1968 vs. 2018

If you want to start an online fight with a young person, tell them that as bad as things appear to be now — and they do appear to be quite bad — it’s nothing compared to 1968.

Our heroes in search of justice and equality were being picked off one by one. A presidential aspirant was committing treason by using back channels to undo a peace agreement in an unjust war, in which poor people were scooped up off the street and sent half a world away, that a sitting president had negotiated.

Dissent was being supressed and National Guard troops were being sent to Chicago, scene of the Democratic National Convention, with orders to shoot to kill.

Fast forward 50 years and we’re inundated with gas bags like Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr, who wrote a book about Kennedy and doesn’t quite understand what political hope was about.

Despite all the millions of gallons of ink that have been spilled about his “growth” and “evolution” in the groovy Sixties, Bobby was indisputably a homophobe and an anti-Semite. From Roy Cohn to Bayard Rustin to J. Edgar Hoover, he really despised gays. As for Jews, Bobby took after his dear old dad, big time. Joe called him a “hater,” and the old man was a guy who described Jews as “pants pressers,” among many, many other slurs.

Then there’s Bobby’s reputation as a “good family man.” But he caught the “adultery virus,” as his brother-in-law Peter Lawford put it, from JFK. When the Soviet Union fell, one of the documents discovered in the KGB archives was a note about asking for a woman to be sent up to his hotel room during a visit to Moscow in 1956.

But the one name you’re never going to hear or read anywhere else in the next 72 hours is Marilyn Monroe. She was originally JFK’s girlfriend and the president passed her down to Bobby.

“It’s a pity we were 1 assassin short back then,” one of Carr’s 2018 a acolytes writes today in response, referring to the Kennedy brother left alive.

In 1968, much of America’s promise died on a hotel kitchen floor. 2018 proves it so.

  • kat

    I wasn’t alive then and admit I don’t get it- the Kennedys did some bad things, they did some good things- but the idea that Bobby Kennedy brought hope to a lot of people seems to ring true. Example: the Storycorps story this week with Juan Romero.

    • A lot of people in this generation only got a fleeting glimpse of what an inspiring politician can do.

      There’s also the racial element of 1968. King, then Kennedy … And African Americans would have no white politician on their side again.

      Carr is right that Kennedy might have lost the convention. But he probably would’ve pulled Humphrey out of LBJ’s war mongering pocket.

      • ec99

        I always felt sorry for The Happy Warrior. His need to be loyal to Johnson as his VP, yet knowing that the war was just wrong. He never could get out from under LBJ’s shadow.

      • crystals

        I watched this segment on CBS Sunday Morning yesterday and learned a lot – I didn’t know about his trip to the Delta, for example. I’ve been fortunate to spend a fair bit of time there and while some things are undoubtedly better than they were in April ’67, a lot isn’t. It made me sad, angry, and wonder to myself who is representing this community today. Literally and figuratively.

  • KTFoley

    I just pulled a book off my shelf because of this topic. “RFK: A Memoir” by Jack Newfield was written by a reporter who didn’t much like Robert Kennedy when he began following & interviewing him in 1966.

    Newfield’s 1969 foreword ends with these words: “The root of my argument is that Robert Kennedy was the one politician of his time who might have united the black and white poor into a new majority for change — and American liberalism hardly noticed.”

    Time for a third read-through.

  • DanA

    I encourage folks to read ‘Remarks of Robert F. Kennedy at the University of Kansas, March 18, 1968’, prior to solidifying an opinion of the man. Flawed as he was, it strikes me he confronted challenging issues in a honest, humble and thoughtful way that is sadly lacking in the current political realm.

  • Rob

    I’m an older person, and things right now look as clusterf%=led as they’ve ever been. We haven’t had any political figures assassinated recently, but I think the carnage in our schools has more than made up for that. And the rule of law has never been more at risk. Did I mention profound inequality and the countless murders by police of people driving while black? How about the forced separation of families at the borders by our Psycopath-In-Chief?

    I think 2018 has 1968 beat all hollow.

  • ec99

    People seem to forget Kennedy was an opportunist. He ran for the Senate from New York. A trick Ms. Clinton emulated decades later. He only challenged Johnson after McCarthy had shown he was vulnerable.

    • A trick?

      • ec99

        It’s called carpetbagging. Running in a state you have had no association with simply to be elected.

        • Right. I know what it is. I was confused by the word “trick”. One of Kennedy estates’ homes was in NY since the ’20s. He grew up in Westchester. But, yeah, some of the reaction to him was the same as HRC.