1968 was an explosive mixture: boys and men going to fight an increasingly unpopular war in Southeast Asia, riots and cities on fire at home, women yearning for equality, a nation more deeply divided than at any time since the Civil War 100 years earlier.
1968 saw a harvest of the racism which had stained our nation since before its founding. Whites fled to the suburbs, and rioted against forced busing because though Brown versus Board of Education was the law of the land, the people of the land were afraid of integration.
1968 saw rebellion on campus after campus across the country. Anti-war protesters, Let Us Vote 18 protesters, pro-feminist protesters, eco awareness protesters. Posters and billboards everywhere proclaiming messages too numerous to count.
1968 saw urban areas organizing, rising up and marching. Equal housing was the law of the land, but the people were afraid of integration. Renters were striking for decent housing, and landlords letting buildings in the inner cities rot into decay.
1968 showed Americans a battle for the streets on the nightly news. News commentators described police command posts and their fight to regain control of vast parts of the cities.
1968 saw a completely to-be-expected law-and-order reaction to the upheaval of social order. Some of the people questioned authority and some of those in power sought to quell protest by any means.
1968 offered some hope for a peaceful future, and offered no hope for having peace right now for others. Some Americans were drafted, sent overseas to kill Vietnamese. Some Americans refused to be killers for America. How does one dislocate the functioning of a government without destroying that government? How does one protest violence through non-violent disobedience? Hope was a hard currency to get a hold of in 1968.
1968 saw dreams deferred, some dreams and dreamers killed, some people were so shattered by the stresses that dropping out seemed like the right approach. Some dropped out and never returned. Others resurfaced after the madness of the 60s and 70s had been replaced by the new madness of the 80s.
The hostage crisis nightmare in Tehran began November 4, 1979 and did not end until noon on January 20, 1981, inauguration day. No one has ever proven that a quid pro quo between Iran and the US was the reason for their release one minute into the Reagan presidency.
The former Hollywood actor who had starred in Bedtime for Bonzo asked, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” The collective intelligence was ‘No’ and so Ronald Reagan was elected in November, 1980, and the world watched him take the oath of office. He looked presidential, as though someone had phoned central casting and asked for a tall, good-looking man.
Grandma Susie’s Note
My dear Sunny,
Look at all we have seen.
And been. And done.
You always went first.
First to be in your sixth decade.
And now you are moving in with me.
Let's eat cake with every meal today.
Let's look at our photo albums all day and reminisce.
I have Prosecco in the fridge.
Per l’amaro e il dolce
(For the bitter and the sweet)
I remember many things – bitter
bad ones too.
Those who stayed – and
those who walked away.
Those who love me
are the dearest memory.