I was 15 then. Those years were an indelible influence on my life, on who I am, and what I believe, and especially the values I hold.
I didn’t understand then the police & “The Establishment” hatred and violence directed at the peace movement, and I still don’t. These kids were marching for peace, just like the blacks in Selma were simply walking to bring attention to their hope for recognition and legal rights as equal human beings. That police violence did not make sense either. And still doesn’t.
I did not support the demonstrators initiating violence either, as they did many times as well, but it is not hard to understand that many decided to ‘fight fire with fire’ and that some resorted to heinous acts of bombings and so on, forever tainting “the Left” in the process, even though it is unclear if they were truly “Leftists” or acting out in defiance against what they rightly saw as a corrupt system and a war they also hated.
I always considered it a major propaganda success of the Republican party and the Conservative Movement that they were able to connect the violence of the protesters at the convention in ’68 indelibly to the Democratic party and thus to turn a large portion the vast middle class, especially the former ‘working class’ or ‘lower middle class’—Nixon’s “Silent Majority”—against the party that had represented them and their needs, indeed had a major role in creating their middle class status, against the party that was actually being protested for its role in escalating the War. Guilt by association taken to an absurd extreme, but we still hear it from the lips of many RW talking heads. Reagan was loved by this new voting bloc for his having given those ‘dirty hippies’ a licking back in his California governor days. Daley did worse and instead the Democrats lost their base irretrievably until the present day…but then the Dems nominated McGovern in ’72 and I suppose appeared to have ‘caved’ to the peace movement…but the damage had been done and the shift made already.
These are things I think of daily…it was a time to remember and ponder for a lifetime.
One thing I do remember vividly, was the morning I learned of Robert Kennedy’s assassination the night before, after winning California and hope was high for the change we dreamed of, that morning hearing the horrible news, the sense of all hope being lost in that one act, the sense that the dream was over, and that the darkness would now envelope the land far into the future. In a way I was very right. That night felt the same to many of the idealistic youth of the ‘counter-culture’ aka ‘the hippies’ and the dream of an Age of Aquarius. Nixon became president. NIXON!!! and then Reagan! REAGAN!!! and it’s been downhill ever since.
As Ted Kennedy famously spoke years later, “the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die,” but it seems further away than ever.
When I heard Reagan declare “It’s morning in America” I understood, as many did not, that meant that the American dream was over, the new reality was now that would become increasingly out of reach for most of the country especially those who had flocked to him in reflexive revulsion at the cultural changes that had come from the 60s and 70s rebellions and social movements. So too was the dream of the youth of the 60s of our creating a better world for everyone, over, done, kaput. It was time to get real, greed was now good… silly idealistic youth that we were…what had we been smoking? oh yeah. Cannabis. Never did like pot myself… Cocaine was the new drug of choice…live fast, die young, make gobs of money, spend gobs of money…
I need another cup of coffee and a nap, maybe go for a walk with my dog in my organic gardens later…