Weekly Feature



2018-01-03 / Editorials

Looking back as we look ahead to 2018

DAVID F. SHERMAN
Managing Editor

Sixty-eight was not so great. It would be premature to assume this is my age. Instead, I refer to the trials and tribulations of 50 years ago – 1968.

Most of my memories from that year are of the negative variety, including the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy, the “police riot” at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the surprise Tet Offensive in Vietnam, the My Lai massacre and the Soviet Union’s invasion of insurgent forces in Czechoslovakia.

Tormented by failure to win the ground war in Southeast Asia, an embattled President Lyndon Johnson withdrew from the race which eventually resulted in Richard Nixon being elected to the White House on his second quest.

While it remains difficult not to focus on the negatives of that year, it is worth noting that the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl II and the Detroit Tigers captured the World Series. The Montreal Canadiens swept the St. Louis Blues to win the Stanley Cup. Bobby Unser won the Indianapolis 500; he would accomplish the same feat twice more in his career. Graham Hill won the World Drivers Championship, almost seven months to the day after teammate Jimmy Clark was killed in a meaningless Formula 2 race in Germany.

Peggy Fleming and Tim Wood won Olympic gold medals in figure skating.

Pierre Trudeau became Canada’s 15th prime minister.

Skateboarder Tony Hawk and actor Will Smith were born.

Helen Keller and John Steinbeck died.

All that in the space of an unbelievable 12 months. This steady stream of news only enhanced my interest in it, with scrapbooks and glue leading me to the career I still enjoy today.

As tragic as 1968 often was, travel back an additional 50 years to 1918.

On March 9 of that year, the Russian Bolshevik Party became the Communist Party. On April 21, German fighter ace Baron Manfred von Richthofen “The Red Baron,” was shot down and killed over Vaux sur Somme in France. Canadian pilot Arthur Roy Brown was credited with the kill.

On May 21, the House of Representatives passed the 19th Amendment, allowing women the right to vote. On Oct. 8, the name of Cpl. Alvin C. York was made immortal after he reportedly killed more than 20 German soldiers and captured an additional 132 at the head of a small detachment near the Meuse River in France. His exploits later earned York the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Late September saw the beginning of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive with more than 1 million

American soldiers engaged in the largest and most costly offensive of World War I.

Then on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the Armistice was signed between the Allies and what remained of the crippled German Empire.

The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was around 40 million. The Allies lost about 5.7 million soldiers, while the Central Powers lost about 4 million.

The similarities between the events of 1918 and 1968 are ominous. Both ended with a sigh of relief and hopes for better days ahead. The former ended with peace. The latter ended with the crew of an American spacecraft, Apollo 8, reading from the Book of Genesis on Christmas Eve as they became the first humans to orbit the moon.

Mission Commander Frank Borman spoke first.

“In the beginning,” he said, “God created the heaven and the earth.”

(David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at dsherman@beenews.com.)

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