The height and perhaps culminating year of the Civil Rights Movement in America. That year Martin Luther King Jr. was shot just down the road from where I sit right now, his death serving as perhaps the climax of the CRM period in American history.
What we may not know is that there was also a pandemic that began the summer of 1968. This flu pandemic ended up taking the lives of at least 1 million people worldwide (perhaps up to 4 million) during 1968-1969.
A pandemic is again amongst us and it has thus far claimed approximately 450,000 lives in our world.
And here we are with extremely heightened racial tensions in America, which have been developing in our modern moment since the death of Trayvon Martin eight years ago. A litany of names follow his, which we can (and should) rehearse, all the way down to George Floyd. There are perhaps others to note from recent days, and there will unfortunately be more in the coming days.
1968 and 2020.
1968 was fifty-two years ago. That seems a long way away for many of us. It is for me, having been born in 1979. But I find it interesting that, in many ways, we are experiencing 1968 all over again.
What we are walking through calls to me, to us, asking that we pause and consider that we possibly never made it out of 1968. We have embraced globalization and technological advances that make it seem like 1968 is long gone. But 1968 is still very close to us.
I would, I think, lay all of those modern advances down to have seen us move toward more just social, economic, religious, and political endeavors.
I’m not even sure at this point if the tragedy of both a pandemic and modern racist atrocities can get our attention. We aren’t willing to listen, and to then consider the full cost it will take to get us out of 1968.