From the outset, Mayor Rawlings and the city of Dallas have made it clear that they intend to control the narrative on November 22, 2013 when they mark what they're simply calling The 50th. The 50th what? Never mind that. Just remember that this is about celebrating the life of a president, not dwelling on what happened five decades ago as his motorcade crept through Dealey Plaza.
Rawlings' narrative is already starting to buckle under its own wait as the measures intended to buttress it -- the security lockdown, the sweeping away of conspiracy theorists, the obsessive insistence on classiness -- instead paint a portrait of a city that still hasn't fully come to grips with the fact that it was party to one of the darkest days in American history.
Earlier this month came Mimi Schwartz's piece in Texas Monthly. Now it's the Wall Street Journal, which published a Christmas Day piece on the city's preparations for the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination.
The Journal focuses mainly on how the city's plans are being greeted by conspiracy buffs.
"It's absurd to move the discussion of his death to another moment," said John Judge, executive director of the Coalition on Political Assassinations, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that studies 1960s murders of public figures. "Our First Amendment rights are being violated."
Mr. Judge, 65 years old, said conspiracy-theory proponents have gathered at Dealey Plaza every Nov. 22 since 1964. Next year, he added, 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.
Mayor Mike Rawlings said in an interview that he would meet with Mr. Judge's group, as well as with others who object to the city's plans, to hear their concerns. But he is determined to keep the tone of the event reflective of the "international, cosmopolitan, arts-centered city" Dallas is today, he said, while focusing on President Kennedy's life and accomplishments. "For 40 minutes, we need to be focusing on the man, not the moment 50 years ago," Mr. Rawlings said.
As for how the city came to the perplexing conclusion that the best way to commemorate the Kennedy assassination is by pretending it didn't happen, the Journal provides just a smidgen of arm-chair psychology, noting that the country held the city directly responsible for the murder for decades.
Rawlings no doubt is banking on the fact that the swirl of activity that will descend upon Dallas around November 22 will drown out news reports like the Journal's, which wonder if the city is fretting a bit too much. Then again, Judge and his peers' megaphone will be that much larger, and they aren't going to stay silent.