“Pretty Tame”

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July 8, 2016 6:22 p.m.

TPM Reader MR walks us through the whole 1968 thing (addressed to me personally) …

Since I learn a lot from your site, and since you’re a youngster, I thought I’d help you out a bit with the whole “this is just like 1968” thing. Short answer: This is pretty tame compared to 1968. I’ll try to avoid the “back in my day, sonny” routine, but here are some things to consider. You know all of them, but it’s important to consider them in toto:

1) We were at war. And it wasn’t like today — by ’68 everybody knew guys over there, and just about everybody personally knew (or knew of) someone who came back in a box, maimed, or psychologically f*cked up. The war was on TV every night, in church every week we said a prayer for “our boys over there,” etc. Just about everybody was as crazy as a teapartier about the war, one way or the other.

2) Every single day there were dozens of demonstrations going on around the country somewhere or another, some big, some small. But they weren’t demonstrations like today, they were confrontations. Every single one of them held the promise of violence – they all had at least a whiff of Ferguson to them — and half of the public wanted nothing more than to see the cops beat the shit out of the demonstrators. And policing, as you know, was not as enlightened as it is today. My own memory, in a small northeastern city, was just about everybody was in favor of the cops in Chicago – maybe 90% to 10%. Every night on the news was footage of a confrontation somewhere that got out of hand or some asshole like Reagan or Daley or Rizzo screaming about protestors and depraved youth.

3) Bernie v Hillary? Small potatoes. Half of dems despised LBJ; I would say a lot worse than how Dems felt about GWB (yes). And then there was Nixon. The man who invented race-baiting and commie-baiting as an electoral strategy. Half the nation would have loved to see him boiled in oil. Whatever some crackpot percentage of conservatives think about Hillary, multiply it by 10 to get a sense of how half of the country (many Republicans, too) felt about Dick.

4) Trump? People claim Trump is like Wallace. In ’68 there was actual Wallace, and Trump is a pussycat compared to him. A lot of R’s are embarrassed by Trump and will hold their nose to vote for him; Wallace had no lukewarm supporters.

5) Racism? Nowadays you have the usual radio screamers who make a living off it, some % of politicians who remain in office by dogwhistling, and some percentage of the public who are racists. Race relations aren’t great but they are indisputably improving over the years. Then: No one really knew how things would break. The south was still very very raw and not far removed from lynchings, half of the public was proudly & openly racist and the good half mostly thought “gee, why are those negroes so angry all the time.” You hear nitwit RWers howl that BLM is like the Black Panthers; back then were the actual Black Panthers, and whatever we think today of their size & scope, they were openly espousing violence and walking Main Streets (esp in the lax gun law West) armed to the teeth.

6) And then of course there were MLK and RFK killed within 2 months of each other. I know you already know there’s nothing like that in recent memory except 9/11 for the traumatizing effects on the public.

7) Finally, *your* biz. While we all blab about being media saturated today, you can avoid news you don’t like if that’s what you want. Then, most people had 3 TV channels, each with 1 hour of national news, and everybody watched one of them. There would’ve been 15 minutes at least about Dallas, and you and everyone you know would’ve seen it. Everyone in the country saw the war & demos/clashes every night.

Today, unless you’re an unhinged conservative geezer, the country looks more or less like it did 30 yrs ago. You may think it’s better or worse, but most change has been on a continuum. In ’68, people over 30 (who lived thru the golden postwar years) were barraged with changes & uncertainty unlike anything they had ever imagined — re feelings about the country, about their leaders, about the military & our place in the world, about women’s roles, about civil rights, etc., etc.

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