The commemoration of a catastrophe is a tricky business, we learn from today’s Wall Street Journal.
With the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination approaching in November 2013, Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings has boldly come out in favor of observing the event without talking about its causes.
“For 40 minutes, we need to be focusing on the man, not the moment 50 years ago,” he said.
Welcome to JFK at 50. The moment has come not to talk about the moment. This is a dilemma in Dallas.
Given the rich mythologies of Camelot and conspiracy, the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death on November 22, 2013 promises to be an international media spectacle of no small proportions. Chris Matthews and Bill O’Reilly will unite to denounce Oliver Stone as the world observes a moment of silence for one of the worst days in the history of the United States of America.
Rawlings and the city of Dallas are planning a 40-minute, invitation-only ceremony at the spot where Kennedy died in a hail of gunfire. There will be no talk of the causes of JFK’s death, only talk of his life, they say.
John Judge, an affable leader of the Washington-based Coalition on Political Assassinations (COPA) makes the case to the Wall Street Journal for a more realistic and inclusive ceremony. (Robert Groden, a Dallas resident and expert in the photography of the assassination, has threatened a lawsuit if the city carries out its plans.)
“It’s absurd to move the discussion of his death to another moment,” Judge said. “Our First Amendment rights are being violated.”
Judge is insisting that the official 50th anniversary ceremony take cognizance of what many Americans regard as common sense: that President Kennedy was ambushed by his political enemies on November 22, 1963.
That popular view, however, is a controversial proposition to an influential minority in Dallas and Washington. Among such people, the idea of giving public expression to such beliefs would be undignified, almost crazy. Thus the city fathers are downplaying talk of “conspiracy” as inappropriate.
Is avoidance the best approach to an enduring public controversy?
Judge says no. He is inviting the city fathers of Dallas and the people of Dallas, and people from all over the world who who want to honor the slain liberal president next year, to join the people who have been doing so for a long time.
Judge and other dogged dissenters from the government’s official “lone gunman” theory have gathered at Dealey Plaza every Nov. 22 since 1964.
Next year, he told the Journal, will be the first that Dallas hasn’t granted a permit for the meeting, which usually involves a moment of silence and a few speeches. He said the city should move its ceremony elsewhere, adding that his group’s members would find a way to disseminate their theories during the city event, possibly even dropping protest banners from nearby buildings.