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Back to the Sixties

Psychedelic-1503541_1280In 1948, Winston Churchill, paraphrasing George Santayana, said, "Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it."

Boomers like me who lived through the Sixties can surely relate to that observation. Today, we watch a repeat performance of some of the most turbulent years of our lifetime. In particular, the similarities between this year (so far) and 1968 are startling.

In April 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was gunned down. This event led to spontaneous riots in cities across America, lasting for several days. Robert F. Kennedy, who extemporaneously and eloquently spoke after King's murder, was himself assassinated in June 1968. Riots also occurred at the Democratic National Convention in August.

In July 1968, a flu pandemic known as the "Hong Kong Flu" broke out. An unconfirmed report suggested it may have started in China. The flu spread first throughout Asia. By September, it had reached India, the Philippines, Australia and Europe. American troops returning from Vietnam brought the virus to California. By December, it had spread throughout the United States. The outbreak lessened in the winter of 1969 - 1970, but not before the Hong Kong Flu had killed 100,000 people in this country and around one million people worldwide.

The successful launch of two American astronauts last month on a SpaceX vehicle parallels the October 1968 launch of Apollo 7. At the same time, war continued to rage in Vietnam, much as it does in Syria and other hot spots today.

Boomers have lived through wars, space launches, pandemics and national riots in the Sixties. Perhaps some of us believe that, as before, "this too shall pass." Yet we must bear witness to a harsh reality. Many of the inequities and injustices that were true in 1968 seem to still be true in 2020. As a country, we still suffer from inequality when it comes to wealth, education, healthcare and job opportunities. We still suffer from unspeakable gun violence. We still suffer from systemic racism, demonstrated by the murder of King in 1968 and the murder of George Floyd in 2020, which spurred spontaneous national riots. Tragically, Floyd is just the latest in a long line of brutal deaths at the hands of police, public servants whose job it is to protect all Americans.

There are things about growing up in the Sixties I enjoyed. Watching the upheaval of 1968 playing out again today is not one of them. is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.


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