Posted on July 02, 2010

By Rob Pressel

Today we had a not so sunny day in Dallas. After breakfast in Little Rock we began the drive to Dallas, TX. For the first half of the trip most of us fell asleep. After a quick bathroom stop, we watched the movie, “Thank You for Smoking.” It is a movie about a lobbyist for the tobacco industry. Billy put the movie on as a way to teach us about “spin control” and how people can, and do, twist and change their answers to questions to get their point across.

We stopped for lunch where people had a choice of various restaurants such as Sonic and Schlotzky’s Deli. I had seen many commercials for Sonic but there are none where I live, so it was interesting to go there.

After lunch we arrived at the White Rose Women’s Center, where we met with Andrew Smith, a representative of the Dallas Catholic Pro-Life organization. Since I am very pro-choice, I was a bit apprehensive about this meeting. After we arrived, we were split up and half the group went to see an ultrasound of a 20-week-old fetus, while the other group continued speaking with Andrew. We then switched with the other group.

While I remain unconvinced, he did have a few good arguments against abortion. That was until we began to ask questions about separation of church and state and abstinence only education. I felt he started to dodge some of our questions. He, as we saw in the movie earlier, tried to change our questions and turn his answers into statements he wanted to make, that didn’t really have to do with our questions. Overall, even though we disagree, I think it was an interesting conversation.

After the pro-life discussion, we drove to Dealey Plaza, where President Kennedy was assassinated. This was particularly exciting for me as I have been very interested in the assassination and the conspiracies surrounding it.  I have frequently discussed it with Mr. Young, my history teacher. After Billy spoke to us about the JFK presidency, and showed us the spot where Kennedy was shot as well as the grassy knoll, we went into the museum just as it started to rain. Inside the 6th Floor Museum, we learned details of the assassination, of Lee Harvey Oswald, and of the investigations. They had specific pieces of evidence on display including the famous Zapruder film. The museum is located in what was formerly the Texas School Book Depository, so it was great seeing out the same window as Oswald did.

learning about JFK on the famous "grassy knoll"

After the museum we were supposed to meet with a conspiracy theorist who did not show up due to the rain. Just as Billy was about to tell us some of the theories, he saw a friend of his who is also a conspiracy theorist.  His name was Ron. Ron walked us around the grassy knoll, telling us about the various conspiracies and showing where they occurred, as well as what he believes happened. He believes that then-Vice President Johnson was behind it as a way to ensure that he would be President and we would go to war in Vietnam.  I think there was a conspiracy, but more to it than what Ron was saying.

Hearing about the magic bullet theory from a conspiracy theorist

The brave few who stayed in the rain to hear the conspiracy theories

Finally, we ended the day by going to Beth El Binah for Friday Night services. It is a Reform, gay/lesbian synagogue. We began by lighting Shabbat candles and saying the prayers over wine and challah, and then we ate dinner. The congregants made us dinner and it was really good.  Our group split up and a few of us had dinner with a congregant. After dinner we had services. It was very open and informal, which was exemplified by the congregants heckling each other during services and our multiple changing of tunes.  We then had wrap up about our day and discussed the issue of gay marriage with the congregants. It was great to realize how close our group has become in only five days, and how friendly and close this synagogue is. We felt like old friends with the congregants after only ten minutes.

Lighting Shabbat candles

Singing the blessings over the wine

Having dinner with our new friends at Beth El Binah

Shabbat services

Overall, today was an amazing day and I am excited for Oklahoma City tomorrow..