We are nearly finished with fiftieth anniversaries of the 1960s. Last year we remembered Charlie Company’s massacre of Vietnamese villagers at My Lai. We also remembered that someone sniped Martin Luther King in the head and neck from about two hundred yards, in Memphis on April 4, 1968. Two months later, someone shot Bobby Kennedy in the back of the head from close range, while everyone tried to disarm someone in a trance who stood in front of him.
Two and a half months after that, thousands of police under Richard Daley’s brutish leadership engaged in an orgy of beating that had nothing to do with keeping order, and that led Abraham Ribicoff to compare Chicago police officers to the Gestapo. Ribicoff, Daley, and Daley’s baton-wielding, ravening thugs in blue all made national television. Hubert Humphrey jumped for joy in his hotel room, as he tried to keep tear gas from coming in the windows.
Summer of ’69, we had Woodstock, the moon landing, the Manson murders, and more Zodiac killings. Someone should tell journalists we do not want any more anniversaries. What is happening now, fifty years later, is enough. Significantly, the country almost cracked up in the 1960s. Traumas came and went during 1968 and 1969, but none compared with the greatest trauma of all, loss of Jack Kennedy in 1963. At least NASA brought the Apollo 11 crew back safely, but now some people wonder if they ever left. If you have a government that does not keep faith in one thing, you soon believe it does not keep faith in any thing.
Some optimists believe we can – and should – get through the current period of turmoil intact. Some pessimists believe we are headed for our first crack-up since the Civil War. I tend toward the optimistic side, but I do not think we ought to keep the country intact. That way lies continuation of the mayhem we have already witnessed. We have no surety of peace even if the country breaks up, of course, but at least we can engage in new conflicts, different from those we try to manage now. Future struggles will be more creative.
So we need not become discouraged. If you tire of current politics, a new sun will rise. Wait for it. Watch for it. When it arrives, rejoice with others that we may have a rebirth of freedom. Meantime, keep track of fellow optimists across the land:
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