After John F Kennedy was murdered on November 22 1963, Dallas became known as “the city of hate”. Its citizens were charged with creating a fervid rightist atmosphere in which Lee Harvey Oswald felt moved to shoot the president. Mike Rawlings, the city's current mayor, told me: “There are stories of people going to places and almost being embarrassed to be from Dallas back in the 1960s, early 1970s.”
I found Rawlings sneaking a catnap at the New Cities Summit in Sao Paulo in June. The man who came to Dallas in 1976 with $200 in his pocket and made it to president of Pizza Hut was taking the briefest break from his usual activity: plugging Dallas. But how does any city incorporate a global trauma into its image? It's taken Dallas 50 years to learn to deal with the murder.
Many Americans in 1963 couldn't accept that a lone loser like Oswald had changed history. Consequently, they blamed larger entities. Conspiracy theorists accused the Central Intelligence Agency or Cuban exiles. Others blamed Dallas itself.
To quote Texas Monthly magazine: “The tragedy seemed to seal the perception of our state as being populated by a bunch of trigger-happy yeehaws who were beyond forgiveness.” Because few outsiders knew anything else about Dallas, the assassination branded the city. In truth, Dallas in 1963 did house some noisy rightist Kennedy-haters. Days before he arrived, “Wanted for Treason” leaflets featuring him appeared around town. And on the day, the Dallas Morning News published an ominously black-bordered full-page ad portraying him as a communist fellow-traveller. Reading it, Kennedy told his wife: “We're heading into nut country today.”
《德克萨斯月刊》(Texas Monthly)写道：“那起悲剧似乎把世人对本州的印象固定了下来，即一个充斥着牛仔的州，那些牛仔动辄开枪、根本不值得原谅。”因为外面的人对达拉斯的其他方面知之甚少，于是刺杀事件成了这座城市的标签。事实上，1963年的达拉斯确实有一些讨厌肯尼迪、吵吵嚷嚷的右翼分子。在肯尼迪抵达达拉斯之前的几天，印着他的肖像、写有“通缉叛国者”(Wanted for Treason)的传单在城里随处可见。就在肯尼迪遇刺当天，《达拉斯晨报》(Dallas Morning News)整版刊出了一则颇不吉利的黑边广告，将他描绘为“共产主义的同路人”。看到广告，肯尼迪对妻子说：“我们今天要去一个疯子国了。”
After the murder, many diagnosed city-wide hate. Bill Minutaglio, co-author of the new book Dallas 1963, says: “Nothing like this could have happened, but in Dallas.”
Yet blaming Dallas is illogical. Oswald was a Marxist nut, not a rightwing nut. And as Rawlings says, “Dallas loves its presidents.” Nearly one in three Dallasites turned out to see Kennedy, with barely an unfriendly sign on display. In the motorcade, the Texan governor's wife, Nellie Connally, gushed, “Mr President, you can't say Dallas doesn't love you.” She was mostly right. Assassinations, Americans soon learnt, can happen anywhere. Cities don't kill people. People kill people.
After 1963, says Rawlings, many Dallasites “wanted to move on as quickly as possible”. They rarely discussed the murder. Gradually, though, the mood changed. Rawlings says: “In the 1980s, people started to think: we are the home of a very important moment in history. Not only because of the assassination, but that seemed to be the dawning of a new era. After that came the Vietnam war, civil rights came to its fruition, women's liberation. There was a new world, a door that somehow people walked through. Citizens said, 'We've got to make sure we capture the truth of this history.“”
Oswald had shot from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Plans to tear the building down were dropped. In 1989 it became a museum. Rawlings says, “For many years it was the one site that if someone visited you and said, 'What do you want to do in the afternoon?” you would say, 'Want to go down to the Sixth Floor Museum?“”
奥斯瓦尔德开枪的地方，位于达拉斯的德克萨斯州教科书仓库大楼(Texas School Book Depository)六层。达拉斯有过种种拆除那座大楼的计划，但后来都未执行。1989年，那座大楼变成了一座博物馆。罗林斯说：“多年以来，那座博物馆一直是来达拉斯的人必须造访的景点。如果有人来达拉斯拜访你，问你下午想干嘛？你会回答说，想不想去六楼博物馆(Sixth Floor Museum)？”
He adds: “I don't think we should be defensive or try to remove anything. It is what it is. That part of history will always be in Dallas.” Even Oswald, says Rawlings, belongs in the city's history. He attended elementary school in Dallas, and returned in 1962 after his Soviet jaunt.
The city can face these facts today largely because the assassination's stigma has faded. Rawlings says: “With time that changed, with the arrival of the Dallas Cowboys [football team] and different things that Dallas started to become known for. It became a secondary branding for the city.”
On Friday, the world will be watching Dallas. Rawlings says: “Before I became mayor, I realised that the one moment people were going to pay more attention to Dallas while I was mayor was November 22 2013. People look to 50th anniversaries. They remember where they were, and you retell the story.” Friday's commemoration will be sober and “very untouristy”, he adds. “I'm very shy about trying to do too much on this day. If I can stand up straight, salute the president and move on, I think Dallas has done what's right. Our brand won't be made because of this.”
Where was Rawlings on November 22 1963? “In elementary school in Leawood, Kansas. They moved us to the gymnasium, and I remember sitting Indian-style on the floor when the principal told us, and we were sent home. My mother was a teacher, and before she passed away she gave me a stack of letters that she had had her elementary-school grade write about their reflections on that weekend. It was marvelous. Just a bunch of kids in a random school in Kansas talking about this shows the depth and breadth of this moment in people's lives.”