Monday, July 14, 2014

Decade of Destiny

I'm almost through the six episodes of CNN's The Sixties, finding it an incredible trip through a watershed decade that I barely remember.

Having been born in late 1962 (very late, December 27), my recollections are understandably fuzzy. I was in the crib when JFK was assassinated and only heard the stories of that day from my mother, who reportedly wept at the ironing board as she watched the wall-to-wall coverage.

Vietnam was played out for me more in 1970s color than 1960s B&W, with Walter Cronkite telling my parents just how bad it really was.

And as far as civil unrest, I remember seeing coverage of what I've come to learn was the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. As a five year old, the sight of fire hoses and teeth-baring dogs was frighteningly beyond my understanding.

The CNN retrospective, however, has filled in a lot of gaps. The details of Dallas were known to me, especially after I visited Dealey Plaza on a business trip, and found it an amazingly small crucible for such a sea change in America. (Side note: The Texas School Book Depository Museum, however, is highly recommended.) But somehow, seeing the reports of that weekend strung together in an unbroken thread of disbelief made the impact more palpable, especially when insult met injury in the killing of Oswald.

I'd also obviously studied the civil rights movement and again benefited from the first-hand experience, having visited Memphis, again on a business trip. The preserved room of the Lorraine Motel and the attached National Civil Rights Museum told me a lot about the struggle. But the CNN coverage underlined the violence and hatred and reminded me that the quest for freedom almost always involves the payment of a huge price.

The remainder of The Sixties involved the British Invasion (which, passed me by, too, as I remember more of the druggy Beatles than the moptop Beatles) and television, which did catch, for obvious reasons, in my consciousness. Lost in Space, Batman, I Dream of Jeannie, My Three Sons, and others of their ilk are common threads in my childhood, either first-run or in syndication.

As the upheaval of the 1960s was fully dawning on me in my teen years, I remember asking my mother: "With all the horrible things going on, the assassination of President Kennedy, of Martin Luther King Jr., of Bobby Kennedy; with the seemingly non-sensical war in Vietnam; with the race riots and burning cities... how did you hold it together? How did you not go running into the streets screaming?"

I'll never forget her response:

"Many of us did."


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