The 40th Anniversary of America’s Nervous Breakdown
By Alejandro Grattan-Dominguez

     It was the summer of 1968, and for those who think things can not get any worse than they are right now in the good ole US of A, let’s review what made 1968 such a national catastrophe.
     It was the year that:
     • Millions of Americans marched in dozens of cities to protest the increasingly unpopular Vietnam War. The protest movement rose to a fever pitch when US soldiers fired on some 500 unarmed Vietnamese civilians at My Lai. For those GIs who refused to do so, other Americans were ordered to fire at them.
     • World-famed pediatrician and child-rearing icon Benjamin Spock was indicted for helping draft resisters.
     • The Rev. Martin Luther King was murdered in Memphis, sparking violent protests all over America.
     • President Lyndon Johnson, fatally scarred politically by the Vietnam War, decided not to run for re-election.
     • Presidential candidate Senator Robert F. Kennedy was murdered in Los Angeles, triggering public dismay not seen since the assassination of  President John F. Kennedy.
     • At the Democratic Convention in Chicago, demonstrations were brutally quelled by police with a fanatical hysteria not seen since that of the Nazi storm troopers in the Warsaw Ghetto.
     • On television, Americans were seen (unlike the Iraqi War) dying and being maimed by the thousands and Vietnamese civilians being killed by the tens of thousands—causing Walter Cronkite (the journalist called "the conscience of America") to finally turn against the war.
     • Rioting broke out on college campuses across the entire country, as the US fractured into warring factions: young vs. old, women vs. men, blacks vs. whites, liberals vs. conservatives, South vs. North—all creating schisms that have never quite healed.
     • At the forefront of a protest at the 1968 Miss America Pageant, women began a movement which would forever re-define their role in American society.
     • Millions of others would soon join the cause of the American migrant workers, which was spearheaded by Cesar Chavez.
     • The Catholic Church split down the middle, those favoring a much greater role in working for social causes facing off against those committed to a more traditional role for the Church.
     • The Hippie Movement became a potent political force, affecting US history as no other group of young Americans has ever done.   
     Today, the US is again caught in the quagmire of an increasingly unpopular war (and millions think, an unnecessary war) that is costing taxpayers some $4,000 a second, as energy costs have driven home to even the two former oil-men in the White House that we must begin to find alternative fuels now. The administration has also turned the largest surplus in history into the largest deficit, a swing of some three trillion dollars—all of which has created a deeply disgruntled populace, with eighty percent thinking the country is on the wrong path, even as the president sinks to the lowest approval rating ever recorded, and most of the rest of the world looks on with disdain and anger.
     But as America once recovered from the 60s, it can do so again. The American people have a genius for rediscovery and renovation—and in time their beleaguered country may once more become the most admired country on the face of the Earth.