then and now: why 2004 will be 1968
This week, I expressed concern that 2004 may be a dangerous year in the U.S.
We've been dancing too long. The tension in the gym, all decorated with flags and anti-flags, depending on which side you are standing on, well, its become unbearable. We're gonna rumble like it's 1968.
Yes, I just quoted myself. I'm just giving you some perspective on what's to follow.
Later in that post, I used the word uprising. Perphaps I should have been more specific, because some people seem to think I meant uprising in the sense that some idiots would try to take over the White House. No, no coups coming next year.
It's been a long time since a presidential election year would converge with such dissatisfaction, unrest and war. 2004 will present us with newer, bigger problems than 1968 did in the sense that getting people together is as easy as an email, a post on a website, an instant message. Someone gets an idea for a protest and within hours, 10,000 people know about it.
Let's compare 1968 with 2003 and upcoming 2004 events. The similarities between what is going on now and the climate in '68 may give you more of an idea of where we are headed.
The comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq are obvious. The protest faction used the word quagmire practically moments after the war began. The war in Iraq is one that is opposed on a daily basis. Seven months after the start, there are still anti-war protests and calls to bring the troops home.
In 1968 and in the years after, until the Vietnam war ended, the protests were ugly. They often resulted in riots, tear gas, destroyed property and arrests. Eventually, the protests took on more of an anti-U.S. government tone than an anti-war sentiment.
College campuses were the staging area for most of the protests of 1968, just as they are commonplace today. Although the current protests have not yet taken on the extremism that the '68 sit-ins did, occupation of campus buildings is probably not far behind. In fact, given the fact that colleges and universities today are a gathering ground for liberals, professors included, I wouldn't be surprised to see sit-ins, occupations and protests organized by the teachers themselves - similar to what happened in '68. If Rutgers can host what amounts to a pro-terrorism rally, then school sponsored anti-Bush rallies can't be far behind. In fact, some colleges offercourses on the protests of 1968, where studies include radical protests, counterculture and Marxism.
The biggest similarity between then and now is that 2004, like 1968, is a presidential election year, an election that will be held amongst growing dissent, anti-U.S. sentiments, a rising counterculture and threats to disrupt the national convention.
You know what happened in 1968. Back then, it was the Democratic National Convention. Next year, it's the Republicans.
For many it was a watershed event. After the Tet offensive that January many Americans began to shift their opinions of the war in Vietnam; after Chicago '68 they began to doubt the ability of American institutions to tolerate active dissension.
Here we are in the same place, leading up to the 2004 convention [September, New York City]. There are cries from the left that they can't speak their minds, that this current administration is crushing dissent. They point to polls that say Americans are losing faith in the goverment, losing hope that we will win this war in Iraq and the war against terrorism. Same place, different channel.
While not all circumstances are the same for both years, it's the climate that is right. There's a general climate of unrest, a rising of loud voices, the sound of marching in the street.
And then there's the internet and cell phones and the ability to communicate a plan quickly. Gathering will be larger and stronger and more organized. One glance here or here or here will show you that activists are no longer a loose group of stringly looking youths shouting slogans at the police or the government. They are a business.
It matters not whether their anger is misguided. It matters not whether their statistics are distorted or their ideologies skewered or their arguments filled with conspiracy theories. What matters is they are strong and organized and pissed off at everyone except themselves. They are no longer content to stage a quiet sit-in in front of the White House and sing protest songs until they are provoked. They are now the provokers. Each protest or rally is planned out to the last detail; weapons are brought, routes of destruction mapped out.
Like their predecessors, today's activists offer no solutions or alternatives to war. They meld all of their issues until they are one giant anti-U.S. [and very often, anti-Israel] statement, with no clarity or true message except that they hate the president. They want the world to be a happy, joyous, tree-hugging commune, a world without fear or bombs, yet when we try to root out the terrorists who are holding back the dream of world peace, they cry that the U.S. is a big bully and racist to boot. They have become a large, swarming mass, making a giant buzzing sound, just waiting for a reason to go all out. An election year gives them that reason.
As 2004 approaches, so does 1968 redux. Keep August 29th on your calendar.
There's something happening here. What is is, ain't exactly clear.
UPDATE: Robin Jones makes a valid point about the difference between Vietnam and Iraq.
Jay agrees with my opinion and adds a caveat; in a conflict like this, everyone loses.