Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dallas 1963 - Book Review

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In their new book Dallas 1963, authors Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis don't try to figure out who shot Kennedy. They don't spend time going through various conspiracy theories. Instead, this book takes an in-depth look at how the city of Dallas, some of its powerful leaders, and the 1960s culture shaped an environment that was super hostile to Kennedy and those who supported him. There was so much hatred in the city: toward African-Americans, toward Kennedy and his supporters, toward Communists, toward Socialists, toward Jews, toward Catholics. Basically, anyone who wasn't a white Christian. In fact, many people close to Kennedy, including Lyndon B. Johnson, advised him not to visit Dallas in 1963 because they feared Dallas was not a safe place for JFK.

Imagine if he had listened to those people and canceled his trip for November 22, 1963.

This book comes out at an opportune time, as 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination in Dallas. Last year I visited the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, which is located in the old Texas School Book Depository Building where Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly fired the shots. It was very interesting to be there where it all happened. I was in Dallas again for a week earlier this month for work, and the convention I was at was in the same building where the Kennedy luncheon was supposed to take place after his motorcade procession through the city. So reading in this book about what it was like back in 1960-1963 was pretty cool for me.

But even if you've never been to Dallas, this is a REALLY interesting book! It's crazy to think that the same things that were core components of Republicans' message in the 1950s and 1960s—anti-socialist programs, no federal health insurance, taking away the rights of one group of people—are pretty much the same things that Republicans/Tea Partiers are railing against today. (At least they are consistent.) Except instead of stripping away the rights of black people and being paranoid of Catholics, today they are stripping away the rights of gays and being paranoid of Muslims. Back then they were called "Birchers" (because they were members of the John Birch Society) while today they are called Tea Partiers. Instead of H.L. Hunt spewing his "facts" on the radio, now we've got Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. Does nothing change in America? Do we not learn from history AT ALL?

Seeing the similarities between Dallas then and America in general now is kind of scary, actually. There's so much passion and hostility right now, one has to wonder if we're stuck in another breeding ground just waiting for the next extreme act of violence.

Dallas 1963 is published by Twelve and is available to purchase now. I received a free Advance Review Copy at Book Expo America in May with no obligation to post a review.

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