Before retiring last night and after I rose this morning, I have not been able to stop the memories of yesteryear from flooding my mind.
It was the summer of 1968, prior to my returning to school for my freshman year of high school. We were living in Aurora, Illinois at the time.
It was a summer of unrest. Riots and demonstrations in the streets flooded the nightly newscasts on all three of the only networks of the time – ABC, CBS and NBC.
I was already something of a history and political buff. So I watched intently to the scenes playing out on our color television.
The images were much more real than what they were that other July night watching on a black-and-white screen as President John F. Kennedy warned the nation about the Red Scare 70 miles off our coast, which I had watched as a second grader living in Anderson, Indiana.
Come to think of it – it had been a decade of unrest.
The standoff with the USSR, the assassination of President Kennedy, the social upheaval of the hippies and flower children, the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, the marches of those seeking civil rights for all, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, the burning of bras and draft cards, the running away to Canada, the protests against the Viet Nam War, Woodstock – all were part of this decade.
Now in July of 1968, transfixed I watched the National Guard on the streets of Chicago a mere 60 miles away. I saw mounted police trampling on protesters. I saw the barricades, the smoke from tear gas, from Molotov cocktails, bloodied faces outside the Democratic National Convention.
I watched protesters dragged out of the convention. I saw the inability of nominee Hubert Humphrey to quell the unrest.
It was total chaos. A couple of weeks later, I remember Everett Dirksen, our own Senator, take control at the Republican National Convention. I watched as if in a trance as Dirksen had the hall on its feet reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
But it was still a summer, a decade of unrest.
Over the past week, once more I have been transfixed seeing reminders of that summer nearly 50 years ago.
The marches in the streets.
Presidential nominating conventions in the wings.
The saying goes that history repeats itself.
We are also admonished to learn from the past so as not to make the same mistakes.
Have we learned nothing?
From the Cornfield, America the Beautiful, God shed His grace on Thee.