History class my junior year in high school, the best days were those when we put away our textbooks and took out the documents. Mr. Lavin had thousands and thousands of records from the National Archives related to the JFK assassination. It was his obsession, and that year, he made it ours. W e spent weeks poring over the pages and talking through the various theories and the web of characters— Oswald, the anti-Castro Cubans, the mob bosses, the Soviet spies in Mexico. In the end, most paths led us back to Oswald acting alone, but the exercise had a bigger purpose— encouraging us to ask questions, to marshal evidence, to consider what we believe to be true and why. If there’s a smoking gun in the 2,800 new files released last week (see U.S. Columns), someone as dogged as Mr. Lavin will find it. More likely, the latest records won’t radically undermine our prevailing belief about what happened in Dallas. But they will complicate it, and raise more questions, reminding us that, five decades later, we as a country may never collectively feel as though we truly understand what happened that day and why.
This week’s indictments in the Russia investigation signal a new chapter in another complex search for explanations. In special counsel Robert Mueller’s attempt to figure out how Russia meddled in last year’s presidential election, he will surely unearth information that will fuel future conspiracy theorists— foreign spies, secret meetings, and suspicious money trails. There is no doubt far more evidence yet to be revealed, but in our hyperpartisan atmosphere it seems unlikely to lead to common conclusions. In 50 years, will there be a consensus on what happened during the 2016 race, who knew what, and whether Russia’s interference affected the outcome? Given that we still can’t fully agree on what happened on Nov. 22, 1963, the answer is probably no. ■