National Guard units were activated in a previously unfathomable fashion, with guardsmen being order to patrol American streets. Rioting and arrest rates across the country soared, with multiple municipalities overwhelmed by vandalism and looting. Media outlets continuously replayed scenes of civil unrest, anguish, anger, and conflict, serving to only stoke an ever growing fire. Meanwhile, NASA astronauts rocketed into space and the great unknown. These are events from the late 1960s. These are events occurring right now.
In 1968, the United States found itself embattled on all sides. American citizens were beginning to realize the Vietnam War was being waged by incompetent leaders, the civil rights movement was tearing the nation at its seems, violent unrest threatened to destroy the union, and the United States successfully completed its first manned mission into space.
In 2020, the United States finds itself once again surrounded by seemingly insurmountable challenges. COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the economy, an impeachment trial has left the country politically divided, riots and protests are flourishing as a result of the suffocation of an unarmed black man while in police custody, and two NASA astronauts successfully launched from American soil into the great unknown.
Then, as now, deep economic disparity divided Americans, a tense debate about individual rights and freedoms ensued, and opposing visions for American life seemed to expose the cracks in our society. However, as the chaos settled, debates were resolved, and people heard, the United States emerged stronger than before.
The American political system has never produced fast or elegant solutions to problems. What it does provide, however, is multiple levels of government, a strong civil society, and robust private sector. Even in the midst of civil unrest, economic hardship, and foreign policy concerns, America will endure. In 1968, it was hard for people to imagine that the United States would emerge from civil unrest stronger than before, but it did. Likewise, it is hard for people to imagine that the United States will emerge stronger from civil unrest, but it will.
At the end of the day, it would be wise to remember we all bleed red, and we are all Americans.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Army, Department of Defense, or the United States Government.