Saturday, January 8, 2011

670. I was seven years old in 1968; Reflections on January 8, 2011

I was seven years old in 1968. As such, I do not remember a lot of it. Unlike my little brother, who can cite incidents from memory with the accuracy of blue-ray technology, my memory is rather faded and shaded for a great number of my earliest years.

I began 1968 as a second grader at Blue Lick Elementary School in southern Jefferson County. My teacher was Miss Hoagland. I rode Bus #402 to and from school each day catching the bus at the foot of my street, where Whippoorwill empties into South Park. Afternoons in my neighborhood, that period after school and before supper, consisted of bike-riding, tree climbing, playing in the woods behind our house, or just hanging out.

There were a few places where the "just hanging out" took place. At the dead-end of Mason in front of the Rogers' house was a gum tree. I'm not sure exactly what kind of tree it was but it had a clear gooey substance oozing from various points in the tree. At the other end of Mason, in the Riddle's front yard, on the southwest corner with Walter Avenue (where Walter was (and remains) one lane wide) were two trees that, at the age one is in second grade, was about as far as I was suppose to travel away from home, about 750 feet from our side deck.

Eventually, every evening about six it was time to come in and eat. We ate breakfast and dinner, called supper, religiously at the breakfast bar in the kitchen. For the record, our dining room was a formal room in which, until my grandmother's passing in 1976, we rarely ate other than at Christmastime. At this kitchen breakfast bar on one side sat me and my grandmother; on the other was my grandfather, my brother, and my mother. Opposite the end of the bar was an oversized portable dishwasher on top of which sat a Zenith television set. That's what you called them back then, a television set.

And it was at the breakfast bar, after we had eaten, that we all five sat and watched the national news learning the events of the day from across the Republic and around the world. We watched NBC and its newscast, which I remember being called The World Tonight, but I wouldn't bet more than a nickel on that memory.

Whatever it was called, it was on that black-and-white TV that I watched most of 1968 pan out, a melodramatic year which, thankfully, has not been equalled during my fifty years on the planet. Of great interest was the War in Vietnam. I recall that I had older cousins and a few friends and neighbors who were serving in Vietnam. I learned of other places too, called Laos and Thailand and Cambodia. If there were comments on the war, I do not recall them. It was from that berth as well that I watched the news of the assasination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Memphis, Tennessee. I honestly had no idea who Dr. King was although my grandparents found his assasination to be horrific. I was mostly interested because I had just a few summers before that been to Memphis and was anxious to see if I could remember any of the locations now being played and replayed on the television screen.

It wasn't that TV but another larger one, an old big brown box of the Motorola brand, in the living room that I do clearly recall the assasination of Senator Robert Kennedy, late in the night. Politics has always been an integral part of my family and Kennedy's ascension in the Democratic Party was being followed as he had spent time in eastern Kentucky making friends with people from our state. My uncle had supported Senator McCarthy and I do not remember if my grandparents were Kennedy people or not. I do know that after his death, we strongly supported Vice President Hubert Humphrey in his bid to become president.

It was only from stories in the years to come that I learned more and more about 1968. When I was 14, one of my first jobs was working in a men's clothing store in Okolona operated by Mr. Howard Klein. Mr. Howard, as he was known in the neighborhood, was a wonderful man, my first real boss. He had moved his store to the Silver Heights Shopping Center location in 1968. He formerly had operated a shop at 28th and Dumesnil in Parkland but his business succombed to the riots which took place in the city that summer. He told me stories of how that area basically ceased to exist as a business center during the summer of 1968.

I also learned about the 1968 Democratic National Convention from my Uncle Don and my grandmother Hockensmith, both of whom were Democratic operatives. Don was from the left side of the Party while my grandmother was more of a moderate to center-left person. I remember scenes from the convention from watching TV.

Many years later while in college, I learned even more of the summer of unrest for our country, the summer of 1968. I learned about a government and response to the government of acronyms from SNCC to the HUAC, which became the HCUA, as well as SCLC and SNCC. I learned about CORE, the NAACP, events at UC-Berkeley, and something called the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, which many folks called the Black Panthers.

It seemed to me then, as a child living in a nearly-totally white suburban neighborhood, that most of the problems associated with 1968 were related to tension between whites and blacks. And as I became more educated, I learned that what I believed to be the truth was in fact the truth. A great number of Americans had not quite accepted the amagalmation of African-Americans into the general society, something that was in part a result of a civil war which had been fought in this country, and in my state, more than 100 years earlier.

Through my lifetime the tensions have seemed to either go away or just became more acceptable. Few people today work or shop or attend school in places that are solely white or solely black. The exception to that, as has been noted for many years, is during the worship hour on Sunday morning. In that place, we have remained quite largely segregated. Even in my rather liberal congregration of Episcopalians, I can think of only one African-American who attends on a regular basis.

But, on the whole, the blacks and whites of our country have lived more or less harmoniously for many years since the tensions of 1968. But that changed to an extent in 2008 with the election of a bi-racial president, Barack Obama. President Obama handily defeated the incumbent president winning states which Democrats had not carried in many years, perhaps since 1968. And that win began what has been seen as a strong decline in the civility between the races, a decline which can be heard most any day on AM radio.

And many ugly things which had never been said before were and are now being said regularly without much recrimination. Talk show hosts have all but called for a revolution. There has been a great rise in the number of hate groups springing up across the country. Places like the Knob Creek Gun Range in western Bullitt County have allowed their premises to be used to sell merchandise which could easily be described as racist and alarming.

Certain talk show hosts have been far more incendiary than others and no one who is listening cannot believe that these folks do not know that the words they are using can and will lead to violence.

The non-violent nature of our country, a nature fostered by Dr. King in the early 1960s before his assasination in 1968, was shattered today in Tucson, Arizona where a 22 year old gunman opened fire in a grocery store parking lot, killing six persons including a nine year old girl and a federal judge, and sending thirteen others to the hopsital, many with life-threatening wounds, among them a member of the United States Congress.

This was an assasination with great and grave results. I believe, unfortunately, that it is only the beginning. Our country is civilly broke. The confraternity of men and women which has sustained us for 235 years is no more. We have become a nation of I's - you's and me's - we've forgotten that we were a nations of we's. We've forgotten that the first and most important word of our Constitution is We, as in "We, the people."

I am a partisan person and I feel there is blame to be placed at the feet of certain individuals and certain political parties. I will not lay that blame here. At this point I will close, hoping that when America wakes up tomorrow morning we will reflect on the tragic events of January 8, 2011 and make a united effort at changing course. The alternative is civil war. This is where we are headed. And that is sad.

CIVIL WAR (1990)
Written by Axl Rose, Duff McKagan, and Slash.
Sung by Guns 'n' Roses

Look at your young men fighting
Look at your women crying
Look at your young men dying
The way they've always done before

Look at the hate we're breeding
Look at the fear we're feeding
Look at the lives we're leading
The way we've always done before

My hands are tied
The billions shift from side to side
And the wars go on with brainwashed pride
For the love of God and our human rights
And all these things are swept aside
By bloody hands time can't deny
And are washed away by your genocide
And history hides the lies of our civil wars

D'you wear a black armband
When they shot the man
Who said "Peace could last forever"
And in my first memories
They shot Kennedy
I went numb when I learned to see
So I never fell for Vietnam
We got the wall of D.C. to remind us all
That you can't trust freedom
When it's not in your hands
When everybody's fightin'
For their promised land

I don't need your civil war
It feeds the rich while it buries the poor
Your power hungry sellin' soldiers
In a human grocery store
Ain't that fresh
I don't need your civil war
Ow, oh no, no, no, no, no

Look at the shoes you're filling
Look at the blood we're spilling
Look at the world we're killing
The way we've always done before
Look in the doubt we've wallowed
Look at the leaders we've followed
Look at the lies we've swallowed
And I don't want to hear no more

My hands are tied
For all I've seen has changed my mind
But still the wars go on as the years go by
With no love of God or human rights
'Cause all these dreams are swept aside
By bloody hands of the hypnotized
Who carry the cross of homicide
And history bears the scars of our civil wars


I don't need your civil war
It feeds the rich while it buries the poor
Your power hungry sellin' soldiers
In a human grocery store
Ain't that fresh
And I don't need your civil war
No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no
I don't need your civil war
I don't need your civil war
Your power hungry sellin' soldiers
In a human grocery store
Ain't that fresh
I don't need your civil war
No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no uh-oh-uh, no uh-oh, uh no
I don't need one more war

I don't need one more war
No, no, no, no uh-oh-uh, no uh-oh, uh no

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The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.