The Turmoil of the 60s Revisited

During the late sixties, Boomers were coming of age and emerged as a powerful motivator for reexamining the principles and strength of our Democracy. Disruption in the streets, combined with government corruption, shook the country’s faith in our ability to manage deep disagreements between parties and generations.

The 60s opened with the Cuban Missle Crisis and President Kennedy backing down the Soviets, forcing the withdrawal of warheads in exchange for the withdrawal of U.S. missiles from Turkey. Tragically, President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, in Dallas. Martin Luther King was fatally shot in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. Almost without pause, Robert Kennedy was assassinated on June 6, 1968, dashing many young Americans’ hopes for a new era of unity.

When the Democratic Convention of 1968 convened, protesters rioted in the streets against the Vietnam War and the political establishment. The Vietnam War dragged on, and many of our young men were drafted, taking them from their families and friends. Protests by young “flower children” were turning violent, prompting the National Guard to be called out to repel protesters, ultimately engaging in hand to rifle combat. The conflicts between the young people who felt immortal and the armed National Guard resulted in the Kent State “massacre” and the deaths of four unarmed students and the wounding of nine others on May 4, 1970.

As the country sank into despair and conflict, many older Americans saw this period, not as an opportunity for change but rather a risk to the Republic. The use of marijuana and hallucinogenics further alarmed parents, prompting cries of maniacal behaviors attributed to their consumption.

Is America different today? Yes, now the President of the United States is questioning the legitimacy of the Constitution and the electoral process and actively threatening the stability of our Republic. Congress is turning on itself. There are threats of calling in the military under the Insurrection Act of 1807 that empower the President to deploy the U.S. military and federalize the National Guard to suppress civil disorder and insurrection.

Facts are called into question, and propaganda and fake data are becoming “alternate facts.” With the explosion of social media, there is little respite from shouting politicians and exploitive lawyers and theories.

COVID, the first pandemic in over a century, is changing how children go to school, employees work, and Americans shop. Facemasks were once only seen on TV from other places in the world. Now, Americans are required to mark up whenever away from home. Eating in restaurants is a luxury that is no longer allowed in many states. Warnings of a death every 15 minutes are routine.

Can we rebuild this country so that we are comfortable, life again becomes routine, and we smile…yes?

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