Mikhail Gorbachev would be puzzled by the term "communism," when asked about it many years later. He groped for an interpretation and finally decided to equate it with organized crime. Very astute. Any time a nation's leaders are not elected, the argument is elementary that it's a crime structure.
America was like a shining beacon with its democratic and freedom-oriented institutions. But we sank to depraved levels when thinking we could transform the rest of the world and bring it around to our ideals. In recent times we discovered that the Iraq war was a mistake. Those who don't learn from history, repeat it.
The 1968 Tet Offensive accomplished what the Army of Northern Virginia was seeking to accomplish with its "invasion" of the north, into Pennsylvania. The hellish confrontation in the countryside around the pastoral town of Gettysburg PA was a result of Robert E. Lee wanting to get the Union to capitulate, based on the pain of casualties. Lee never had a chance, contrary to legend, of "marching into Washington" and demanding peace terms. The Union had resources that could have coalesced and contracted around that pathetic gray assemblage like a snake.
"War of the Rebellion" was the term promoted in northern circles, as if it was just a reflexive matter of protest rather than a genuine effort to create something new. Did the Confederacy ever have an idea of its own borders? It didn't even have a strong central government - an arrangement that surely worked against its interests. Hey, it was a lot like the "tea party" of today. Sorry, Fox News. Sorry, Mike Huckabee. Regressive forces always get dragged along with the rest of us.
The Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968. I remember Eugene McCarthy sort of being thrown on his heels by that. McCarthy was a "dove." He cautioned against a visceral reaction to what was happening with the Soviets. He felt there was too much hand-wringing here. He was probably right, as we would eventually discover that "communism" would implode on its own.
Would the Nazi system have imploded on its own? Would it break apart under the sheer weight of the aggressive and combative nature of its leaders? I have often thought it would have crumbled naturally, thus we might not have had to launch that miserable D-Day attack and that subsequent heart-wrenching conflict into Europe. In the movie "Kelly's Heroes" (Clint Eastwood), we discover that Nazis could be persuaded by money. That's in line with what Barack Obama does these days with "sanctions." "Sanctions" are in lieu of armed conflict.
War protests became common through the western world in 1968. Why on earth couldn't they make more headway? It's because the young people who dominated those theatric events lacked money and power. Us boomers can easily forget how powerless and penniless we were in an earlier time. Many "name" music groups struggled to keep going financially - Bill Chase was on the verge of disbanding his group at the time he died in a plane crash - and man, if they had only realized that years down the road, they could "rake it in" (the money) as "oldie" attractions at casinos!
By the same token, baseball players who moaned about being underpaid - they were - only needed three or four good seasons to someday be able to "rake it in" at sports memorabilia shows. Denny McLain could have made a fortune as a former big star but he had a natural inclination to crime. We are so human an animal. McLain was such a unique person. A musician as well as athlete, McLain gained note for endorsing the Hammond organ. The type of people who develop talents like this, aren't likely to develop criminal tendencies. But McLain had it in his DNA. Bowie Kuhn would write about how perplexed he felt by this.
Our Minnesota Twins baseball team was in its first decade of existence in 1968. I think the honeymoon was still going, not to end until about 1971. Or maybe it ended abruptly with the firing of Billy Martin after the 1969 season. How strange we seemed "wedded" to a certain manager. Martin would unravel years later. He literally shriveled up physically. He was the classic example of an unstable person who rode the coattails of past fame. Might fame be some sort of disease?
The 1968 baseball season stands out as unique in baseball history. The defensive side completely took over. It was called "the year of the pitcher." The Twins had a 79-83 record and finished seventh in the American League. Tony Oliva was right up there in the batting race, finishing third, but this was with a mere .289 average.
It was a curious year for Harmon Killebrew. "The Killer" was pretty passive in May and June, hitting below .200 in both months. He barely crept over .200 for the all-star break. Still, so solidified was his reputation, he was named starting first baseman for the all-star game. He confessed to being a little embarrassed. He would have been better off missing that all-star game. In the third inning, he stretched for a ball thrown by Jim Fregosi, his foot slipped and he did the "splits." He ruptured his left medial hamstring and was carried from the field on a stretcher. After seven months of rehab, he was still in pain but had his best season in 1969.
The major league powers-that-be took actions helping the hitters for the '69 season.
Killebrew, Oliva and Rod Carew were all-stars from the Twins in '68. It was the last year before the divisional alignment. We had the fourth highest attendance in the league, at our beloved old Metropolitan Stadium.
Lyndon Johnson announced in '68 that he wouldn't seek re-election. Jacqueline Kennedy married Aristotle Onassis. RFK was assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. I saw the movie "Bobby" at the cineplex in Alexandria and was emotionally affected by it. It's an underrated movie in my view. Is it possible that the fatal shot or shots came not from the assassin but from a security guard (by accident of course)?
It was in 1968 that U.S. soldiers massacred men, women and children in My lai, Viet Nam. I remember following the steady news coverage of that. War protesters argued that the alleged U.S. perpetrators of that tragedy were merely "scapegoats," in effect victims who had gotten lost or deluded in the fog of war. I'm inclined to agree.
The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. led to violence and race riots in 1968.
And me? My biggest problem was being an adolescent, a junior high student at the public school here. Adolescence can be like a disease. A lot of these kids need help. Perhaps our systems of today have solved that.
Remember those "junior high dances" at the old elementary auditorium in Morris? "Count Floyd" of SCTV would say "Brrrrr, scary!"