To be a Dallasite on the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination provides some really interesting insight. The New York Times and NPR, among other news sources, are reporting that we Dallasites are walking on eggshells, unable to reconcile the role this city played in the murder of a president, suggesting that we have preserved the same dysfunctional political landscape here that existed fifty years prior. You wouldn’t know it from these far removed, liberal media outlets but Dallas is indeed far evolved from what JFK called “nut country” moments before his assassination. The Sixth Floor Museum is a moving tribute to the role this city played before, during and after the national crisis. Spend an hour there and you will be very clear about the racial tensions that existed at the time. You will understand the intense pressure this country faced from our enemies in Russia and Cuba, especially. At the time, there was indeed a hostile, political movement making its way through Texas. Lee Harvey Oswald was a Marxist sympathizer who was anti-Washington establishment. Washington, D.C. seems awfully far, figuratively speaking, from Texas. JFK and the first lady were barely on the ground for 3 hours before the president’s body would go back into Air Force One in a coffin. Jackie, standing by Lyndon B. Johnson being sworn in, was covered in blood and dazed by shock. But is this really still the “city of hate” that the liberal media are reporting us to be?
What doesn’t make national headlines is the fact that Dallas is a solidly “blue” city, voting for a Democratic president for the last two presidential election years. We have several openly gay elected officials including a three-time elected, Latina lesbian city sheriff. We have had the first black mayor of a city in the state of Texas. We are one of the most diverse cities in the country with a majority-minority population. We have one of the largest concentrations of people with Vietnamese backgrounds. We have the largest Jewish population in the state of Texas. We have the largest gay Christian church in the United States. The media would lead you to believe that this is some kind of rabidly conservative, backwards urban center.
Now, honestly, would I live somewhere where that was the case? That’s what I always tell visitors whom I tour through my surroundings in Highland Park, Uptown, Oaklawn and Downtown. The response is usually, “I had no idea there is so much culture and wealth here!” Well, what did you think? Tumbleweed and horses? We are the ninth largest city in the world, despite having no access to a major port. We have the largest urban arts district in the US. We are the third largest collection of Fortune 500 companies in the country.
It is important for the country to grieve today from the magnitude of the actions of Lee Harvey Oswald and whoever assisted or participated in his egregious act. We must remain vigilant that it should not happen again. We must respect the office of the president, yesterday, today and in the future. No matter what your political viewpoint may be, a divided country unable to rally around its president serves no one any good.
However, I also think this anniversary might be a time for Dallasites to stand up and be proud for the beacon of light that our thriving city has come to stand for. We are the American dream. We weathered the economic meltdown, while still building, expanding and growing. Perhaps the reason that east coast liberals are so uncomfortable with our success is that we are a land where hard work and innovation are encouraged through low taxes, legislation favoring business, and little government regulation. Despite our city’s liberal social stance, the state’s conservative, republican economic policy has really incubated prosperity for those who work for it. I read a recent NYT article about the newly elected mayor of New York who has already waged war on business in the city. The author emphatically stated “but who would consider moving to Texas?” Reasonable people in search of a live-and-let-live culture, a hands-off government, and a fair shot at economic prosperity are historically the people who “go west” to come to 4 of the nation’s largest cities in Texas. No matter the color of your skin, your religious affiliation, or your political subscription, you can pave your own way here. We’ve come far in 50 years.