"The year’s tragedies could have been avoided
Tom Brokaw’s History Channel documentary on the year 1968, which premiered last Sunday, is an excellent, engaging, thorough documentary. But with every minute I spent watching, the angrier I got.
Much has been written about the tumultuous events of that year. A lot happened in 1968, and very little of it was good. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated. More than 15,000 American soldiers were killed in Vietnam. Violence and rioting occurred in the streets of most of our major cities. Our African-American citizens were being denied justice even more so than they are now.
Just about the only good thing to come out of that horrible year was the Beatles’ White Album. As good as that record is, it’s scant compensation for everything that went down during those 365 days.
There have been a lot of bad years in American history, but what makes 1968 close to being the worst are the sad facts that most of its tragedies could have been avoided and that we are still paying the price for those tragedies.
King should never have been killed. It was a horrible coincidence that Dr. King happened to be standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, giving James Earl Ray the opportunity for a clear shot through the scope of his rifle. If King had finished shaving five minutes earlier or later, he might have left the hotel more quickly than he did. If his aides had had his car ready sooner, he might not have lingered on the balcony chatting.
If the FBI had spent its time and resources seeking to protect Dr. King instead of wiretapping, blackmailing and harassing him, Ray might not have had the opportunity to fire that day.
It’s a statement of the blatantly obvious to say that America would be different today if Dr. King had not been murdered. Nearly 40 years after his death, the issue of race relations continues to be the most divisive and shameful problem we face.
Dr. King might have been elected president. He definitely would have been able to help further the cause of peace and equality. When King died, white America lost its best friend and ally. Dr. King’s rhetoric, which was heavily based in Scripture, reached out to whites as much as it did African-Americans.
As crippling a blow to justice as the murder of Dr. King was, the death of Robert Kennedy stopped the cause of peace in its tracks. No politician in history reached out his hand to all Americans more than Bobby Kennedy, not Bill Clinton, not even John F. Kennedy.
The tragedy of Kennedy’s death was that it was also completely avoidable. When Sirhan Sirhan pulled the trigger and fired the shots that killed Kennedy, no Secret Service agents were on the scene to stand in the way of the bullets or apprehend the assassin. Kennedy was being protected only by a few ex-football players and friends, not professional bodyguards.
The deaths of Kennedy and King, along with the violent Chicago Democratic convention, led to the white backlash that elected Richard Nixon. With Nixon came the permanent state of war, the expansion of presidential powers and the abuse thereof and the concept of the government as the oppressor, not the helper, of people.
Without Nixon, there would have been no Reagan and no George W. Bush, both of whom felt it more important to violate the Constitution than to preserve it. The arrogant foreign policy of Nixon, Reagan and Bush led to the widespread hatred of America that created Sept. 11.
And Sept. 11 gave the current president all the excuses he needed to perpetuate war, misery and deception both at home and abroad. The result is a nation divided, on the brink of economic collapse and in a state of eternal siege.
And it can all be traced back to that terrible year of 1968.
So the next time you think about the 1960s, don’t think about the wonderful music, the sexy women or the drugs. Think of the ’60s as the beginning of the end of the great nation of America. And think of those years as the times when our great leaders were killed, the great thinkers of the time were squashed and the military-industrial state was formed.
There’s not much about 1968 to celebrate, except, as mentioned above, the White Album. I guess that’s better than nothing.