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.