If you are American, my age or older and were living in the U.S., 1968 was a strange and terrible year.
The political climate today reminds of back then. 1968 was the year which saw the escalation of the Vietnam war and violent protests to that war.
It was the year Eugene McCarthy won in the primaries, but couldn’t win the Democratic nomination. In the end, the nod went to Hubert Humphrey because it was also the year in which Lyndon Johnson said “I will not seek, nor will I accept my party’s nomination for President of the United States.” Which threw the election wide open.
A nearly forgotten Richard Nixon stepped out of the shadows and took center stage. Garry knew because Lyndon Johnson told him over a campfire in Vietnam. Read about it here.
Then Robert Kennedy threw his hat in the ring — but got it shot off by an assassin. Not before Martin Luther King was gunned down (two months earlier) in Tennessee. Across the nation, tanks rolled down streets. Machine guns were at the ready on the steps of the Capitol in DC.
That’s what happens when you stir the pot, add gobbets of hate and rage. If no one is willing to add civility or reason to the mix, when all politics is fueled by anger, stupidity, fear, and ignorance … you get 1968. And you get today.
Most people don’t remember any of this. It happened before Gen X-ers or Millennials were born. Real history has been reduced to a footnote. We’ve erased our past, learned nothing.
1968 was the beginning of my slide from idealism to cynicism. A lot of people died. There were protests, riots, more deaths. The Chicago Democratic Convention — a police riot — didn’t even slow the process down. The war didn’t end. The best candidates never ran.
I remember the shock, horror, disbelief at the first Kennedy assassination in 1963. Then, before the pain of that loss was processed, the awful replay was Bobby’s death in 1968. I don’t remember how many assassinations occurred in those few years, but it seemed like it was on the news all the time. Death, more death, more hate.
Eugene McCarthy was a hope born and dashed in less than a season. After all of the guts, guns, glory, and horror we got Richard Nixon as President. I didn’t think it could get worse. But it did. It has.
It is worse.
The Vietnam War rolled on. The protests didn’t end. The hatred built to a crescendo. Then, it was Watergate. The world spun crazily on its axis. I would never feel the same about our country or our political system.
When Clinton was elected, it was the first positive political event in my lifetime. When Obama was elected, we hoped for a brief shining moment that the world had truly changed. But all it seems to have done is bring the haters crawling out of the woodwork. Now, I don’t hope. I just fear.
I see Bernie Sanders making promises he knows he can’t keep. I see Donald Trump spouting the kind of racist hatred I was sure I’d never have to listen to again, not to mention his proposals that are outright illegal … while the morons cheer for him.
Every pol is pushing a personal agenda without regard for how, in the end, we the people will pay the price for their egotism, their narcissistic determination to win at any price.
Make no mistake. There’s nothing harmless about this. The spoilers and the haters are out to prove their point — no matter what. They are not our friends. They are killing us, eating our future in 10 second sound bites.
This is what happens to those who know no history. We are about to repeat the past, but it will be much worse this time.