I have been thinking about 1968 a lot recently. I remember talking to my mother on New Year’s Eve in 1968, remarking, “Thank God this year is over.”
It was a terrible year.
It began with the Tet Offensive in the Viet Nam, resulting in the death of thousands of brave and under-appreciated US soldiers.
Then in April, Martin Luther King was assassinated.
In June, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated after winning the California Democratic primary setting him up for the party’s nominee for President.
Hell broke out in the streets of America due to these great American tragedies.
It was hard to ignore what was going on in those days but not as hard as today.
In 1968, there was the evening news and the 11 o’clock news. That was it.
New York City still had a number of newspapers despite losing the Journal American and Mirror, which were two of the triumvirate Sunday papers that I would buy for my family at Hoch’s candy store on Saturday nights.
But, there was the New York Times, the Daily News, and the Post sill in operation so, there were print accounts readily available to complete your education of the horror going on outside of Leland Avenue.
I didn’t read those accounts.
I did, however, read everything I could about Joe Namath and the New York Jets.
The Jets were one of my top two distractions.
The other was the Beatles.
When I wasn’t reading about the Jets, I was listening to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour, and then of course, The White Album came for Christmas.
Then Hey Jude came out just in time for my entering as a freshman at St. John’s University.
1968 spanned two semesters and two school years for me, which also made it a mostly uninspiring year for me.
I wasn’t a student in the true sense either in high school or my first two years in college. I am not sure which caused what. Were 1968 and all the cultural mayhem responsible for my lackluster academic performance, or was my lackluster academic performance a contributing factor to my harsh recollections of 1968?
Principles of Full Disclosure require me to inform you that drinking may have also played a roll in my interpretations. Sadly, no such excuse can apply to 2020, as drinking is no longer a recreational activity that I often enjoy.
Too late for therapy this morning.
Notwithstanding my dire personal remembrances of this pivotal year in American history, I have come to an epiphany as to how to survive and thrive in such times.
As I mentioned earlier, back in ’68, we only had the evening news and the 11 o’clock news, so avoiding televised news was easy. Unlike today, where we have dueling, all-day cable news channels spinning their slants into willing viewers who already agree to believe anything that is broadcast into their living rooms, avoiding the news requires a little effort.
YOU HAVE TO CHANGE THE CHANNEL OR TURN OFF YOUR TV!
This may be hard for most as, in the days of Corona, we are trapped in our homes, and TV has become our window on the world more than ever before. Still, limit your exposure to these deadly radiations that emanate from you HDTV.
In 1968 I was not much of a reader. I read (sometimes) the books that I was assigned in school, especially the Cliff Notes. It would be another two years before I had my first epiphany.
My first epiphany occurred due to the Kent State shooting when protestors were gunned down by the Ohio National Guard.
It was then that I became a student in the truest sense.
Another lesson in surviving bad times.
For me, the arts are not only a distraction from the day’s events but a useful backdrop by which to evaluate what the significance of those events are.
If you don’t understand the Black Lives Matter movement, try reading about slavery, the Civil War, and the struggle blacks have faced in their American Experience.
The same is true regarding the immigrant question. Maybe read about the role immigration has played in US History, and you might even spend a few bucks and enroll in Ancestry.com.
How ’bout them Confederates?
Here’s a thought: Robert E. Lee was a bigger traitor than Benedict Arnold.
The Confederates make the looters in the recent demonstrators look like choir boys.
Will we erect statues of the Looters or name military bases after them?
Ok, no more polemic ranting.
Simply try to evade the hate and learn to seek information that is helpful and enjoyable to experience. For me, I still listen to the Beatles and other music, and I do read. Quite honestly, I am reading science fiction right now, but I have read more serious and personally educational books as recommended by my daughter. I also will resume re-reading Harry Potter.
Music and reading can be informative as well as calming, and we need both in our lives if we are going to survive 2020.
1968 was a year of great strife and division in this country, and 2020 is playing out the same way. The good news is we survived 1968. But we didn’t have the pandemic of a virus just one of hate.
Today we struggle with both.
We have no control of the Corona and must trust our scientists to discover a treatment or cure.
But, no one can eliminate the hate that rips us apart.
This one is on us.
We have the cure if only we wish to apply it.