Sunday, September 1, 2013

Why We Are Who We Are--- It's All About 1968

Chicago, 1968-- protesting Vietnam

Janis Joplin, Newport Folk Festival
Where were you in 1968? Did you watch Mission Impossible? Dragnet?
Did you see Peggy Fleming win the Olympic
gold in figure skating in Grenoble, France?

Peggy Fleming, Olympic Gold
Or hear Janis Joplin at the  Newport, R.I. Folk Festival? Where were you when Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed? Did you see Apollo 8’s view of “earthrise.”? Were you in a foxhole in Vietnam or were you clubbed at the Chicago Democratic Convention?  Did you wear patchwork madras?  Were you among the stunned who stood along train tracks when Robert Kennedy’s coffin rolled by? Did you watch the first Black Miss America pageant? Can we count you among the more than 12 million women using contraceptive pills by then, maybe enjoying “free love”? Did you smell smoke in a burning city?
Earthrise, from Apollo 8

As the exhibit "1968"
 at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia makes clear, it was an extraordinary, frightening, tumultuous, and pivotal year that is indelible in the minds of those who lived through it. It's also key to who we are today.
I, for one, came home from a year studying in Chile on June 7, 1968. It was the Chilean porter who carried my bags to the airplane, who told me that Robert Kennedy Jr. had been shot the previous night. What a homecoming to my country.
Here are some of the hundreds of notes that visitors have posted at the exhibit, which closes Sept. 2.:
 I lived in Chicago in 1968. My husband went to deliver blankets and food after the riots in ’68. It was a frightening time. Our neighbor, a divinity student, was on the cover of Time Magazine with blood dripping down his face. --Denise Convention, born in 1941.

I remember my Dad making fun of my mom –calling her a women’s libber.  --Unsigned, born in 1952

I remember the smell of smoke on a sunny Easter Sunday. We had an Easter Egg hunt in the park. The smoke was from the riots in downtown (D.C.) after MLK’s assassination. –Dr. R.K. Allen, born in 1964.

I was visiting family in Greece in the summer of 1968 when Russia invaded Prague. Greece, under military rule at the same time, instituted a curfew and I saw military tanks roll down the streets of Thessaloniki. I had never seen a military tank before. --, born in 1953.

I was involved in campus protests at Fordham U. We demanded that the university admit more black students. We demanded an end to ROTC on campus, an end to recruiting by Dow Chemical, mfrs of napalm. We wanted  the troops to be sent home. They did not deserve to die in a senseless war. – Dennis Loughlin, born 1948.

I was involved in the first draft lottery. My birthday was picked #3. Very scary times!! Eventually sworn into the N.J. National Guard. We should have finished the job. 2-3 million South Vietnamese died when we left. –John Miller, born 1949.

What was your experience? What do you remember? How has living through this time made you who you are?

1 comment:

David Boldt said...

I´m glad I missed the show. 1968 was the worst year in the 20th century for the US and its only competitors for all-time honors would be one of the years in the Civil War. I hope it has no relevance to anything before or since. I was in the Ambassador Hotel the night Bobby Kennedy was shot. Part of me is still crying.