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Book: 1968 – The Year That Rocked the World by Mark Kurlansky

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. ~John F. Kennedy

Did you ever catch something out of the corner of your eye, get just enough of a glimpse to paint a fuzzy picture but not enough of a look that you can add fine details? That’s how the 1960s are for me. By virtue of my birth in the Year of the Lord 1961, I am a child of the 60s. However, I was not old enough to appreciate the turbulence of the times, to understand the world wide ramifications caused by the people rebelling against the establishment.

What I do remember is glimpses, like the floaters in the corner of your eye that when you focus upon them they inevitably disappear. There are two floaters that I can recollect with some detail. The first was stopping in a department store in the TV section to watch the first man step on the moon. The other of those floaters was the body counts announced on the news during the Vietnam War. It may be that I don’t remember them from the 1960s and it was actually memories from  the early 1970s that come to mind. I don’t know. I do know that the Vietnam War was the first event elicited polarizing opinions between my dad and me.  He was a Korean War Vet and bled Red, White, and Blue when it came to believing in our government. I, on the other hand, was an opinionated kid who felt the War was wrong.

As I read this book, other floaters surface but with much less vividness. I do remember the war movie “The Green Berets” with John Wayne but only one scene from the movie. A soldier was walking ahead of his unit, caught his foot in a rope which slung him into a wall of punji sticks where he was impaled.

From the first chapter, this book has drawn me in. I am intrigued by those events that happened while I was growing up, captivated by the student rebellions, the societal rebellions, the world wide rebellions of people fighting for a cause, of people fighting against the governments to right the wrongs of society. I am only five chapters in and find myself completely captivated as the book opens my eyes to the historical events, provides me with knowledge that glues together events in disparate parts of the world, the way the author weaves the seemingly patchwork of events together to form a many hued quilt of the era. The more I read, the more I wish I had been born a decade earlier, the more I wish I had a 1st persons view of the turbulent era, the more I wish I was old enough to march with Dr. King, to sit in against Dow Chemical at University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Alas, that is not my lot in life. I was only 7 years old in 1968, the same age as my grandson is today, and am too young to remember the vast majority of the events of 1968. Luckily, I have this book and an easy chair to sit comfortably in as I take a journey through the year that rocked the world – and it’s rocking my world today.


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