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Dallas may think its reputation will never recover, after it hosted Kennedy’s assassins fifty years ago. Given who carried out the murder, though, you can’t hold Dallas responsible for the crime. Yes, one perceives an anti-Kennedy atmosphere of hate in central Texas at the time, but haters reside everywhere. Almost no one in Dallas wanted to see Kennedy killed, and most of the people who planned his murder did not come from there.

Dallas authorities, however, bear a big load of responsibility for helping to conceal the truth about who murdered Kennedy, and about who murdered one of its own policemen, J. D. Tippit. In the days after November 22, Dallas police and prosecutors collaborated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to hide the truth. Later on, when the Dallas police realized the feds consistently blamed the Dallas authorities to cover themselves for the crimes, it was too late. The Warren Commission published its report to document the original falsehoods. For the most part, the deception worked.

Artwork for the Dallas Love Project.

If Dallas wants to redeem its reputation, it should not launch the Dallas Love Project. This idea amounts to kindergarten politics. The plan, already underway, is to line Kennedy’s motorcade route with posters about love. Honestly. Is this what grief and remembrance look like in our struggling republic? What a saccharine, misplaced idea, given what happened in Dealey Plaza, near Houston and Elm. Underneath the colors and sweetness, the wound inflicted on all of us fifty years ago still works its harm. 

If Dallas wants to repair the effects of the crime that occurred there on November 22, 1963, city leaders ought to:

    • Do what they can, with local resources and fifty years of history behind them, to uncover the truth about why Kennedy died.
    • Unearth the complicity of Dallas police and prosecutors in helping the feds lie about who committed the crime.
    • Insist that the feds come clean, too.
    • Lead the rest of the country in accepting the truth about what happened, and in accepting what the truth implies.

Front page of the Dallas Morning News on Saturday, November 23, 1963.

The people of Dallas, and of Texas, have the guts and desire to undertake a truth-telling project like this. The crime took place in Texas, and local knowledge counts for a lot. Most of all, Texas has the required spirit of independence. It has the rough edges, courage, and independence to back up what the doctors at Parkland hospital said about Kennedy’s wounds. It has a political tradition of not giving a damn what the feds say. If the Lone Star State – Dallas in particular – were to live up to that tradition now, during this season of remembrance, it could take a healing and significant step.

If instead city leaders choose to line Kennedy’s motorcade route with bright paintings and happy sayings about love, we might as well finish our walk down Main Street with a trip to the Sixth Floor Museum in the former Texas Schoolbook Depository. That’s where you’ll see and hear a story that brings shame to the city. That’s where you see, in pictures and words, the lies that Dallas’s authorities helped to create.

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