January, 1968

1968 -- the year that changed everything.
January, 1968


Keith Drury said...

I might write once a month on the momentous year, 1968, now that we are exactly 40 years later.

If you were there I welcome additional comments and insights from your own experience --each of us were formed differently by these events.

If you are under 45 you too are welcome to offer insights on how these events affected an entire generation to be called "baby Boomers" later..and comparisons to your own later experiences are also invited.

Ken Schenck said...

What a great idea (as usual)! Since I was less than two at the time, I don't remember much.

In retrospect, I wonder if my family had an unofficial "don't talk about the war" rule. I just don't remember them talking about it. Then again, maybe I was too busy playing with my toys.

Pete Vecchi said...

I guess I fall just inside the line when I can offer insights, seeing as I am now 46 years old.

In January, 1968, I was in 1st grade. That month my brother turned 4 years old, and my mom actually did turn 29. My mom and brother shared a birthday.

I like the idea of a monthly restrospective. I can't remember any specifics about January and how the events Keith mentioned impacted my life at that time. In all honesty, they probably didn't impact me all that much, except for the fact that I always hated it when my dad had to watch the "stupid news" (my words from the time) every evening.

There are specific months from1968 that I remember having had an impact on me, and I look forward to being able to comment on those months when the comments will be more relevant.

Michael R. Cline said...

Going to a Wesleyan Church up here has its perks...I got a free copy of the latest Wesleyan Life, all about the merger of course!

Am I the only one that can't read this post Keith? It is all jumbled on my screen.

John Mark said...

I didn't want to go to Vietnam. I would have, I'm reasonable sure, except I had a neighbor get me into the Air National Guard after I had already been for a physical with the Army.
When we finally pulled out, what, seven years later (?), the VC came in and slauhtered a bunch of people, all of whom I'm sure wished they had the American military there just for protection.
However, today some reports indicate that things in Vietnam are good enough that the Church has some presence and liberty, so perhaps things have loosened up.
As for war in general, I don't know. My dad and one of my uncles served in WWII. My uncle was shot during the Normandy invasion, he was a hero to me as a boy. It seems like that war was pretty clear cut, but then I knew nothing of Dorothy Day or any anti-war movement until I was much, much older.
I certainly think any war should be a matter of last resort, and obviously even conservatives are no longer supporting the present war without reservation.
As usual, your column invites a whole host of questions, and provides much stimulus for reflection.

David Drury said...

Thanks for this history. Great reminiscence.

Other than the draft, I see a lot of similarities between YOUR 1968 and MY 2008.

Perhaps the Boomers didn't learn the lessons you outlined that well. “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

::athada:: said...

Us young 'uns have no idea. There is no draft and the shopping malls are still open (for now), so what could possibly be wrong in America? It's too easy to oppose a war ingested abstractly through the internet. How to make it personal?

Though Couch if you would've been born black there was no exemption for skin color - for the other war fought on the home turf in those years.

(Mr. Cline - try reading his blog in Internet Explorer instead of Firefox)

Kurt A Beard said...

I'm in the under 45 camp but am going to share my memories of those times.
The first real encounter I had with the War was on a visit to the memorial in DC as a young kid. I remember my dad's mood changing when we visited the wall. He was sullen and quite while he searched for names in a book then looked at the same name on a wall. I asked my dad who these names were; they were college dorm mates, classmates, and friends. I was confused why dad was sad; his friends were famous, there names were on a wall for all to see.
My second encounter was inside the pages of my parents 1969-1970 Kent State year book. I flipped through the pages of the year book and listened to the accompanying record of news broadcasts from the events. The vinyl of the record made the events seem so distant in the age of CDs. My parents shared their stories and memories of those days.

The stories and the wall meant nothing to me until I saw friends off to war.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I was 13 in 1968. It was not a good time to enter puberty! The usual angst of the teen years was only exaggerated in my mind by the events in 1968! The "world" was definately chaotic, and unpredictable!
The "us/them" mentality of the Vietnam war was one that I internalized, as I was always a "them"...
So, I tried to be "hip" by following the latest fashion, wanting to be a fashion model (or actress), but knowing that my physical appearance was another "them" problem! (Twiggy was my role model.)
My family was not particularly interested in politics, so my information came from TV and newspapers...I just remember thinking, as I was lying on the couch and looking at the back side of my grandmother's newspaper...what was the world coming to?...Bobby Kennedy had been shot and I was not too young to remember John Kennedy's death earlier... or Martin Luther King's "march" and the intergration of public schools in the south somewhat later...
How did this "affect" me? It impacted my "nihlistic" outlook and made me "ripe" to understand my need for "God" and friendship. Understanding others and helping relationships then became my "goal". I wanted to major in psychology and "help" others. But, my mother and step-father wanted me to be a dental hygenist and would not pay for college if I majored in psychology...so I first majored in English...flunked out...went back to school majoring in anthropology and sociology, getting married shortly before my graduation date...I did not finish my degree until 1998 at IWU where I majored in religion and philosophy and am now pursuing a Master's...in ministry...
It has been a long and arduous journey...the future as unknown and a challenge to live my life in the midst of chaos and unpredictablity!

Anonymous said...

VERY interesting hearing the perspective of someone who was in the conservative holiness movement in 1968. (I wasn't born until 7 years later.)

As someone who recently left the conservative wing of the holiness movement, I grew up without TV,and never had one until about a year ago.

So, it was very moving to me to watch Tom Brokaw's "1968" documentary a few weeks ago. (The book is excellent, as well.) All I could think was that my parents and their college classmates were hearing sermons in 1968 about what shoes they could and couldn't wear and how long their sleeves should be....while Dr. King, John Lewis, Andrew Young and the others were marching across the bridge at Selma. What a tragic disconnect!

Jonathan White said...

I was only 11 years old when the calendar turned to 1968, but I was very aware politically. I secretly idolized Robert Kennedy and had high hopes for his candidacy for President. I was shattered when he was assassinated in June of that year. When Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in April of 1968 I actually heard members of the Pilgrim Holiness Church my father pastored in east Michigan suggest that it was a good thing to have the country rid of "that Communist n_____." This year smells a lot like that one to me. I find myself sensing a wave of progressive change in the nation, but fearful that the same sorts of violence that interrupted that time could emerge again to blight our political process and ensure the continued empowerment of an unaccountable elite.

kerry said...

Comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam are sometimes made without fully realizing the magnitude of the Vietnam tragedy. In Iraq, we have seen about 4000 American combat and non-combat deaths, and about 30,000 wounded. In Vietnam, there were over 58,000 American deaths, 350,000 wounded and 1-2 million Vietnamese deaths on both sides. So in terms of American casualties, you have to imagine what would be the impact of 15 Iraq wars going on simultaneously right now.

The Tet Offensive was a military disaster for North Vietnam. They committed 100,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops to the widespread attach that Keith describes, hoping to trigger a popular uprising. But setting aside their guerilla tactics and trying open combat played into the strengths of US forces. Casualties were worse than 40-1 in favor of the Americans and they lost more than half of their forces in the offensive. At first they were horrified at their miscalculation, but it eventually worked in their favor as the US public totally lost confidence in the credibility of US government war assessments, and President Johnson was forced to abandon his bid for re-nomination. I vividly remember his speech in March, 1968 when he said "I will not seek and I will not accept nomination" for another term as President. We began "winding down" the war after that, also trying to negotiate peace, during the Nixon years. It didn't end until 1974 under Ford.
The late sixties were depressing, especially compared to the early 60's. In the first part of the decade we were calling it "the soaring 60's" with commercial jet flight, Kennedy's space program, growing economy, etc. Then we had the Cuban missile crisis, the JFK assassination, the growing Vietnam war and draft, the King and RFK assassinations, and horrible riots and burnings summer after summer in Detrot, Harlem, LA (Watts), and other major cities.
It wasn't hard to believe end times propaganda from Pre-Trib zealots, which were plentiful. Take, for example, Hal Lindsay's "The Late Great Planet Earth" which came out about that time, and sold millions.