Over wine on a rooftop recently, conversation turned to Dealey Plaza in Dallas, and the significance of the site. My new friends argued that the emotional wounds were big enough to where driving over the Xs where Kennedy was shot was a cruel reminder of the pain and shame associated with the assassination on the psyche of the city.
“They should demolish the whole thing and make it a memorial or something!” they argued.
I agree that the painted Xs on Elm street where eager tourists pose for photographs, are a perverse venue for people to find connection with historic time. However, they still keep the site alive in the consciousness of the city. The crosses are painted by a conspiracy theorist, not the City and not the Sixth Floor Museum.
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza is one of the busiest cultural institutions in Dallas, and it is more than a static memorial as proposed by my new friends. It manages to respectfully keep the conversation alive, the memory real. A memorial offers nothing but closure and reflection. Au contraire, stand at the corner of Elm and Houston on any weekday afternoon and you will see a flood of people, attempting to immerse themselves in the very real, still relevant context and dialog offered by the site. Walk a block over to the JFK memorial (it exists), there is no crowd and it reads dead.
You can patch the surface of things and embrace denial, but pressing Ctrl + ALt + Del won’t do away with discomfort here- when history changes, it resounds forever. To put an end to things that stir debate, evoke emotion and engage people, is to put a plastic bag around a living being’s head. Which brings me to Erykah Badu.
I too hope Dallas has better things to do than press charges, but they surely will, and the irony here, is that by pressing charges, they will just be proving her point.
“Art can never exist without naked beauty displayed,” said William Blake. He was a wise one.