Parallels clear, but similarities go only so far
By John Aguilar
Saturday, June 28, 2008
The United States was bogged down in an unpopular war overseas,
presidential politics sowed division and dissent, and protesters
raged outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
The year was 1968, and everything seemed to be coming apart at the seams.
"There was an unbelievable concentration of things that happened all
over the world that year," said Mark Kurlansky, author of "1968: The
Year That Rocked the World."
Forty years later as wars continue in Iraq and Afghanistan,
political protest threatens to become a centerpiece of the Olympics,
a historic presidential campaign rolls toward the general election,
and protesters vow to recapture the zeal and ardor of Chicago at the
Democratic National Convention in Denver more than a few parallels
have been drawn between the tumult of 1968 and the turbulence of 2008.
But Robert Schulzinger, a history professor at the University of
Colorado, said the similarities go only so far.
Casualties coming out of Vietnam were staggering compared to U.S.
troop deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the political divisions
over the war and social issues were more pronounced in the
presidential campaign 40 years ago, Schulzinger said.
"In terms of turmoil and a sense that the country was on the edge of
catastrophe, I don't see any comparison," Schulzinger said.
"Especially in those two months from the assassination of Martin
Luther King, Jr. to the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, there was
a sense the country was in a downward spiral and the news kept
getting worse and worse."
Unrest was more widespread abroad as well, the professor said with
massive student protests and strikes practically shutting down
France's de Gaulle government in May and the Soviet invasion of
Czechoslovakia in August dialing back the clock to the "deadliest
days of the Cold War."
And for the first time, especially after the Tet Offensive in early
1968 showed the resiliency of the enemy, much of the American public
began to wonder if Vietnam was a lost cause.
Tet represented a turning point in the war, Schulzinger said, and
exemplified the way everything about 1968 was working its way into
the American psyche whether it was social, cultural or political.
"In a time (the 1960s) in which there was a lot of upheaval, 1968 was
the year where there was the most of that," he said. "It was just
extraordinary. It was a pivotal year."
And Boulder County wasn't immune to the chaos.
A series of dynamite explosions twice in the municipal building
rattled nerves in Boulder, CU students picketed King Soopers for
selling grapes from non-union growers, sheriff's deputies went out in
force to round up hippies in the foothills, and drug busts were made
on a seemingly weekly basis.
"There are certain years when everything comes together," said Paul
Danish, a former Boulder city councilman and county commissioner and
a CU grad student 40 years ago. "1968 was just this kaleidoscope of events."
1. What was the name of the American Independent Party candidate who
ran against Republican Richard Nixon and Democrat Hubert Humphrey in
the 1968 presidential election?
2. Where were the 1968 Winter Olympics held?
3. What was the name of the Czech leader who ushered in the Prague
Spring of 1968, a period of political liberalization and reform that
was crushed when the Soviets invaded later that year?
4. What U.S. Navy nuclear submarine sank in the Atlantic Ocean with
99 crewmen aboard in May 1968?
5. What famous musical officially opened on Broadway on April 29, 1968?
6. What sketch comedy series, starring Goldie Hawn and Lily Tomlin,
debuted on NBC in January 1968?
7. What was Boulder's population in 1968?
a) 98,363 b) 41,335 c) 60,755 d) 70,592
8. What was Boulder having trouble collecting from residents in the
spring of 1968?
9. Name the Pearl Street store that burned to the ground on the first
day of July 1968, Boulder's worst structure fire at that time?
10. CU acquired a house for the president of the university in the
summer of 1968. Where was it?
How far a dollar went in 1968
$10,900: A furnished, three-bedroom house in Louisville
$23,500: Three-bedroom mountain home six miles from Boulder
$135: Monthly rental for a one-bedroom apartment at the brand-new
$109: Three-piece bedroom set at Fashion Furniture, 16th and Pearl streets
33 cents: Gallon of gas
6 cents: First-class stamp
$330: Annual resident tuition at the University of Colorado
$1,284: Annual non-resident tuition at CU
$3,562: A 1968 Barracuda from Crouch Motor Co.
$6,408: A 1968 Imperial from Crouch Motor Co.
89 cents: Three loaves of white bread from Safeway
10 cents: A pound of bananas at King Soopers
Sources: Camera archives, including classified and retail ads
1. George Wallace 2. Grenoble, France 3. Alexander Dubcek 4. Scorpion
5. Hair 6. "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" 7. c 8. Garbage 9. Blackmarr
Furniture Store 10. Gunbarrel