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Sunday, June 3, 2018

1968, anni horribiles

For John, BLUFIt didn't really hit me until we got back to the States in 1970 and then, a couple of days back, found my wife's cousin, a Math Post-Doc, had been killed in a bombing by folks associated with the Weather Underground.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here is the sub-headline:

The class of 1968 included Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump.

From The Wall Street Journal, by Reporter Daniel Henninger, 30 May 2018.

Here is the lede plus two:

The modern era of American politics—defined by polarization and nonstop intensity—began with the cataclysmic events of 1968, now celebrating, if that’s the right word, its 50th anniversary.

Everyone says the pace of events in the Trump presidency is overwhelming.  Compared with 1968, the past year has been a walk in the park.

Nineteen sixty-eight was one of the greatest anni horribiles ever to happen inside the U.S., producing war, assassinations and riots.

A friend of mine just wrote:
I just attended my college class’ 50th reunion.  Part of the program included two of the school’s history professor’s discussing how 1968 was one of most influential/impactful years in US history just behind the defeat of British in 1783 that resulted in US independence and the election of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War.   Daniel Henninger captures in his 31 May Op-Ed below much of these history professors discussed with me and my classmates from 1968.   What he doesn’t discuss is the traumatic impact on my male contemporaries of facing mandatory military service and the likelihood being assigned to fight in Vietnam a war that the nation seemed confused about and was tired of pursuing.

The urban riots that followed Martin Luther King’s assassination and the Democratic National Convention in Chicago raised doubts about whether domestic tranquility at home was still possible.  It had begun before, but in 1968 certainly my peers began to have serious doubts if the US government was being honest with them - - - - a view that has grown not abated during the intervening 50 years.

The two professors who spoke at my class reunion also pointed out that 1968 is where Americans began to stop voting on the basis of political parties and shifted to cultural and identity issues that has created the deep partisan divide we are experiencing today.  As I attended my 50th class reunion and read this op-ed I thought back to how dangerous and confusing the world seemed to me as I was about to leave college life for military services and to go in harm’s way for causes for which there was no national consensus and were victory as explained by the political elites of the time didn’t seem to matter all that much to America’s national security.  As result of this 50th college reunion experience along with a bit of reflection I now have a better understanding of why what is happening today doesn’t faze or surprise me very much, as 2018 compared 1968 is in many ways is a much more settled time.

I was in Germany that year.  And, being from California, and being influenced by my Mother, I voted for Senator Hubert Horatio Humphrey.  The year 1972 was the break year for me.  I guess I am slow.

Regards  —  Cliff

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