1968-2008 FORTY YEARS SINCE THE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION IN CHICAGO AND I WAS THERE

68chicago There they are.  While this was happening in front of the Chicago Hilton  I was first in the streets and then, as I’ve written before, upstairs helping to convert our McCarthy Campaign floor of rooms into a hospital.   The entire hotel reeked of the tear gas outside; everyone was scared, and angry, and sad.  I’ve told this story before, but it’s one day before the 2008 Democratic Convention — people are streaming into Denver, picking up their credentials, getting ready for welcome parties and scamming invitations… all forty years after this landmark in my life  and so many others.  Just take a look so you understand why these memories refuse to die.  And consider that the belief in Barack Obama today, which so many equate with the impact of John Kennedy, is also much like the hope engendered in us in those days.  I suspect it’s where a lot of the boomer support for Obama began. 

I wonder if you can imagine what it felt like to be 22 years old, totally idealistic and what they call “a true believer” and to see policemen behave like that.  To see Chicago Mayor Richard Daley call the first Jewish Senator, Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut, a “kike” (you had to read his lips – there was no audio but it was pretty clear) and to see your friends, and colleagues, and some-time beloveds with black eyes and bleeding scalps.  To be dragged by a Secret Service agent from your place next to Senator McCarthy by the collar of your dress as he addressed the demonstrators, battered, bruised and angry. To see everything you’d worked for and believed in decimated in the class, generational and political warfare.

That’s how it was.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot, of course, on this momentous anniversary – when hopefully another, happier landmark will emerge in the extraordinary nomination of Senator Obama. I’ve been to every Convention from 1968 until this year.  It’s kind of sad to break the chain after 40 years but I think I’m ready.  I did a workshop on convention coverage at the BlogHer conference to pass the torch; I’m so excited for all the women who are going.  Just as Senator Obama is a generation behind me – in his 40s to my 60s – a little kid when we faced billy clubs and tear gas in his home town, so are many of the bloggers credentialed to cover the week.  I know it will be great for them and that they’ll make certain we know – in twitteriffic detail, what’s going on.

I know too that, 40 years from now, it will still be a milestone
memory in their lives.    I started to write “hopefully, a happier one”
but despite all the agony of those terrible days in 1968, I’m embarrassed to tell you that I wouldn’t trade the memory.  It’s so deep in my soul and so much a part of my understanding of myself and who I’ve become that despite the horrors within it, I cherish its presence.  So, what I wish my sisters in Denver (and Minnesota) is to have conventions — happy or not — as important to their lives, sense of history and purpose and political values as Chicago was to mine.  Along with, of course, the fervent hope that this time, there will be something closer to a happy ending.

8 thoughts on “1968-2008 FORTY YEARS SINCE THE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION IN CHICAGO AND I WAS THERE”

  1. Thank you for your benediction. Your words brought me to tears. I keep coming back to words that Martin Luther King Jr said, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice”–and something Barack Obama added, which is: “it bends because each of us puts our hands on that arc and bends it in the direction of justice.” http://www.journalgazette.net/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080404/NEWS06/643788847/-1/ELECTION
    Forty years ago people stood up to be counted, and that groundswell pushed us to this point, for better and worse. Here we are again at a moment in time where I hope there are enough of us bending that arc to make the changes we so badly need.

  2. Wow – I never tire of hearing your re-telling of this and other experiences. And do you know that I didn’t know Daley called Ribicoff a kike – we LOVED Abe Ribicoff in CT – absolutely loved him.
    CT is really quite a place for politicians. But I digress.
    Thank you for letting us have you, Cynthia. :)

  3. Boomers’ Leadership Needed
    Last summer while on vacation in Maine, I purchased a $.25 well-used book from the Great Cranberry Isle library. This best-selling book was written in 1972 and targeted to young Baby Boomers to help them understand the political health of their country and what they must do to get the country back on track.
    Here is the author’s Foreword to the bestseller “Captains and The Kings” in 1972:
    This book is dedicated to the young people of America, who are rebelling because they know something is very wrong in their country, but do not know just what it is. I hope this book will help to enlighten them. The historical background and the political background of this novel are authentic. The “Committee for Foreign Studies” does indeed exist, today as of yesterday, and so does the “Scardo Society,” but not by these names.
    There is indeed a “plot against the people” and probably always will be, for government has always been hostile towards the governed. It is not a new story, and the conspirators and conspiracies have varied form era to era, depending on the political or economic situation in their various countries.
    But it was not until the era of the League of Just men and Karl Marx that conspirators and conspiracies became one, with one aim, one objective, and one determination. This has nothing to do with any “ideology” or form of government, or ideals or “materialism” or any other catch-phrases generously fed to the unthinking masses. It has absolutely nothing to do with races or religions, for the conspirators are beyond what they call “such trivialities.” They are also beyond good and evil. The Caesars they put into power are their creatures, whether they know it or not, and the peoples of all nations are helpless, whether they live in America, Europe, Russia, China, Africa, or South America. They will always be helpless until they are aware of their real enemy.
    President John F. Kennedy knew what he was talking about when he spoke of “the Gnomes of Zurich.” Perhaps, he knew too much! Coups d’etat are an old story, but they are now growing too numerous. This is probably the last hour for mankind as a rational species, before it becomes the slave of a “planned society.” A bibliography ends this book, and I hope many of my readers will avail themselves of the facts. That is all the hope I have.
    Taylor Caldwell
    Now 35 years later, Baby Boomers are the best educated of all former generations. However, they need to read or re-read “Captains and The Kings” to better understand how their countries are being weaken through politically created wars and inflationary monetary policies.
    Boomers are valued and needed to exercise their responsibility, serious work ethic, “can do” attitude and competitiveness in stopping the bankruptcy of their country. They need to exercise their leadership capabilities in finding, promoting and voting for political candidates in 2008 who are for free markets, sound money, reasonable tax policies, and ready, willing and able to fight terrorism the way Canada, Sweden and Switzerland do.

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