A ritual of forgetting in Dealey Plaza

Dealey Plaza on the eve of the 50th anniversary

The place where John F. Kennedy was shot and killed has both a gloomy and festive air on the eve of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of a shocking crime that most Americans regard as unsolved.

The crime scene is being scrubbed.

The weather is foggy, warm and humid. Temporary seating has been erected and the loudspeakers occasionally play the music that will be played at the one-hour ceremony scheduled to take place tomorrow around 12:30 pm, the time when the 35th president died in a hail of gunfire. Everywhere people huddle in conversation, point and debate, talking about the fatal gunfire and the causes of Kennedy’s death.

But this conversation takes place outside the barricades that surround the grounds of the official ceremony.

Erasing the evidence

The white “X” painted on Elm Street marking the place where Kennedy’s limousine was passing when he suffered a massive gunshot wound to the head has been removed.

The speaker’s platform has been situated so that the Texas School Book Depository where accused assassin Lee Oswald allegedly fired three shots at the presidential motorcade will not be visible to camera crews from around the world. The sight lines have been constructed to capture Dallas’ gleaming corporate towers and not the infamous grassy knoll, where more than 30 people (including 21 law enforcement officers) thought the fatal gunshot originated,

The admirers of Kennedy who have gathered on this spot every November 22 since the 1960s have been systematically spurned by a civic committee whose leaders have said they hope to hold an “uplifting” event about a murder in broad daylight.

A man slightly injured by a missed gunshot that day, James Tague, has been denied a ticket to the event.

The program will make no reference to the vitriolic hatred of Kennedy that pervaded the civic and political leadership of Dallas in November 1963.

Historian David McCullough, biographer of Harry Truman, will speak. Exactly a month after JFK died, Truman published a piece in the Washington Post calling for the abolition of CIA. But McCullough will not talk about that remarkable response to JFK’s murder. McCullough will read excerpts from Kennedy’s speeches.

Of course JFK should be remembered with the solemnity due to a fallen statesman, and dignity and controversy are incompatible. But to hold a ceremony in the place where he died and deny the evidence of his death speaks to the deep ambivalence and enduring denial that still surrounds the most painful day in American history between Pearl Harbor and September 11. LIke the continuing secrecy around the CIA’s records related to JFK’s assassination, the dressing up of Dealey Plaza betrays an impulse to exclude the painful reality of the JFK story from public discourse.

The weirdest thing

“Spectacle is likely to trump substance,” wrote Dallas native James McCauley in the New York Times. “Not one word will be said at this event about what exactly the city was in 1963, when the president arrived in what he called, just moments before his death, ‘nut country.'”

“It’s just the weirdest thing,” Deb Conway, whose group, JFK Lancer, puts on one of the largest conferences of researchers around the anniversary of his assassination, told the National Journal. “It’s like if you went to a funeral but no one talked about the person who was dead.”

Jim Schutze, columnist for the Dallas Observer weekly, who has written some of the sharpest commentary on this impenting ritual of forgetting, used the same analogy.

“Its like going to your parent’s funeral and your brothers and sister say ‘We’re not going to funeral or say the word ‘death.” If that happened you would say, ‘You need to see a shrink.’ Not in Dallas. Its the way we deal with things. Is it the culture? Or is it mind control?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22 comments

  1. Ronnie Wayne says:

    Three weeks ago on Saturday 11/2/13 I took my Daughter who had never been. She got a tour most people don’t. It was a bright sunny afternoon with quite a crowd. From the scheduled time on our tickets it was an hour wait to go up to the 6th floor. Lot’s of people from Minnesota as the Cowboys were playing the Vikings the next day.
    There were people there marking on the sidewalk with colored chalk: JFK Killed b4 Our Eyes, 50 Years Fed Lies, War Pigs, Criminal Govt., Oswald? Yeah Right (I have pictures).
    I took a picture of my Daughter and Wife standing about 15′ North of the corner of the picket fence on the grassy knoll shooting from the second X.
    While doing this a band of protesters came marching down Elm to the pergola shouting “Get the corruption out of government” (one over a bull horn. One sign said Greed Kills.
    While Mr. Groden (American Hero) was not there this time there was such a crowd around his table and assistant that you had to worm your way through the people between/on the sidewalk and the picket fence.
    Now the dignitaries and ticket holders who will freeze their wet butts off tomorrow won’t even be able to see the grassy knoll to judge the possibilities for themselves. Makeup over a scar.
    City of Dallas, Denial is more than the Egyptian river.
    God Bless the memory of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
    May his murderers burn in the hottest part of Hell for eternity.

  2. leslie sharp says:

    ” . . . the deep ambivalence and enduring denial …”

    Unfortunately I think the planning was far more sinister than an exercise in ambivalence or denial. We have only to look at the official committee members in charge of the 50th Anniversary ceremony, in particular the chair person (Ruth Collins Sharp Altchuler) to understand what is about to take place in Dallas. Nothing has changed. The removal of the X is so very symbolic of the Cover Up, at an almost laughable magnitude were it not so offensive. This is not ambivalence or denial, it is cover-up.

    “Is it the culture? Or is it mind control?”

    I’m not certain we can separate the two. (We now insist that all Islamists breed terrorists. Or in the ’50’s and ’60’s that communists were in our midst with a plot to destroy our way of life.) It could be said that Dallas’ capitalists bred hatred and fear of ‘the other’ in 1963, and Kennedy represented the other in so many ways, not the least of which was his religious orientation.

    . . . Or is it mind control?” I’ll risk taking the bait.

    I have read that the MkUltra Operation included the programming: “Remember to Forget.”

    The antidote is: Don’t Forget to Remember. That is what we must do tomorrow.

  3. D. Olmens says:

    “The crime scene is being scrubbed.”

    I think that’s a touch hyperbolic. Dealey Plaza is not a crime scene. The assassination happened 50 years ago. It’s the scene of a crime, not an actual crime scene.

    “But to hold a ceremony in the place where he died and deny the evidence of his death speaks to the deep ambivalence and enduring denial that still surrounds the most painful day in American history between Pearl Harbor and September 11.”

    I really wonder sometimes about conspiracy researchers. What exactly were you expecting? Some sort of freeform open-air symposium where everyone stands around debating bullet trajectories, autopsy photos, badgeman and the Zapruder film is playing on a big screen running on a loop?

    As far as denying the evidence, how would you suggest conspiracy theories are presented? Because there actually isn’t any “evidence” to deny. What conspiracy researchers are fond of describing as “evidence” is really nothing of the sort. There’s a lot of conjecture, joining of dots, elevation of marginalia, “had ties to”, “in fact turns out to be”, etc. If researchers had found any concrete, irrefutable evidence in the intervening five decades the conversation may well have turned out differently. In the current circumstances, a discussion about apophenia might be more appropriate.

    Given that conspiracy researchers frequently, and with little justification, elevate JFK to the status of a transformative, saint-like figure, it strikes me as somewhat obtuse that they would spurn the opportunity to mark the occasion of the man’s passing in a dignified and respectful manner. One can’t help but suspect that it’s the fact that they’re not being provided with a public platform to promote their theories that is really the problem here. It’s all a bit sad really.

    • leslie sharp says:

      The sadness, really, is this suggestion that any who question the Warren Report, who identify a pattern of cover-up post assassination (ref. the CIA instructions issued to the media as to how to respond to challenges of the WR which I have personally encountered) might suffer from apophenia.

      To ridicule those who refuse to accept the perpetuation of the further cover-up, 50 years later and tomorrow symbolized by the removal (read: covering up) of the X where the lethal bullets struck their mark, is, I think, an affront to your fellow Americans. You may not agree with the opposition to what is about to occur in Dallas, but attempting to psychologically silence their/our expression is a form of subliminal censorship. Many who vociferously advocate that the official story should be set in stone seem to attempt to exercise a degree of psychological intimidation.

      I reject your intimation that all who challenge the ‘Oswald did it’ meme have elevated John Kennedy to Sainthood. This debate, this examination, is about a branch of our democratic government, one of three legs of the official barstool. If Ronald Reagan had been murdered in a similar fashion, I for one would have been equally outraged, and concerned for our country.

    • JSA says:

      Symbols have meaning. I don’t think it would be appropriate to discuss bullet trajectories, etc. tomorrow. But I also don’t think it would be inappropriate to reflect on how JFK tried to start a dialog with the Soviet Union after standing up to his Joint Chiefs — avoiding a nuclear holocaust which we can all be thankful for. I think it’s entirely appropriate to give mention to what kind of a president we lost that day, what he meant to the nation. I appreciate that President Obama will call for all national flags to fly at half mast tomorrow.

      I don’t think JFK was a saint. One of the books I read this month was the Mimi Beardsley intern memoir which detailed JFK’s weird sexual relationship with a 19-year old. I’m fully aware of the Kennedy family’s mob ties. So I know he’s made of flesh and bone, just like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and others in our past. In reflecting on another of our presidents who was assassinated before he could fulfill his legacy, I can’t help but think that a 150-year anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination at Ford’s Theatre would be a nice way to reflect on what we lost in 1865. I would not be bothered at all to hear in that 2015 commemoration about how Booth shot him, about some of the gore and blood.

      Certainly Jackie didn’t take her pink dress off for LBJ’s swearing in ceremony—why should the nation sanitize the 50th anniversary ceremony either?

  4. JG says:

    What evidence ? Shit that Oswald did in the 6th grade is evidence to only nut cases and kooks. There were no other suspects the case was cinched within the week. Get over it.

    • JSA says:

      What evidence do you have that Oswald fired the shots? None? Instead of taking pot shots from up high, show some facts, JG. Otherwise, you’re just trolling.

  5. William Kane says:

    Today, of all days (It’s the 22nd in England as I type) give the snide, anti-conspiracy propaganda a rest can’t you?

    I am no fan of JFK’s memory. He was nowhere near what we’d call left-wing in England and indeed Europe. That said, he was the best of a bad bunch of presidents you’ve had the misfortune to endure over there. More importantly, he was murdered by your very own people. By your very own CIA. May God have mercy on his soul, may God punish those responsible for killing him and may He give comfort to Lee’s family on Sunday.

  6. Shane McBryde says:

    I can’t believe the hours of television wasted running these one to two hour JFK Assassination “specials” recycling the same old video, interviewing the same old cast of characters, and rehashing the same old tired line. There must be 4 or 5 shows airing tonight alone, and with all of the new information come to light in the last 50 years, not so much as a brief reference to any of it on these programs. It’s down right Kafkaesque. To watch these shows you’d think not one single thing has changed since November 1963!

    Last night PBS ran the 20 year old Frontline special, “Who was Lee Harvey Oswald.” My god I thought, really? What exactly is the point? They would’ve done better just having 2 hours of dead air! I can’t tolerate one more showing of the Zapruder film, one more interview with Clint Hill, one more retelling of the harrowing trip to Parkland Hospital; not one more retelling of how sad, brave and courageous everyone was.

    What about the dead president? What about telling us how the president could’ve been killed by a man who was known to the FBI & CIA years before he drifted into dallas 6 weeks before Kennedy arrived? What about how the president gets shot while surrounded by Secret Service agents, Dallas PD and deputy sheriffs?

    It’s like the same broken record playing on PBS, History Channel, Discovery, CNN, et al. Let’s just ignore the fact that we let the president get killed and keep patting ourselves on the back for how well we grieved!

  7. Photon says:

    Talk about forgetting- no mention of R.C. Nelson’s comments today?

  8. It wasn’t an “X”…….. it was a White Cross, like the one on the
    towpath of the C&O. Remember Jack today. That man were a class act. Spend an afternoon viewing all of his press conferences and know what we’re missing. RIP, Mr. President. Fifty bloody years. And many, many tears.

  9. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde says:

    “The program will make no reference to the vitriolic hatred of Kennedy that pervaded the civic and political leadership of Dallas in November 1963.”

    The City doesn’t need to make reference to that hatred, their actions speak louder than their own voice today, 50 years and still trying to hide reality.
    I doubt many truly think JFK a “Saint”…but the Sanctity of our Nation fell when he did. Today is not a celebration of JFK’s life, it is the anniversary of his murder. Somehow Dallas Officials think it should be a day to rejoice and be merry. The Nation thinks it should be a day to remember and is somber.
    Dallas Officials today may laugh and giggle in their celebration, while the majority in America weep for the tragedy in Dealy Plaza. JFK was murdered in Dallas?….get over it….here, have some champagne.

  10. Leroy Blevins Sr says:

    You know I think it is a shame that these researchers will not help me get the truth out on what really happen that day in the JFK Assassination. They seen my work and I am the only researcher that holds real photo evidence that shows us what happen that day. There were 4 gunmen there and Yes Lee H Oswald was one of the gunmen. The location of these gunmen where Oswald on the 6th floor of the TSBD. One gunman on the roof top of the Records building. Then two gunmen in shelter number 3 right behind Mr.Zapruder. There were 13 shots fired that day. JFK was shot 4 times and Gov.Connally was shot 2 times. Then there were 7 distraction shots taken. And if someone like to see there is two bullet holes that still can be seen today at Dealey Plaza. Look at the manhole cover on Elm street you will see two bullet holes on the concrete of that manhole cover.

  11. weronika says:

    A GRIM MEMENTO

    wet clouds had lifted
    and
    in a strong Autumn sunshine
    there was a car
    full of yellow roses
    Mr. President
    You certainly can’t say
    “Dallas doesn’t love you”
    the last words
    he ever heard
    the roses changed into blood
    the course history
    altered forever as
    a grim memento

    the “gardeners of red roses”
    where are you ?

    yes
    there were a lot of bad
    things still existing to-day
    but
    there was the third shot
    the one
    that shattered the
    President head

    fifty unanswered years
    and
    blooming “roses” with
    the smell of red

    AD 2013, weronika arent, poet from Poland, the citizen of U.S. of America

  12. Ronnie Wayne says:

    http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/11/22/5360733/kennedy-remembered-at-fort-worth.html?rh=1

    While JFK’s comments about him at the time are mentioned in this article it does not say so but I believe that is former Speaker Jim Wright in the first picture. Looks like he was addressing the breakfast this morning at the same place he shared the stage with JFK 50 years ago. Interesting Clint Hill was there. Bless him for at least trying to do something when no one else did, even if it was too little too late. Nice statue there in the pictures.

  13. Avinash says:

    Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

    George Santayana

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