Saturday, May 24, 2008
In the United States and in France (as Joyce can certainly testify!), 1968 is getting attention. I wonder if there was such a display in 1998, for the thirtieth anniversary, or in 1988, for the twentieth. I doubt it. Actually, I remember D-Day being the most discussed historical event of the 1990s, a fiftieth anniversary, and falling at a time when baby boomers started to lose their parents, the Greatest Generation.
I think that the combined presidential election year and the Iraq War make this anniversary, the fortieth, more resonant. Although we don't have to scratch very far below the surface to deflate these comparisons. The Democrats are all anti-war, unlike the pro-war Humphrey who divided the Democratic Party; McCain is hardly a Richard Nixon. We have none of the urban riots of 1967-68, in fact we have just the opposite - gentrification.
I suspect, as has been suggested, that the fact that the media is largely dominated by baby boomers drives the discussion of 1968: see this French editorial in the Times.
Indeed, NPR has a whole website devoted to their stories on "The Echoes of 1968" (including Robert Siegel's interesting memories of being a student-reporter at Columbia). I like that they have a broader swath of history represented in their stories. Another NPR story covers a group that wants to "recreate '68" at this summer's Democratic Convention.
What do you think? Was 1968 truly transformational? Or more transformational than any other important election year? Does the current remembrance reflect boomer nostalgia or something else in the air?