In 1968 I was a skinny, pimple-faced High School Senior. My biggest challenges were refraining from squeezing my zits and soiling my undies in my sleep. Worrying about economics, paying bills, who was in charge of the world, or any of those things took a back seat to fantasizing about my Business teacher, Miss Hopkins, and her Tabu perfume, and selling shoes at Bakers in Iverson Mall. But the whole country was going crazy; I just didn’t think about it.
It has been argued that 1968 was the year that changed everything. Lyndon Johnson grew frustrated with the war in Vietnam and decided not to seek reelection. He had become President upon the death of John Kennedy and then won the election by beating a lame opponent, Barry Goldwater. But now he wanted out. The country was being torn apart by opposition to a war that was none of our business. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. After the death of MLK, the cities erupted in riots. Whole city blocks were burned to the ground. Richard Nixon was elected to his first term as President, only to resign the office amid scandal five years later. O. J. Simpson won the Heisman Trophy.
It’s easy to say today that everyone was just out of their minds back then, but unless you were there you can’t know. I was there, but oblivious, so how can anyone not subjected to it really understand? There are news accounts and historical records, but the atmosphere is not in the records. It was surreal. I remember my mother waking me by yelling upstairs to my attic apartment that Bobby Kennedy had been killed. All that went through my mind was that one day five years before, where the only thing on television was the funeral of John Kennedy. Was I going to miss Mayberry R.F.D.? Seriously though, it was shocking. How could I understand what was happening? My graduation was in just a couple of days, and that was heavy on my mind.
The Tet Offensive had just taken place in January. We watched the television reports, while my parents worried I would be drafted. I worried, too. Everyone was expected to wave a flag and declare love for America, but the young people could not figure out why we were in Southeast Asia. We were being thrown to the dogs for the sake of stopping Communist aggression. Or, so the story went. No one wanted to call it a Civil War.
But that’s all in the past. We made a mistake and lost a lot of lives as a result. I just didn’t want to be one of them. John Prine wrote a great song, “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You into Heaven Anymore.” It was written in 1971, but I always loved the picture it painted. Honestly, I don’t really care what your feeling might be for that period of time, but while I was there, that’s how I felt. When the media was hammering Bill Clinton and George W. Bush for avoiding the draft, I sat back and held my tongue, because I understood. No one really wanted to go.
It’s easy to go to war when you can do it by proxy. Your life is safe if someone else is doing the fighting. Soldiers lose an arm, a leg, an eye, a life, a family, but it’s all OK, if it is them and not us. Politicians wave their arms high and scream “bloody murder,” but it is not them who are suffering. They don’t walk around with a limp, or an eye patch, or scooting around in a wheelchair. Yeah, they send their kids, but they send their kids. Not them. They’re safe. You can label me Liberal or whatever, but the fact of the matter is, war kills. It isn’t good for anyone. Everyone suffers.
As a society, we have to find a way to avoid war. If we are attacked, we have to react. Afghanistan made sense because that was the haven of Al-Qaeda, and they struck first. Iraq was vengeance, getting even for the past.
If fifty years of history taught us anything, I would be surprised. We never seem to learn. When it comes to economic gains over death, we accept death as a consequence. As long as it’s not our death. Throw a soldier into the heat, and he’ll take it. But we’re running out of soldiers. In 1968 we had the draft, which meant the soldier had no choice. He had to go. Today, there is no draft, and with what is occurring at the present time, fewer men and women are opting to join. They don’t want to die any more than the politicians who have chosen their fate.
With that being said (ha ha), we need to change the future.
Bake My Fish
10 thoughts on “1968 – Fifty-Five Years Ago”
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Bake My Fish too…will you please…
It seemed it all started taking place when JFK was killed.
The proverbial poop hit the fan. President Johnson wasn’t worth his weight in salt. I never trusted him…I had my doubts if he wasn’t the one responsible for JFK. He wanted to be President so badly.
Plus I never liked the fact that he picked his dogs, Him and Her, up by their ears…the big dumb Texan, I wanted to kiss his @%$^&%$#@!
It was a turbulent time for sure. And we were coming out of the Flower Children era. It was still make love not war…but only in places like Height Ashbury and Kent State. My friends were being sent to war. And unless you were a draft dodger, which was considered worse than having sex with your mother on the front porch when there was a parade going by…
If I was a guy I would have gone to Canada…or Mexico. I would not have cared.
The war the US should have gotten involved in was WWII when the Nazis were killing Jews and more minorities by germiciding them by the millions and they didn’t step in.
The Beatles where our heroes and they worships the Dali Lama. They were the epitome of peace.
Hate crimes were prevalent and the KKK was very open still about white supremacy.
When MLK was killed, there were riots every where. My sister just started nursing college and I was afraid for her. She was never a radical like me, but she had to travel for school and work.
Remember the phrase “what if there was a war and nobody came?”
Every generation has it’s share of problems. My father was born in 1899 and died in 1985. He saw so much happen and change. If I live to be 85, I do not think I will see the accomplishments that he did.
I have seen more wars, more death, more technology, then he…
I hope that the next generation will look back and not have to remember the evil, the wars, the hate. I hope that Obama is the beginning to a different way of life for them.
I was on a debate today about “do you think there will be another event larger than 911 here in the US with Obama.
What I wanted to tell them was…what if that threat does not come from another nation, but from outer space? What would you do then. They would certainly be more intelligent then us. Better weapons. Or what if the threat is health related like the black plague was?
Don’t forget aids…that is from our culture as well…is still active and there is the threat of germ warfare…not a finger has to be lifted…not a bomb exploded, a city could be wiped out in hours or days.
It is a horrible place we are in today…the sixties and the seventies, perhaps they were not so bad…after all.
We will always remember where we where when JFK, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King were killed. When 911 happened and for me when that idiot killed John Lennon.
Make love not war…peace out.
~The Baby Boomer Queen~
Excellent, Bob. You continue to amaze me with your wit and insight. Good read.
Memory Lane…I remember these things and my mom saying watch and listen, this is history (Watergate Trial). I ran out to play.
She did drag us to the Mark Twain Hotel to see Bobby Kennedy. She billed him as our possible next President. There he was, on the roof. I couldn’t hear a thing . Could barely see him. Went home and played. Our Catholic High dedicated their football field to a graduate killed in Vietnam. I heard my brother couldn’t go with hay fever and flat feet. I was glad. I was 10. I ran out to play.
I was 20 in 1968, and I remember when the riots, and the national guard, kept me out of my home in DC. (visitiing my mother in MD) It was terrible, DC was a wreck, and it stayed that way for days, and is still in ruins in some places.
I also remember when they started to send my friends to Nam in 1966. At that time, most thought it the “Right thing to do” in the beginning. However, when our friends started coming home in “baskets” it wasn’t the “Right thing to do” anymore. People started thinking, even my father, who was in WWII, and believed in fighting for his country.
People FINALLY talked about the FACT that it meant DEATH, and it was getting awfully real at the time. I have 3 brothers, and by the time they were old enough to go, the country was up in arms about anyone going to a war, that was NOT A WAR AT ALL! Thank God!
Last, I want to state one other thing here, foolish, but still worth mentioning. (to me)
THERE WAS NO FLOWER POWER IN MY PART OF MARYLAND as so many sites and history speaks about.
IT MAY HAVE BEEN IN CALIFORNIA, but I NEVER met a FLOWER POWER PERSON in the SIXTIES!!!!!! PERIOD!
Yes there were hippies, in the seventies, but no Flower people.
GET IT RIGHT, THE ENTIRE WORLD WAS NOT FLOWER PEOPLE IN THE 60’S
That said, I would give anything to be the “no brainer” I was in the 60’s. Ignorance is bliss!
So, I will just go down to my property in Southern Maryland, and swing on my swing, go crabbing off my pier, cook them up, and sit in the shade and say:
“S**t on it all” and go eat my crabs!