The Dallas Morning News kicked it off Sunday, with a very spiffy “JFK50” logo and two front-page stories announcing an 11-month-long series of articles and photos and graphics and e-books and community panels focusing on the 50th anniversary of the assassination here of President John F. Kennedy. SMU and the Bush library and the Sixth Floor Museum are readying a yearlong series of public programs on the topic, too.
The Nasher Sculpture Center commissioned a musical piece marking the occasion, about one of Jacqueline Kennedy’s blood-soaked roses. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has appointed a massive committee of Major Names to plan a commemoration. And Friday night, talk-show host Charlie Rose will interview a couple of JFK’s relatives at the Winspear about the Kennedy family and its influence on politics, culture and history.
I don’t think anyone would argue against the appropriateness of holding a tasteful ceremony or event in Dallas to mark the assassination on Nov. 22, 2013. But the explosion of “introspection” that’s about to be unleashed over the next year just seems like … pardon the expression …Â well, like overkill. Like an orgy of anguished navel-gazing that few are clamoring to undergo–except for some civic pooh-bahs who’ve decided from on high that it will be good and therapeutic for us. And who’ve assured everyone that there will be “zero commercialization” involved. (Right.)
First off, the logical person to appear with Rose this week would have been Caroline Kennedy, JFK’s daughter, the lone surviving member of the immediate presidential family. But according to Chris Heinbaugh, vice president of external affairs with the AT&T Performing Arts Center, Ms. Kennedy declined an invitation to participate.
As a result we’re going to hear instead from a niece and nephew of the late president. (Hell, if you wanted a JFK nephew to opine on the topic, Anthony Kennedy Shriver already came through town in 2011 and absolved Dallas of blame for the assassination on FrontBurner. Discussion by extended family members over.)
So, what’s the point of an 11-month-long extravaganza? If you wanted to honor JFK the man, why not do it in a year marking the anniversary of his birth or his assumption of the presidency, instead of the milestone year in which he was murdered by a Commie-wannabe nut? (Okay, conspiracy theorists: murdered by a fall guy for the CIA/military-industrial complex/Mafia/Cuban exile juggernaut that has run America with an iron fist ever since.)
Is the real purpose of the orgy to make Dallas look good, or feel better about itself? Did someone suggest it wasn’t feeling all right about itself, half a century later?
Dallas increasingly is a city of newcomers, and the number of people still living who were in Dallas on that fateful day in 1963 is dwindling all the time. Many of them that I know say the last thing they want to do is dredge up the bloody horror all over again and wallow in more outsider-imposed guilt and shame and penance.
They want to move on, in other words. Isn’t that a more sensible reaction than a year ofÂ “JFK50”?