|The Whole World Was Watching
an oral history of 1968
A Man Shaped by the Events of 1968
"In November of 1963, I witnessed the shooting of John F. Kennedy. It was a total shock; the President of the United States had been shot. It was a different world. This was said to be the start of the Sixties and radical ideas."
My parents introduced me to strong political views at a young age. Both my parents were conservative or Republican. My father was an Airforce pilot, so he naturally supported the War. When Cuban Missile Crisis came, I generally followed my parents' opinions on the subject. My parents supported Kennedy, and they wanted to get through the situation by following Kennedy. At the time, I was living in Tacoma, Washington with my mother. We lived in a neighborhood that was lower middle class. While at home, I viewed war as necessary, but when I saw the body count on TV, I began to question how accurate the figures were. I ultimately changed my mother's opinion towards the War when I was in college. My political standings began to develop when John Kennedy was shot. I began to see everything is not controlled by the government. Later I saw the television with body counts and realized they were inaccurate.
When I went to Brown, I began to develop my own political views; I took political science courses, and my views towards the sixties began to broaden. I followed the debates between Eugene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy, and they affected me a great deal. Eugene was a man who had started to break the mold and stand up to Lyndon Johnson. He was a really honest and articulate man, but when Bobby Kennedy came around, I felt undecided between the two. I ended up supporting Bobby Kennedy because he had the most potential and was the man who was most likely to make things happen. Bobby Kennedy was articulate, vocal, and intelligent throughout the campaign; Eugene McCarthy was just saying he had done it first.
When Bobby Kennedy was shot, it caused me to drop out of political involvement. The experience wasn't a new one because I had seen the shooting of John Kennedy when I was sixteen. The shooting of John Kennedy had shocked me, but the shooting of Bobby Kennedy made me feel like I had been robbed of what I was standing up for. Later, when Nixon was elected, I was totally disgusted. He seemed like the most dishonest, devious person, and Hubert Humphrey was a kind, caring person. Humphrey had gained his position after Bobby Kennedy had been shot.
Vietnam was a very small thing when I entered college and within four years the whole thing had exploded. I ended up opposing the war after realizing it was a war that couldn't be won. The goal of the war was not to win but to get our men out. The scenes of tragedy from the war were all around. Life magazine put out an incredible issue in which they showed the high school pictures of every person killed from the previous week. The whole issue was very touching and yet eerie at the same time. The corruption within [Vietnam] caused our men to act in an abusive manner. The image of a man with a Zippo setting an innocent villager's house on fire still remains in my head. While in college, I was never really active in any protests. I attended some smaller peaceful protests and once I smelled tear gas at Harvard.
I realized we were getting sent false information after seeing the news and the body counts for the US and for Vietnam. All the college kids gathered around and watched this information. The whole thing was false, but in a way we all became depressed, and after the war was over, we became more depressed. It was like, "Is that it?"
The television really was an inaccurate source and it warped the image of the sixties. As a result, the drug culture was misinterpreted. It was shown as a big thing in the sixties when really that was not at all how it was. The the media presented drug use as a universal thing, as if it was a major life style for many people which I believe to be very misleading.
Another act put on by the government that seemed ludicrous was the [trial of the] Chicago Seven. Here was a good example of how the government can be unjust and unfair. Seven people were picked out of crowds of protesters and eventually were [given] lengthy prison terms.
During the sixties, I represented the average white male. I was heavily involved in politics, and kept up-to-date on current events. The changes I witnessed in the sixties helped shape our government to what it is today. There have been many changes like the liberalization of race, gender, and sexual practice which I believe were very positive changes. This causes me to conclude that the sixties had a more positive effect on the nation than negative [effect]. My college years were when I started to develop thoughts and the late sixties were tumultuous times. The sixties influenced myself and the social and political views of my generation. Our generation is the largest generation, so we've had a major effect on who we are as a nation and who we are today.