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The Cold Filtered Ramblings of Gene Mueller

Municipal "bounce": how a city overcame a world's anger and displaced outrage

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It's never good when a really, really bad news story contains your city's dateline.

"Dahmer" and "Milwaukee" shared many a headline back when the serial killer's crimes and the trial that followed were the buzz of the day.   There was a time when traveling elsewhere meant exposing yourself to immediate, impromptu discussions of one of the nation's most heinous murder sprees the moment you were asked where you were from.  Life did eventually move on, other awful acts pushed Dahmer off page one and Milwaukee became, well, normal again.  

Not so for Dallas, Texas in the days after November 22, 1963.

As bad as Dahmer's deeds were, they didn't match the Kennedy assassination in terms of historic impact.   Dallas already had a rap as "the city of hate", being a hotbed of conservative activity against the Administration and U.S. involvement in the United Nations.   And, even though it was an avowed Marxist who pulled the trigger some would go on to blame the municipal atmosphere in Dallas for what happened.    Oswald acted alone but  way too many around the nation heaped guilt, blame and scorn on the city, making it an accessory after the fact.

Forgiveness would come, but not before Dallas itself came to terms with its image, its history, current events and a country's reaction. A longtime Texan who actually rode in Kennedy's doomed motorcade that awful day remembers the lows, the insults, the tedious slog that became a town's rebirth.

One of the targets of the bile became one of the city's greatest weapons in the fight for a fresh start: the Dallas Cowboys.  Bob Costas details what it was like to be on the squad before it became "America's Team", before it won championships, the team had to live with the shame that came with being associated with Dallas.  Among the myriad of JFK specials coming this anniversary month, I'm anticipating none more than his NBC's documentary  "No Day For Games".  It delves into one of the more questionable decisions made that November weekend, the one by NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle to go ahead with the league's slate of games despite the nation's grief.  A man who had a pitch-perfect sense for what his customers wanted couldn't have been more off-tune by letting his shows go on.  No one on any team had an appetite to play, and none carried a bigger load than the men from Dallas who traveled to Cleveland that weekend fearing for their lives.

The past confronts Dallas again this month as thousands flock to Dealey Plaza and the Sixth Floor Museum. Civic leaders knew the anniversary couldn't pass without municipal acknowledgment, and they've put together a somber occasion that will remember the deed as well as the accomplishments of the man who died that afternoon.   They're getting grief for not allowing the conspiracy industry a speaking part or, for that part, a seat at the table, but the grassy knoll crowd will always find a venue and an eager ear.

Dahmer and Milwaukee.  JFK and Dallas.  It's never good when your city is the dateline for tragedy or horror.  It's inspiring, though, to see how communities can bind together and struggle through the dark days to move on, not forgetting the past but also refusing to let it consume them.




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