Writers on Kennedy

What we think about when we think about JFK

Bill Minutaglio
Bill Minutaglio

'Fear and Distrust'

Writers on Kennedy

The meaning of the Kennedy assassination, to me, is that we have lost the meaning – that we have lost the lessons, the messages inherent in his death. When he came to Dallas in 1963, the city's microphone had been hijacked by a very small handful of rabid extremists. The group – which included the wealthiest man in the world, preachers, politicos, lunatic military men, and a media mogul – stole the civic discourse, and built a toxic, anti-Kennedy trap, as the president neared the city in November 1963. They created a vitriolic, hateful environment – and they were clearly not speaking for the majority of people in Dallas. But they had access to the pulpits, the airwaves, the news pages – and, together, they serve as a cautionary reminder of what happens when a small, strident group can push the public debate to the fanatical, extremist fringe.

Fifty years later, it seems there is another determined handful pulling the country apart – pulling it to the extremes, and abandoning reasonable debate and healthy discussion. Dallas 1963 might very well be America 2013, in that we've not meditated enough on what happens when an angry handful presume to speak for the majority – and they concoct such fear and distrust.

Bill Minutaglio is the co-author with Steven L. Davis of Dallas 1963 (Twelve Books). He is a clinical professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, the author of several other books (including biographies of George W. Bush and Molly Ivins), and a contributing writer to The Texas Observer.

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