The Night Robert Kennedy Was Shot
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This post, written by Jim Booth, originally appeared on Scholars and Rogues
"We've had difficult times in the past. We will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; it is not the end of disorder." Robert F. Kennedy, April 1968
Today is June 5th.
For my parents' generation the day that "matters" is June 6th - D-Day, the day "the greatest generation" expressed what Lincoln called in the Gettysburg Address " the last full measure of devotion." That's the day U.S. history books celebrate.
For those of us who were and are their children, there's another anniversary. It's one that's not celebrated but remembered instead (if at all) with the sense of disillusionment, rage, and pain that haunts our generation - the generation of "revolution" and "flower power" that became instead, (in too many cases, anyway) the "generation of swine."
That's today. June 5th. The day Bobby Kennedy was shot....
1968 was one of the most turbulent years of the 20th century. Student uprisings at Columbia University and other colleges across America introduced the nation to Students for a Democratic Society. Their treatment by police as the cops broke up the student demonstrations was but a prelude to the carnage to take place at the Democratic National Convention in August:
The students in Math (bldg.) (some of whom -- the ones who weren't killed in the 1970 East 11th Street townhouse explosion -- later went on to the Democratic convention in Chicago, and then formed the Weather Underground) (deep breath...) received less gentle treatment -- one student was thrown from a second-story window and landed on a professor (Jim Shenton), breaking the professor's arm.
The assassination of Martin Luther King on April 4 rocked the country:
"Well, I don't know what will happen now; we've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life - longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight , that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I'm happy tonight; I'm not worried about anything; I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord." Martin Luther King, April 3, 1968.
After the meeting King and his party were taken to the Lorraine Motel. The following day King was shot and killed as he stood on the balcony of the motel. His death was followed by rioting in 125 cities and resulted in forty-six people being killed.
And finally, there was Vietnam. Lyndon Johnson's insistence on escalating the war in Southeast Asia (mostly on the advice of guys like Robert McNamara, William Westmoreland, and Curtis LeMay) and using the military draft as a way to bolster the ranks of available troops ruined his chances of re-election. After barely winning the New Hampshire primary, Johnson withdrew from the election campaign.