I was a kid in 1968 when my world changed. It scarred me forever. I remember the violence, the unrest, the Black Panthers, the SLA, Vietnam, Kent State, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, riots, hippies, drugs, Manson. But actually, I’d say that my world began changing even earlier with the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, the 1966 clock tower mass murders by a sniper in Austin, TX, and the slaughter, torture and rape of eight student nurses, also in 1966.
And of course, there was Oswald’s murder by Jack Ruby on live TV in 1963. President Kennedy was killed a day before my 8th birthday, while Oswald was killed the day after my birthday. I’ve never been able to view my birthday in the same way ever again. Then there was Bobby Kennedy’s and Martin Luther King’s murders in 1968. Hell, there was even a popular song about these assassinations, “Abraham, Martin and John”*, that played over and over on the radio in 1968.
My life had been fairly insulated up until then, but suddenly that feeling of safety and peace was destroyed. Watching the news became extremely depressing. Scary even. I was a sensitive teen and these images of hate and violence were deeply disturbing, unsettling, and traumatic.
Today our nation’s flags fly at half mast. It’s the day after the ambush in Dallas where five police officers were massacred. These shocking events unfolded after a particularly devasting week when police officers killed two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. I was already deeply distressed after watching Diamond Reynolds’ live streaming of the aftermath of Castile’s shooting by a panicked police officer. From all accounts, Castile was a good man who had done nothing wrong and certainly did not deserve to die in this manner.
Thursday night, I watched the live streaming of the assault on the Dallas Police Department and the citizens of this city. I’ll never forget those graphic videos where a nation watched as a cop was murdered execution-style. And who will ever be able to forget the sounds of rapid gunfire and the non-stop sirens? It was a war zone.
This morning I realized that it felt like 1968 all over again. I didn’t know that anyone else felt the same way as I did or had connected the same dots I had until I read this article.
Yes, it feels like the world is falling apart in 2016, just like it had felt in 1968. To have to go through this once is bad enough. To have to live through this twice is indescribable. The scars are deep, but they’re there. Now there are fresh wounds on top of old scar tissue, and it’s painful.
This madness must stop. People need to start communicating with each other instead of screaming at each other. The escalation of violence and murders must stop. This is not a time for divisiveness, which means politicians and leaders who espouse and encourage such tactics must shut their mouths and get out of the public eye. America, we’re better than this. Learn from 1968 and let’s change our course before it’s too late.
* From Wikipedia: “Abraham, Martin and John” is a 1968 song written by Dick Holler and first recorded by Dion. It is a tribute to the memory of four assassinated Americans, all icons of social change, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. It was written in response to the assassination of King and that of Robert Kennedy in April and June 1968, respectively.