Is this all there is?

by James K. Sayre

Back in 1961, I was a sophomore majoring in physics at Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I commuted to school in a car; I was doing well in classes and I had a nice girlfriend. One afternoon I was driving out to her family's house in another part of Pittsburgh and I had a disconcerting thought: is this all there is to life? It seemed very cut and dried. You went to school, studied, graduated, got a job, got married and had kids, basically just repeating what your parents had done... Things were pretty quiet politically, at least as far as I know.

The next few years brought unpleasant and disconcerting events to the forefront. In 1962, there was the Cuban missile crisis, in which President Kennedy skillfully got the Russians to withdraw their offensive ballistic missiles from Cuba (and the US withdrew its offensive ballistic missiles from Turkey soon afterwards). In 1963 civil rights protests were heating up and in November, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on the 22nd. I remember hearing news reports on the radio about two men that were seen running from a grassy knoll at the scene; soon that part of the story vanished from the media. Independent investigations into the Kennedy assassination soon followed.

In 1964, there were Freedom rides of brave young men who went into the Deep South to register African-americans who had long been denied the right to vote. Also, the Vietnam War was escatated by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who went on to crush Senator Barry Goldwater (R - AZ) in the Presidential Election in November.

In 1965, serious anti-Vietnam War protests started, at first, just in Berkeley, Palo Alto and San Francisco, but they soon spread to universities and cities across the country.

For details on the rest of the 1960s, please visit my other essays at: Late 1960s and early 1970s anti-Vietnam war protests, social and political background notes and a short discussion of some of the best rock 'n roll music of the times. Anti-Vietnam War Protests



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Web page last updated on 9 September 2008.