The times, they are a same-in’
On the last day of 1967, Evel Knievel, an American stunt performer known for jumping incredible lengths on a motorcycle, was preparing to execute his most triumphant feat yet.
His 141 feet jump started off gracefully enough. As his front wheel landed on the end ramp, however, things took an ugly turn, as his body was flung from the bike, causing his ribs to snap, bones to break and skin to bruise. Despite it all, he lived.
In a way that made one wonder if the Force that guides us creates reality as if directing theater, Kniveil’s poetic failure set the tone for 1968, a year in the United States that was both full of boundless promise but also rampant frustration and overwhelming grief.
Similarly, 2016 has been exhilarating and hopeful, but also heartbreaking and divisive; there just isn’t any better way to say it. In my human need to try to understand how we got here, I found myself looking to the history books. Time and time again, 1968 seemed like a mirror reflection of the moral dilemmas that have been posed to us this year.
In the wake of the new year, LBJ was faced with ravenous disapproval of the war in Vietnam. In reaction to these sentiments,bright, political faces began to come forward that offered Americans a change.
In the democratic running were populous, anti-war liberal champions Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy. Additionally, democrats were offered Hubert Humphrey, the disliked VP of LBJ. On the conservative spectrum was Richard Nixon, the old news, perpetual candidate, and third party southern conservative, George Wallace. After an emotional primary that took the life of Robert Kennedy in its wake, Americans were left with Nixon and Humphrey for the general election, neither of whom energized their spirits. When Nixon won the White House in one of the closest elections in history, anti-war activists mourned in outrage and protest, and the right was assured that the civil rights that ravaged the nation would be slowed.
In 2016, our candidates followed suit; for the left, Bernie Sanders tapped into similar revolutionary sentiments as McCarthy and Kennedy, and Clinton, like Humphrey, represented the very policies that populus democrats were fighting against. On the right, classic Republicans received a candidate that made their blood boil and who, like Nixon, wasn’t taken seriously at first. In the end, our President made some protest and mourn, and others hope for an America that will serve their narrow interests.
On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed. Chet Huntley, reporter for NBC News at the time, responded by saying, “the perpetrator brings down upon us the painful charge that we Americans are prisoners of violence, destruction and death. Restraint. Gentleness. Charity. Virtues we so desperately need.”
Today, the same hate that MLK died fighting against lives on. Black men, women and children are being callously killed by law enforcement, black individuals are jailed at absurd rates, employment discrimination continues and the KKK has been invigorated by the election of our president elect.
The man that Americans elected in 1968 turned out to be one of the most unsuccessful president in United States history, leaving the oval office due to his mass deception of the American public and robbing Americans of innocence. This year, we elected a president who has refused to back away from statements applauding misogyny, Islamophobia, and anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Just like in 1968, we have been put to some enormous tests this year; some of which we have failed. We must decide the nation we want to become and the ideals we want to champion. If I said that I think that our future as a nation is bright and our worries few, I would be lying; I believe that our nation will be challenged in more ways that we can know over the next decade. But as Walter Cronkite said at the end of 1968, “We were put through some enormous tests this year, we’ve had a bend, but there wasn’t a break.”