History, Right Now: Echoes of 1968, and Other American YearsHistorians in the News
tags: 1968, social history, Protest, unrest
For Americans of a certain age — and for those mindful of the past — it is impossible to ignore the similarities between these past few days and some of the more unsettling moments from the 1960s. In particular 1968, a year marred by assassinations and violent social unrest.
And there are reasons to believe that 2020, not yet half done, may even surpass 1968 as one of American history’s most powerful social and political flashpoints.
From an impeachment trial to a devastating pandemic, from galloping unemployment to George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, all the threads are there, flowing together into a raging, muddied river that serves up unimaginable challenges.
“All these things are being woven together,” says historian Thurston Clarke, author of “The Last Campaign,” which chronicles Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign and assassination on June 6 of that year.
“It’s like an anti-hit parade, a convergence of the greatest catastrophes of the past 100 years or so, all hitting us at once,” Clarke says. “And with what hope?”
In the morass that is 2020, history’s ghosts from an assortment of American eras have resurfaced:
— From 1918, when a pandemic’s first wave ravaged, ebbed and then gave way to a more powerful second wave.
— From 1930, when an economic crash revealed its longer-term effects on American citizens in the form of the Great Depression.
— From 1974, and the governmental disarray that preceded Richard M. Nixon’s resignation, echoed in January and February with the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
— From 1992, and its images of Los Angeles burning after the acquittal of four police officers in the beating of Rodney King.
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