It’s Always Dallas’s Fault
So, let me get this straight: a crazy communist murders President Kennedy in Dallas, and right-wing nuts bear some responsibility? So says James McAuley in –where else? — The New York Times. Excerpt:
For 50 years, Dallas has done its best to avoid coming to terms with the one event that made it famous: the assassination of John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. That’s because, for the self-styled “Big D,” grappling with the assassination means reckoning with its own legacy as the “city of hate,” the city that willed the death of the president.
The city that “willed the death of the president”? What the hell does that mean? That the city of Dallas used its eerie mental powers to direct a radical weirdo to shoot JFK, like Uri Geller bending a spoon? It is a disgusting calumny. Yes, Dallas was home to more than a few far-right wingers who said and believed and did reprehensible things back then. But one thing they did not do was murder President Kennedy. That was accomplished by Lee Harvey Oswald, who was a communist and a crackpot. I agree with James McAuley that many of the things the 1960s-era right-wing radicals of Dallas stood for were terrible, but to object to it by pinning the assassination on those people and that city is false and low-down. McAuley goes on:
This year Dallas has a chance to grapple with the painful legacy of 1963 in public and out loud. Unfortunately, that’s unlikely to happen, although the city did quietly host a symposium on whether it really deserved to be labeled “the city of hate” earlier this month.
But when the national cameras start rolling on Nov. 22, Dealey Plaza, the abandoned, almost spectral site of the assassination and now of the commemoration, will have been retouched in a fresh coat of literal and figurative white paint. Cosmetics seem to be all we can expect.
Oh, please. This graduate student expects the city to blame itself for something it didn’t do. I lived in Dallas from 2003 to 2010, and was shocked to learn of the kinds of things that were common in the Dallas of the 1950s and 1960s, in large part because the city today is so very, very different — and for the most part, very much better. A Texas-born liberal and Harvard graduate is embarrassed that his socially prominent Dallas grandparents were reactionaries. Wow. Dog bites man. I can’t imagine what McAuley reasonably wants from the people of Dallas in 2013. If Kennedy’s murderer had been a far-right radical, McAuley would have a point. But — again! — Oswald was a communist. It’s wrong to blame Dallas for what Dallas did not do.
This is why there’s so much pathos in the efforts Dallas elites have put in over the past few decades — and the money they’ve spent — to try to win absolution from the Eastern establishment for JFK’s killing. They’ll never succeed. It will always be Dallas’s fault, even though Oswald was not a Dallasite, and not a rightist. The New York Times will publish a column in 2013 accusing the city of having murdered Kennedy via some sort of John Bircher voodoo, and living in denial for failing to acknowledge that alleged fact. Dallas can’t win.