“Has America Ever Been as Divided as it is Today?”
That was the rhetorical question a television pundit recently asked during a discussion of the nation’s current malevolent political climate.
Frankly, the question surprised me. Then I looked at who posed it. She was a thirty-something talking head who had little or no historical perspective of this country.
For her, and for those who may have only vague memories of the 1960s, the answer to that question is likely “no.”
But for many of us who lived through the 1960s and early 1970s and who were on college campuses back then, the answer is a resounding “yes!”
Yes, the nation has been this deeply divided—not only this deeply divided but almost ripped in half by something called the Vietnam War; by an active, sometimes violent civil rights struggle; and by a painful generation gap that seemed all but unbridgeable.
Indeed, the social fabric of America between the years of 1961 and 1975 was about as tattered as I have ever seen it. Of course, I was not around during the Civil War (1861-1865) when the country actually was divided—politically, culturally and geographically.
But let’s focus on the 1960s, not the 1860s. The music of Bob Dylan was an anthem for the counter-culture revolution. Haight-Ashbury and Woodstock were the emblematic settings of a time when flower-power hippies, tie-dye-wearing revolutionaries, and other social-political rebels gathered to burn incense, drop acid and profess their adherence to peace and love.
“Don’t trust anybody older than thirty,” warned leaders of the counterculture. Street revolutionaries. Meanwhile, groups called The Weather Underground, the Symbionese Liberation Army, and the Black Panthers were blowing up buildings, robbing banks, and attacking and killing police.
During one 18-month period between 1971 and 1972, there were 2,500 bombings in the United States
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