Fifty years is a relative blip on the grand timeline, barely a rounding error between your genesis point and the end of life as we know it. Yet in human terms, 50 years is longer than many life spans, past and present.
In Dallas terms, 50 years is five decades of exploration, examination and grinding introspection about what happened, and why, on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dealey Plaza.
John F. Kennedy’s slaying was a seminal event in our city’s history, encapsulating too much that came before and influencing much that would follow, and here we are. We have considered it, studied it, reflected and grieved.
It’s tempting to acquiesce after all these years, to step away from the pain and sadness and horror of a president’s murder on our streets, and say, finally: “Enough. We are past that now.”
That many of us have obsessed about this single moment for so long says something. Dallas today bears little resemblance to 1963 Dallas. Divisions and demarcations, fading away by the decade, were stark. Today’s politics may have troubling elements, but they are a shallow dive compared with the dangerous extremism then.
“City of Hate” was not meant as an irony. It wasn’t an entire city, far from it, but certainly a part. With 50 years of hindsight, calling Dallas the city that killed Kennedy was neither fair nor accurate, given the lack of evidence that anyone other than a troubled loner was involved. Yet the allegation wasn’t that Dallas pulled the trigger, necessarily, but whether such a heinous crime could have happened anywhere else.
In truth, few 1963 U.S. cities would bear up well under scrutiny from 2013 eyes. America changed, and Dallas changed with it — more than many cities, perhaps, because it had a longer way to go. On balance, this has been a positive drawn from our introspection.
Another is the openness of our rumination. The events today in Dealey Plaza, remembering the 50th anniversary of a president’s death, are years in the making. City leaders, elected and unelected, have weighed competing priorities to find an appropriate ceremony that, importantly, strikes the right tone.
Despite what some outsiders might argue, Dallas has not shied away from hard questions. This, too, says something important about our city, even if fewer than 10 percent of its residents today were here on Nov. 22, 1963. This story, this event, belongs to all of us.
Which is why Dallas will resist the temptation to simply move beyond this moment, if that means shoving it onto some forgotten bookshelf.
A president was killed here for reasons that died with his killer. It does us no good to pretend this didn’t happen 50 years ago. From this terrible day and all the ones that follow, we will keep learning about ourselves and our city.”
– Editorial in the Dallas Morning News, "November 22, 1963 — A Date Dallas Will Never Truly Get Beyond"