Writer Relents, Accepts That Dallas, Not Oswald, Killed JFK

Okay, they got me. After absorbing a year-long series of stories about the Kennedy assassination by the Dallas Morning News (Commemorative Box Set Available!) and sitting through five hours of a symposium on the same topic Saturday, I finally gave up. Before, I realized, I’d simply been confused. Then I came to see that, contrary to my long-held belief, it wasn’t a crackpot Communist named Lee Harvey Oswald who was responsible for murdering President John F. Kennedy here in 1963. It was actually the city of Dallas, which helped commit the act and then tried to cover up its guilt and shame and even today hasn’t come to grips with the enormity of its monstrous crime. If that line of thinking sounds like a load of pseudo-intellectual pap, chances are you wouldn’t have appreciated the Saturday event put on by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture and The News.

There, the institute’s Dr. J. Larry Allums told about 500 people that Dallas needs a “cleansing process.” Lee Cullum, journalist and “Master Facilitator” of the symposium, declared that the city has been “struggling for redemption” ever since JFK died. Dallas has not yet “learned the language of grief,” writer Richard Rodriguez intoned. Dr. Gail Thomas, an Institute co-founder, contended that Dallas has “not wanted to own the shadow of the assassination,” and, as a result, “the communal body of our city atrophied” afterward.

Rev. Dr. Zan Holmes said, “We have not been good stewards of this tragedy.” Dallas was a city “of fear of others” back in 1963, commentator Katie Sherrod added, and this same fear still can be seen today in, for example, our “disdain for the poor.” “Facilitator” Thomas Huang, editor of The News’ year-long JFK50 project, summed up one of the day’s purposes: confronting and acknowledging and understanding “the wound.”

When I couldn’t take it anymore I left and, on my way home, even bought one of those DMNs from Nov. 23, 1963, at the local 7-Eleven, just to help me understand and embrace and accept this guilt and shame the city is supposed to be feeling. Then, later in the day, darned if I didn’t run into a Morning News staffer who scoffed at the orgy of navel-gazing. “President William McKinley was assassinated in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1901,” he said. “I wonder if Buffalo had a big commemoration in 1951.” After he said that, damned if I didn’t start getting confused again.

18 comments on “Writer Relents, Accepts That Dallas, Not Oswald, Killed JFK

  1. People keep pitching me stories related to the 50th anniversary of the assassination. I tell them that People Newspapers is attempting to stand out from the crowd by saving our coverage for the 51st anniversary. When you think about it, it’s just as significant.

  2. In its early days, the Dallas Institute made an impressive contribution to the cultural life of Dallas. Somewhere along the way (perhaps when it sold its soul to the Trinity Tollway) it changed its course, and its relevance to our city. Now, it seems to be a small group of people who congratulate each other on their mutual intellectual superiority on a regular basis.

    As for the Dallas Morning News, perhaps all of their efforts have been a (lame) attempt to exorcise the ghost of Ted Dealey, who strived for many years to accumulate and exercise the political power of the radical right wing of Dallas as the DMN publisher. When will we see a mea culpa from the News of today?

  3. By just accepting this garbage, you’ve probably just saved yourself a trip to a re-education camp…

  4. “Dallas has not yet “learned the language of grief,” writer Richard Rodriguez intoned”

    I hate to admit it, but he’s right *orders language of grief tutorial disc from rosetta stone*

  5. Regardless of the characterization of Big D fifty years ago, what jumps out at me is a DMN staffer’s comparison to McKinley’s assassination in Buffalo in 1901. It may have confused Glenn Hunter anew, but it’s really specious. A joke, even.

    McKinley served in the Civil War. When he shuffled off to Buffalo in ’01, Americans didn’t have radios or phones, much less television. 1901 may as well have been 1865.

    Fast forward to JFK, the first 20th century president actually born in the 20th century. By ’63, media had become ubiquitous. Rich and poor alike, coast-to-coast, now had radios and phones, and a TV set in nine out of ten households.

    The modern world is totally different. Our depth of understanding, the importance we can place on historical events, has grown apace.

  6. Don’t we get any credit for giving the country Dr. Phil? I mean, … that’s REAL healing.

  7. Thank you for pointing out the silliness of the “wounds” that all of our old, moneyed-class is feeling over the assassination. Our poor local media coverage, fear of conspiracy theories and the rigidity of the upcoming ceremony is embarrassing.

  8. as in, “knockin’ the bottom out of that thaing!” Speaking of which, anyone know how Richard Nixon got out of town that day?

  9. Speaking of JFK, I was disappointed by the Nov issue of D Magazine. The cover said, “Who We Were When Everything Changed,” but the most of the articles were business-focused and more suitable for DCEO. I didn’t gain a new understanding of who Dallasites were or what we thought after the assassination. (And I don’t need to read another rehash of pick one: Norman Brinker, Ross Perot, etc, etc.) The November issue was a big miss.

  10. I have a hard time accepting a review of an event by an editor of a magazine that prides itself on naming the “top 50″ raspberry tarts in Dallas (poodle-groomers, cracks in the sidewalk, etc.). You name it, ole D magazine, and the not-so-pseudo intellectuals (is that the point?) will lap up your vainglorious self-important ratings with their all-too-rubbed-together nickels and dimes.

  11. Yep. Nixon flew out of Love that morning, and was in a cab in NY mid afternoon (eastern time) when he heard the president had died in Dallas. (Thanks to Alan Peppard’s great story last week about the relationship between the two men).

  12. I found Wick Allison’s piece to be quite informative as to “who we were” as it gave a fine historical context as to the acute effect of the assassination on Dallas.
    I would put it in the “required reading” category.

  13. Dallas is “a city of hate, the only American city in which the president could have been shot.” – Texas US District Court Judge Sarah Hughes, who administered the oath of office to Lyndon Johnson aboard Air Force One