Saturday, February 23, 2008

40 Years Ago

(An occasional reminiscence on the events of 1968)

In Memphis, sanitation workers went on strike on February 12. 1,300 workers walked out of their jobs to force the city to recognize their union, AFSCME Local 1733, trying to change “a long history of mistreatment and disrespect amid shameful working conditions.”

In Vietnam, reporters were having difficulty – as usual -- finding out the truth about the war effort. The military kept reporting all was going well while reporters on the streets in Hue knew it was not. Halberstam tells a story in The Powers That Be about Walter Cronkite being flown to Hue from Saigon to see the pacified Hue streets; on the flight back he flew with bodies of 12 American boys killed that day in the ‘non-fighting’. As Halberstam tells it,
here was Cronkite flying to Saigon, where the American military command was surrounded by defeat and calling it victory.
Not long after that, on February 27, Cronkite would report on his evening news program, "Who won and who lost in the great Tet Offensive against the cities? I‘m not sure…It is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out...will be to negotiate, not as victors but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could." Lyndon Johnson’s reaction was that if he had "lost Cronkite," he‘d "lost Mr. Average Citizen."

Other events of February: Lisa Marie Presley was born to Elvis and Priscilla. Eldridge Cleaver published his blockbuster memoir ‘Soul on Ice’. The first 911 telephone emergency system was inaugurated in Alabama. The Pennsylvania and New York Central railroads merged into Penn Central. British astronomers announced the discovery of pulsars. Another 10,000 U.S. troops were sent to Vietnam. On February 23, Over 1,300 artillery rounds hit the Marine base at Khe Sanh and its outposts, more than on any previous day of attacks.
On the cover of GQ magazine: a dashiki.

And so it went.

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