With the nomination (and likely election) of Barack Obama, it is time to recognize a long overdue truth. 1968 is dead. Let me explain.
I have scrupulously avoided the recent spate (will it go on all year?) of stories about the significance of 1968. I wasn’t yet born then and my parents were too old or were, perhaps, culturally disinclined to join the hippie revolution. Nevertheless, 1968 happened. I know this because, like everyone born since then, I have been told that I’ve been living in its shadow for my entire life.
It hasn’t been easy. For one thing, my parents did take advantage of one “Me” generation imperative: the divorce. For another, the evanescent nature of our cultural mores since that time has been a challenge to adapt to. Just when you think you’ve got them figured out, they’ve changed. And, often, for the worse.
But what could one expect? These children were formed in a post-wartime nation; children that came of age in a country that had changed so rapidly – from television, drugs, and widespread prosperity. Their burdens were few. Of course they would rebel against their crew cut father in the Grey Flannel Suit and their silently seething housewife mother trapped in the Feminine Mystique. Of course.
So their rebellion was understandable. And it didn’t hurt that there were, again, all those great drugs (where did they come from?) and the Vietnam War around to try and get the boys killed.
But this didn’t make it any easier to take their self-celebrating indulgence, their self-righteous proselytizing, and their self-involved carelessness. We, who came after this generation, suffered at their hands.
And it has been our responsibility to clean up their mess (which we have slowly been doing for years).
You can see this everywhere. In the caution those of us born after 1968 take with our marriages. With the care we devote to our children. With the hard work we apply to our jobs and country (the entire Internet revolution is a product of Generation X / Millennial initiative). And with our good faith efforts to understand and connect with those who are different from us.
For the last sixteen years, we have had to live with the realized culmination of the 60s cultural wars. First with the hippie proxy Clintons and now, still, endlessly, with their countercultural opposite, the establishment frat boy Bush. It hasn’t been pleasant. And, as a result, America has never, in my lifetime (how about yours?), been in so dire a position as it is today.
In short, that generation has failed.
Which is why I now, with the candidacy (and likely presidency) of Barack Obama, proclaim the death of 1968.
Obama is one of us; a caring, hard-working father who seeks understanding and rational, utilitarian solutions to our country’s problems. He is a man who can put aside the differences of 1968 and take the best of both sides of that war of circularity. He is a post-hippie, born in that time, but not of it, with the capacity to see beyond the near horizon to a farther shore, to literally embody a greater destiny for our country; a place where the goodness of 1968 comes from both sides of the cultural divide.
Will this be easy? No. The torch will have to be pried out of the hands of our elders (witness Hillary Clinton’s craven campaign). But pry it we will. And when that time comes, the country, and the world, will be better off.
Of this, we can all be certain.