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Remembering the lessons of 1968

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Jim Thompson

By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

I remember 1968 as a year of assassinations and riots. The riots were related to racial issues and the Vietnam War, particularly the draft.  

The Democratic Convention was held in Chicago. The Democratic Convention was a riot in the streets of its own making.

Fifty-six years later, here we are again. The riots of the moment are racial issues, in this case anti-Semitism, and war – the war in Gaza primarily.  

The Democratic Convention – once again, in Chicago – has all the makings of a riotous disaster in the streets just like before.  

President Biden refuses to provide Secret Service protection to presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., whose father was assassinated while running for president in June of 1968. Let us pray that does not happen again.

Coincidences and parallels are interesting, but I want to direct our attention toward a slightly different path.

In the 1990s, along with the candidacy of Bill Clinton, we were reintroduced to people related to the causes of the late '60s, early '70s. Organizations like the Weather Underground, Students for a Democratic Society and so forth reappeared in the news. Their members, the teenage/early 20s variant of the 1960s, had now grown up and were serious operators as political hangers-on to the Clinton era.  

An example is Mark Rudd, who was a student activist at Columbia University and a member of the Weather Underground. He thinks there is more division in the country now than in 1968.   

There are others – Bernard Lafayette, Bill Broyles, Jr, Valda Harris Montgomery, Robert Siegel and many more (credit: NPR, “The times, they are not a-changin’” September 21, 2022). Many of these have maintained their activism pursuits throughout their adult life.

Nothing wrong with their pursuits since most moved to operating within the bounds of society. I happen to not agree with most of them, but that is not the point.

Here is the point. In one’s late teenage years, early 20s, many impressions are made that stick with us and define the rest of our lives.

Although today’s rioters at the universities seem to be organized by professional protesters, these rioters are of the age that they will not forget the causes and intensities of their current efforts. Many will make these causes their life’s vocation or avocation.  

In 20 or 30 years, they will show up as the adults in the room and will have accrued the influence and power to turn their causes of today into solid actions of those days to come. The danger to our society from their faux idealism and prejudices will be real then.

They may slip off the headlines today, but they will be back affecting the lives of our adult grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at

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