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Remembering 1968

July 29, 2014 , , , , , , , , ,


I came to the University of Texas as a freshman in 1968, a very turbulent year in American history.  The Texas History Museum is currently showing an exhibit about that year.  It makes me wonder why we never hear anybody say “fascist pig” any more.  I was clearly against the war in Viet Nam, and went to see Hubert Humphrey when he came to campus to speak.  I did not particularly like him but was only 17 so I had no voting rights.  As students we were not very tied into current events because we had studying and partying to do.  We also mistrusted news sources that were conventional.  This was the era of the underground newspaper.  It was also the era of protest for political change.  The campus was divided.  The football, sorority, fraternity people were already invested in status quo.  The rest of us were rallying to stop the war in Viet Nam because it had no earthly purpose, and was destructive.  I came to school in September and Richard Nixon was elected in November.  There was much to protest.  I remember on very symbolic gesture that illustrated our differences.  A group of students wanted to raise money to buy The Texas Longhorn, Bevo, and send him to Biafra to feed the starving people.  “Send Bevo to Biafra” was actually a moral pivotal point in student organizing.  It had only been 2 years since Charles Whitman, a Nam vet, shot people on the mall from the UT tower.  To the anti war faction the shooter was not seen as a victim or a sufferer of post traumatic military issues.  He was seen as typical of the “other side”.  Some of us liked killing and some of us thought war was not healthy for children and other living things.  We believed Charles Whitman was doing what we thought all Nam vets wanted to do, kill people with a big gun.  He was a capitalist imperialist pig, and that was all there was to it.  Things were so simplistic in 1968, but somehow I feel that nothing has changed.

Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated in 1968.  Lyndon was president when I came to school in Austin.   Even though he signed the Civil Rights Act he was not seen as a progressive hero by the youth.  He was seen as a crooked politician who sent kids to war.  Lady Bird, who wanted people to stop throwing garbage out the windows of their cars, was seen as a wet blanket.  Garbage throwing was perceived as a birthright, just like owning a gun or hating other races.  Her “Beautify America” campaign was the foundation for today’s ecology movements.  Museums and libraries document history and put matters into perspective for those who were not alive or old enough to know what happened.  When I walked through the 1968 exhibit it brought back memories as well as a sense of struggle.  For a while it seemed that the struggle resulted in peace and harmony.  It did not last. Where were you in 1968?  Were you on the bus or off the bus?

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What a sobering post — and reminder– that snipers aren’t just a modern phenomenon…. and that speaking out and protests were common… much to the chagrin of the status quo.. It was a tumultuous time……. and headlines about many different issues (segregation being one) were being talked about and those protesting were often booted out of buildings and parks.


Stevie Wilson (@LAStory)

July 31, 2014

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