Quick to Grieve. Slow to Forgive.
December 2, 2013
A nation was quick to grieve. It was slow to forgive.
First came the shock. Then came the mourning.
And finally anger boiled from it soul.
The unthinkable had happened.
A President had died in Dallas.
Three shots had been fired.
They had all been fired from the Texas Schoolbook Depository building.
Or from the grassy knoll.
Or from God knows where.
It was the American tragedy, and a nation grieved.
It cast its angry eyes toward Dallas.
The nation did not blame a long gunman.
It did not blame Cuba.
It did not blame the Mafia.
It did not blame Russia.
It did not blame Communism.
The nation blamed Texas.
And Dallas. Always Dallas.
The national press condemned the city first.
Too many Republicans, it said.
Too many Conservatives, it said.
Too many rightwing nuts, it said.
Dallas was a hotbed of hatred.
All of the broadcasters said it.
Dallas was the city of hate.
All of the newspapers printed it.
In Texas, we were appalled.
A President had been assassinated.
A city was being assassinated.
It hurt. It was personal.
But, I thought, this, too, will pass.
I was wrong.
A few years later, I was working with the Texas Tourist Development Agency, and one of my duties was to take the Texas Travel Exhibit to Boat, Sports, and Travel Shows throughout the North and Midwest during the cold, dreary days of Winter.
Our plan was simple. Show up in cities where everyone was tired of being trapped by snow, sleet, and ice,, then hand out travel brochures that talked about the warm Texas weather, especially during January through March.
The condemnation began early in Chicago and stayed with us as we moved to Cleveland and then on to Detroit.
I would be standing there passing out travel literature, and time after time some big old burly boywould walk up wearing brogans and lumberjack jackets and start spouting venom.
“You killed the President,” they would say. “He was in your state, and you killed him.”
The words varied from time to time, from place to place.
The accusation never did.
One would cast blame my way. Then here came his friends.
Fingers in my face.
“You killed the President.”
The first year was hard. The second was even worse.
No one had forgotten or forgiven.
When I left for the third show of the year in Detroit, I made it a point to land a day early. I set up the exhibit and went immediately to the library.
I was searching through every page of the newspaper, and it didn’t take long to find what I wanted. I took notes and memorized them.
I was ready.
The lights came on in in Cobo Hall on a Friday morning. The doors opened. A massive crowd surged onto the arena floor.
And here he came – short, stocky, gray beard.
But he was no different from the rest.
He stuck his finger in my face and said, “You killed the President.”
I waited a moment.
Then I responded, “A wife and mother was killed on the south side of Detroit last Saturday.”
He stepped back.
“Man strangled his two little girls,” I said.
Gray beard frowned.
“Burned his house down,” I said.
Gray beard glared.
“Walked next door and shot his neighbor to death,” I said.
Gray Beard’s eyes narrowed.
“Di you kill them?” I asked.
“I had nothing to do with it,” he said loudly.
“No, sir,” I said. “You didn’t. I didn’t kill the President either. I was as shocked and stunned as you were. All of Texas was. We grieved as you grieved.”
Gray Beard turned on his heels and walked away.
He was thumbing through travel brochures at the State of Arkansas booth when a white-haired little lady walked up to me. Her eyes were seething. “You killed the President,” she said.
Gray Beard turned and walked four steps back to the Texas booth.
“Leave him alone,” he said.
“Why?” the white-haired lady asked.
“He didn’t have nothing to do with it.”
I smiled. I had been right after all.
This, too, would pass.
All it needed was time.
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