On November 22 of next year, Dallas will observe The 50th. No, not Dallas' 50th. Not your 50th. THE 50th. The 50th anniversary of mm-mm. We're not supposed to say what mm-mm is.
At a media event last week to announce plans for The 50th, Mayor Mike Rawlings said, "The name is simply The 50th." A large sign behind the podium said, "The 50th."
This is a very weird city.
OK, let's go along with it for a minute. Let's suppose you don't know yet what it's the 50th of. I will give you three clues. 1) JFK. 2) Dealey Plaza. 3) Kapowee!
Now you get it! So isn't this weird? It's like telling people they can only refer to Christmas as "The 2012th." Rawlings, normally a reasonable man, gave these reasons: "The entire country and world will be looking on Dallas this time next year, November 22, 2013, 50 years later."
OK. So they're looking on us. Now what? Rawlings said the event his committee announced at last week's deal is aimed at carefully controlling what the world will see when it looks on us:
"First let me discuss what we are going to accomplish with this event," he said. "This is an event to honor the remarkable life, legacy and leadership of President John F. Kennedy. Solely that, and nothing more."
Get it? Nothing more. My three hints I gave you? Take out the last one. There will be no mention — absolutely not one word — about the kapowee.
Rawlings went on: "Secondly, the tone is very important. We want to mark this day remembering a great president with a sense of dignity and honor."
So, to recap, we will refer to it only as The 50th. Not The 50th so-and-so. Just The 50th. No mentioning the kapowee. And only dignity and honor will be allowed.
Tell me something. Is Dallas just hell-fated forever to be the architect of its own doom? Does the city just have to walk straight into the knockout punch every time the bell rings? Is it really even possible that people don't get what they're setting themselves up for with this kind of totally crazy crap?
Dallas doesn't remember Kennedy's life. He didn't live here. We had nothing to do with his life. We had to do with his death. Even in Dallas, where euphemism is its own kind of art form, you can't euphemize kapowee. Kapowee is kapowee. That's what this is the 50th of. Being told not to say it out loud just makes us feel like we live in a loony bin.
Ah. I give up. I mean, what do I care? It'll make a great story. If I had any sense at all I would keep my mouth shut until the whole thing blows up in their faces. But you know what may be the worst part? Some of the people who have been suckered into running this thing, like Ruth Collins Sharp Altshuler, chairperson of the mayor's 50th Mm-Mm Committee, are perfectly nice people with good intentions who love the city. But they persist in this uniquely Dallas failing of having no idea how the rest of the world thinks.
For example: The whole legal structure for this 50th thing is illegitimate as hell, just waiting to get shot full of holes in court. A year ago the city gave some kind of bogus backdoor permit to the Sixth Floor Museum granting it exclusive access to and control over Dealey Plaza for the entire week of The 50th.
When a group of assassination buffs and scholars called The Coalition on Political Assassination (COPA) sought a permit for a moment of silence next November 22 in Dealey Plaza, the city informed them that the Sixth Floor was already doing a moment of silence and park department employees could not schedule two moments of silence at the same time.
You know. They didn't want one moment of silence to drown out the other one. Hey! Will you guys tone it down with the silence over there? In other words, the city's own permitting policies were gruesomely deformed to grant the Sixth Floor a weeklong kibosh on everybody else who wanted access. Now the city is saying that the city itself is taking over the permit that it gave to the Sixth Floor Museum.
So how'd the city do that? Did the Sixth Floor scalp it back to them or something? And anyway, how can the city hold its own permit? It seems a bit transparent for the city to tell people who want a permit, "Oh, we only had one, and we gave it to ourselves."
It gets worse. The committee's plan calls for locking down Dealey Plaza 48 hours ahead of the anniversary. The event itself will be closed to the public, accessible only to ticket-holders. I asked the mayor how many tickets they would be handing out and to whom. He said he didn't know.