Recently, I heard two different conversations where young men surmised that there was never a time more tumultuous than these past three months. Each man was referring to the pandemic and the recent riots and unrest following the murder of George Floyd. Right away, red flags went up in my brain. For younger people, this may seem like the worst of times. For those who have lived longer, there are stories to be heard if young people have the wisdom to listen. Social media memes can’t compete with the first-hand accounts of people who lived through equal or greater tough times.
I jotted down some thoughts to send to these millennials. Add yours in the comments below.
“I was struck by your assertion that there has never been a period where we have had a pandemic and racial unrest, i.e., so much happening of magnitude in just three short months. At that, I had to stop and ask myself why I thought that assertion was wrong. You mentioned World War II, but as you said, “That was only one big event.” Every generation thinks their generation is the one who has it the worst, best, greatest, most inventive, smartest, etc. Fill in the blank with the adjectives of choice.
So, I looked up news events in 1968. Today’s young people have no idea what it was to be a 16-35 year-old living in 1968. That generation didn’t have social media, but they had media. Some of the pictures that were taken by private citizens tell the story better than any tweet or smartphone photo. In that day, citizens had actual journalism as their daily fare, not editorials packed with agendas and feelings. Who, what, when, where, why, and how of every story appeared in the first paragraph. (That’s how journalists were taught to be objective in reporting the news). The reader could read further into the story for more details and draw his/her own conclusions.
Take a look at 1968’s events:
LBJ BEDEVILED BY VIETNAM
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. ASSASSINATED
STUDENTS PROTEST ALL OVER THE WORLD
ROBERT F. KENNEDY ASSASSINATED
CHICAGO DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION
NIXON WINS THE WHITE HOUSE
APOLLO 8 ORBITS THE MOON
The first seven events took place between January 5 and June 5, 1968. If you were a senior in high school, you graduated as murdered presidential candidate Senator Bobby Kennedy’s funeral train slowly made its way from New York to Washington, D.C. Kennedy was murdered. Martin Luther King, Jr. had just been assassinated and buried in March. Protests were going on all over the world. (The Vietnam war and protests were in full swing). The Democratic National Convention, held in Chicago in August of ’68, featured war protestors battling the police-all 12,000 of them plus 15,000 state and federal officers. The footage is worth your time.
My point is that all young people believe it is the best of times or the worst of times in the times they live. As the older generation looks back, they remember, too. It is helpful to understand that humans are like that.
Is social media important? Yes. Is it doing the yeoman’s work of media sharing today? It is the media du jour to get the story anywhere, anytime. Just know that this is not the best or worst time for social media or history. It can get better or worse, and probably will. The 70s got worse. The mid-80s saw an uplift in the nation, and things seemed better. Then people wanted a change.
And so it goes.
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship.??