There’s a theory, which I want to believe, that the reason memory fails as you get older is because there’s only so much room in your brain, and new memories shove the old ones out.
If you’ve reached a certain age, and you know if you have, the 1960s are probably a blur of turmoil, much of which you’ve forgotten or would like to. If you’re up for having your memory prodded, or even if you’re not, you should watch a CNN series called “The Sixties,” available on Netflix.
Somehow living through that time, even as assassination followed assassination, Vietnam sucked up a generation, and music turned from Elvis to The Grateful Dead, it did not seem as momentous as it actually was.
When you see it spread before you in 10 very well-produced episodes, you wonder how the country survived.
The case might be made that it did not; that it changed so radically during that decade that it became a different place.
The civil rights movement exploded, seemingly out of nowhere, and by 1965 the racial playing field was legally level, though the social and economic sides have a long way to go. Feminism, environmentalism and gay rights movements all got their starts.
The Republicans suffered through a disastrous 1964 as Barry Goldwater (Hillary was a Goldwater girl) crashed; the Democrats disintegrated after the 1968 convention in the Chicago police state.
JFK was killed in 1963; Martin Luther King and Bobby were killed weeks apart in 1968.
We all saw friends go to Vietnam and not return. A president resigned, and still the war went on.
The series touches on the new ubiquitousness of television, with snippets of the stupidest shows ever made.
It ties together music and the counterculture, culminating in the love fest at Woodstock, followed by the disaster at Altamont.
Beneath it all lay the Cold War, with the genuine fear of annihilation, and the space race, which we won definitively when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.
There is a lot more there, and you will be amazed that it all really happened and how much and how quickly it changed our world.
I know we are going through dramatic times now, with echoes of the 1960s still around us. We have our own seemingly endless, though thankfully much more limited, war, political chaos, a changing global economy and terrorism.
Will all this be looked back on in 50 years as a time of seminal change? Maybe. I don’t know how you can tell in real time.
I knew the ’60s were chaotic 50 years ago, but I didn’t understand what the lasting impact would be. Life goes on, and very quickly. You go to school, to work, get married (well, not so much any more), but perspective only comes with time.
I made a point of suggesting to my kids that they watch this series. They probably won’t (why start paying attention now?), but, as I told them, it would go a long way toward explaining why their parents are who they are and how today’s world got this way.
Recording history has fundamentally changed in the last 100 years. What would we know today if we had real-time video and commentary from Caesar’s assassination or the American Revolution or the Civil War?
Reading is not the same as seeing and hearing. The intimacy is almost disturbing.
It makes the mistakes more obvious and the consequences more painful.
There are lessons to be learned. Take a look at “The Sixties” and see if we have learned them.