Walter Nicklin at the American Scholar:
Amid all the hot, languid days of late August, melting together into a lifetime’s haze of forgotten moments, what happened exactly a half-century ago will never fade: I’m tightly holding the hand of a girl I’ve only just met, fleeing the searing sensation of tear gas, coughing and wheezing, caught up in the crowd stampeding out of Grant Park down Michigan Avenue.
You didn’t have to be there, as I was—at the 1968 Democratic Convention, August 26-29, in Chicago—to feel the exhilarating terror of the tear gas or the billy-club-wielding policemen. “The whole world is watching,” chanted the protesters, playing for the television cameras. And you didn’t have to be among the demonstrators to anticipate what would become the enduring meaning of “Chicago 1968”—a generational imprint, a Baby Boomer synecdoche, shorthand for the volatile mix of Vietnam War dissent, police overreaction, the media’s power, and the young-versus-old divide that superseded national identity.