Tuesday, August 05, 2014

"1968": CNN special tracks the year the nation almost came apart (even though the Cuban Missile Crisis had occurred only six years earlier)

I have to admit that I forget to set the DVR for CNN’s episode “1968” from the series “The Sixties” last Thursday night (July 31).  And CNN is not particularly dependable in telling you in advance exactly when it will rebroadcast, and it has only a few pieces of it online right now, as far as I can tell, under Episode 8, at this link. Probably it will re-air some time Thursday Aug. 7 after the newest one.
I had titled Chapter 2 of my fist “Do Ask, Do Tell” book “Sputnik, the Draft, and The Proles: 1968”.  I really lived that year.  I finished my M.A. Mathematics at the University of Kansas in January.  I went into the Army for the draft two weeks early, on Feb. 8, 1968, about a week after the Tet Offensive.  Martin Luther King was assassinated while I was in “Special Training Company”.  The riots in Washington DC along 14th Street occurred about the time I came back from Basic Training and was assigned to the Pentagon.  I remember the day after RFK’s assassination, as I had spent the night in the South Post Barracks (at Fort Myer).  Later, I won a big chess game there in the service club, before a lot of other soldiers watching me pull an upset.  I would be mysteriously transferred to Fort Eustis in September.
I remember Election Night well, in the barracks in Fort Eustis.  Humphrey led early, but around 1 AM I heard the news on the radio in the Day Room, “Nixon leads”.  Most soldiers actually thought Nixon would get us out of the War sooner than Humphrey.  By then, other buddies in the barracks talked about “Medium Cool” in Chicago that summer at the Democratic convention.
The excerpts online show interviews with Douglas Brinkley, who explains Nixon’s ego and his naïve belief at first in the idea that mainstream America thought that protests had gone too far, and also with RFK Jr. (by Don Lemon), who insisted that by 1968 Euro-centric civilization was declining, and minorities insisted “We want our share.”  The Brinkley segment explains why Nixon wanted to do the tapes.  His early years went well, with at least some promise in Vietnam, the creation of the EPA, and overtures to China.  One of the tapes airs Nixon as saying we shouldn’t leave our foreign policy to a Jew (Kissinger).

Update: Aug. 9, 2014

CNN finally reaired this episode Saturday Aug 9 at 1 AM EDT and I recorded it.

One of the highlights is LBJ's speech on March 31, 1968 when he ways he will not run again.  "A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand".  I was on KP in Special Training Company at Fort Jackson, SC in Army Basic Combat Training at the time.

The assassination of RFK is shown (it wasn't apparent at first it had happened).
The 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago is shown as being conducted in "a police state".
The country was coming apart, over the generation gap.

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