1968 was the year when politics went wonky for me -maybe for many of us of my generation.
The Tet offensive in Viet Nam terrified us - maybe we couldn't win this war.THis war seemed to be terribly managed and hard to understand. All the guys my age were draft age, or almost, turning eighteen and getting letters from Uncle Sam. We talked constantly about enlistmant, reserves, deferments, going to Canada, who was or wasn't legitimately a consciencious objector. In winter, I sat in my Daddy's study on the floor, vacu cleaner forgotten beside me, reading the National Geographic article about Tet and crying, wondering who I knew would go and not come home.
Martin Luther King Jr was shot and killed in spring and hearts broke. It seemed unreal, too much. We put the flag at half mast at school - students did. The adults were too stunned to even think that we needed to do that. We stood in the courtyard and cried and sang "We Shall Overcome" - a bunch of privleged white kids who weren't real sure what we had to overcome but knew a great leader had been killed and violence was afoot that had to be stopped.
Bobby Kennedy visited Cezar Chavez and the farm workers, and ran for President, and we hoped he could win and make a difference. He won the California primary and we hoped, he was killed the night of the Primary - right down the road from my California home, in the kitchen of a hotel where I'd danced at wedding receptions. I remember walking the halls of my high school the next day crying, hugging people.
That summer I committed my only ever act of vandalism - pulling down a George Wallace for President sign in the small town where Uncle Rudy lived. That summer, too, I was shocked by the behavior of the police at the Chicago Democratic convention - and turned away from politics into my own life, starting college.