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1968 Exhibit: What Went Wrong With Baby Boomers

Patch editor David Mills discussed the "1968" exhibit at the Oakland Museum and how it makes clear why the Baby Boomer generation is messed up.

If you want to know why the Baby Boomer generation is unstable, just visit the "1968" exhibit at the Oakland Museum.

The exhibit, which now runs through late November, is an interesting collection of events, fashion and memorabilia from 1968.

It's a display that's well put together and gives viewers a good glimpse of what that traumatic year was like.

It also shows how that violent, fragmented, fast changing and colorful 12 months shaped and in some instances warped the Baby Boomers.

The news events alone were enough to shatter any generation.

The year began with the Tet offensive in Vietnam, one of the bloodiest conflicts of that divisive war. This was also the year where the most soldiers were killed in that Southeast Asian nation. On average, more than 1,000 young Americans died each month there in 1968.

This part of the exhibit is punctuated by a Huey helicopter that was used in Vietnam. Inside the chopper, video plays with actual footage of the fighting and interviews with soldiers who were there.

You walk a few feet away and you can watch another video, this one about the assassination in April 1968 of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. The video shows the events leading up to the murder as well as the riots that followed.

In another corner are artifacts from the June 1968 assassination of Sen. Robert Kennedy while he was running for president. He was shot in the head on the night he won the California primary. There are dishes from the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles where the shooting occurred as well as photos and a video of Kennedy's funeral train, a film most Baby Boomers probably can't watch for more than a minute or so.

Next stop is the explosive Democratic National Convention in August, where riot police clashed with anti-war demonstrators on the streets of Chicago while inside delegates argued vehemently over who should be their presidential nominee. They chose Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who did not run in the primaries.

In November, the Republican nominee, Richard Nixon, barely defeated Humphrey, in part because segregationist candidate George Wallace won a handful of Southern states.

Also during that year, the Black Panther movement grew in strength and feminists protested at the Miss American pageant. At the Olympics in Mexico City, two U.S. sprinters thrust up their arms in a black power salute while on the medal podium.

If all that wasn't enough, there were cultural changes unraveling.

Some of the exhibits display the colorful and revolutionary fashion shifts. Orange was a popular color that year. Short skirts and flowery shirts were part of the younger generation's statement that they were different than their parents.

Even the dishes, radios and stereo players were unique. Movies were becoming more violent and more sexually explicit. Space travel was expanding as we prepared to go to the moon.

Everything was questioned. Ground-breaking items could be found in every corner of society. The vast array of cultural shifts was too much, especially for a generation that was coming of age while it worried about going off to war and watched its political heroes get gunned down.

I'm convinced the Baby Boom generation never recovered from 1968. It's why we are the way we are.

We're still a generation that is adamant about its views, whether they are conservative or liberal. It's one of the reasons the country is now more divided than it's been since... well... 1968.

We're still trying to break new ground while we head into our sixties and seventies. We're still pretty self-absorbed and volatile.

And I believe you can trace a lot of it back to that 12 months of confusion and chaos that happened 44 years ago.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

CJ August 17, 2012 at 05:00 AM
JD- I disagree. I am certain that one individual who you and I know who it is, whined and complained and a couple of times I'll admit to stepping over the line. But then I flag a viciously personal attack post by said individual and ........crickets. Just saying. Seems a little arbitrary. That person fits your politcal outlook , I don't. Just don't get so offensive when you get called out for it.
lovelafayette August 17, 2012 at 05:48 AM
This is a very powerful important exhibit that brought tears to my eyes, so good it has been extended until November. I agree 1968 established core values for many of us, on both sides of the aisle and street. A good exhibit to share with the family, a good way to explain yourself to your kids. And don't forget to listen to the music.
Ian Lipnicky (still a SportsFan) August 17, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Replying to the multiple attacks would be a violation of the commenting policy since it's off-topic. Old-timers are advised to read the commenting policy.
Publius August 19, 2012 at 11:32 PM
JD, I have been censored on other Patch sites for the most banal of commentary that must somehow just not fit the "agenda". However, I have seen the most offensive, vitriolic, vituperative posts be allowed to stand unchallenged by the moderator. This makes no sense to me.
J.D. O'Connor August 20, 2012 at 03:21 AM
@CJ -- Sorry, but you can't be more wrong. Trying to save you from yourself here, but if you're not buying it, you're not buying it. It should be plain to see that while most of the posts we see at Lamorinda Patch are well-written and civil, a few are not and, yes, they are stricken. And will continue to be stricken. Claiming that you've been singled out for my attention because of my political leaning is offensive and repeatedly calling me a censor as opposed to a reluctant moderator may make you feel better, but also is nowhere near the truth.

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