As 2020 ended I hoped for a brighter 2021…hoped the cockroaches with 2020 embossed on their backs would scurry for the safety of darkness as the bright sunlight of 2021 hit them. Then visions of white supremacists and nationalist storming the Capital hit my TV screen and news feed on January 6. People in red hats and animal skins carrying Confederate Battle Flags among many, made it surreal. I couldn’t help but think about my earlier year of discontent, 1968.
Most of us, I hope most of us, will celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday January 18 this year. His life ended with an assassin’s bullet in 1968. That same bullet triggered national unrest similar to what we saw this past summer.
Despite being a proponent of nonviolent protest, King’s assassination prompted violent protests and riots in major cities across the US as news of his death led to anger and disillusionment, and feelings that now only violent resistance to white supremacy could be effective.
Known as the “Holy Week Uprising”, the riots and unrest began after the April 4th murder of King lasted well into the remainder of the year. These uprising weren’t the first expression of unrest and would not be the last in 1968.
Vietnam protests joined Civil Rights protests, walkouts, sit ins, hostage taking along with the riots that saw Chicago policemen in battle gear wading into crowds and beating Vietnam War protesters and news correspondents, This was during the 1968 Democratic Convention and played out during August on our television sets.
We weren’t alone in our discontent. Social unrest seemed to grip the world. Movements sprang up worldwide as protests were registered in over two dozen countries. Here at home, in addition to our Vietnam War and Civil Rights movements, Anti-nuclear movement, Environmental movement, Hippie movement, Women’s liberation movement, Chicano movement, and Red Power movements staged protests. During the Summer Olympics in Mexico City, two medalists raised their glove clad fist in a Black Power protest. That was in October.
Some historians believed 1968 saw the greatest wave of social unrest the United States had experienced since the Civil War. Of course, that was before 2020 and the beginning of 2021. I don’t know what historians will believe about these, there is so much misinformation to sift through I doubt a consensus will be reached during the remainder of my lifetime.
I also wonder what Dr. King might think had he lived to be ninety-two. Despite his own move toward greater militancy, I wonder if his influence would have made any difference in what continues to play out on my television.
Our Capital is locked down. National Guards men are moving to the nation’s capital and sleeping in the building itself. Buildings being boarded up. Gunmen have been arrested attempting to breach what is known as the Red Zone…even using descriptors like Red Zone. My depression and anxiety are growing by the minute as the inauguration approaches.
Despite my anxiety, I find comfort and hope in Dr. King’s words. Yes, I still believe in hope. In 1964 he closed his Nobel acceptance speech, beginning his final paragraph, “Let me close by saying that I have the personal faith that mankind will somehow rise up to the occasion and give new directions to an age drifting rapidly to its doom. In spite of the tensions and uncertainties of this period something profoundly meaningful is taking place. Old systems of exploitation and oppression are passing away, and out of the womb of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born.”
I have hope that his words will come true and that the reaction to what happened on January, 6, will prove to be an impetus for better days.
Quote is from Dr. King’s Nobel acceptance speech.
His image from his “I have a dream” speech.
Much of my research came from experience but I used Wikipedia to fill in the gaps of my memory.
My own rantings and writings may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1m9HXR3YH52tj33iUxPkzyf1PvTdt2BaXLwT3hka344adJ4sa6n3sIkr4