I was in a communist country when Martin Luther King died on April 4, 1968 – Yugoslavia. Back then it was called the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Tito was in power.
Along with a couple of dozen of other San Jose State College students, and a few professors, I was spending my second sophomore semester taking classes in Zadar, a picturesque town on the Adriatic sea.
As you can imagine, it was quite a culture shock. For both us and the locals.
Into a regimented traditional society comes a bunch of hang-loose long-haired hippie college students from the epicenter of Flower Power. (OK, we were some forty miles away down the peninsula, but when asked where we were from, we'd always round off the geography and say "San Francisco.")
There were some tensions, but overall we got along fine with the Zadarians. Even better, after news of King's death reached us.
Total strangers would come up to me on the cobblestoned streets of Zadar, shake my hand, and say "I'm so sorry." (Almost always Yugoslavs' English was much better than my limited Serbo-Croatian.)
Those were the days when the United States was still respected in Europe, even with the Vietnam War. People were genuinely moved by King's assassination. The same thing happened a few months later when Bobby Kennedy was killed.
This county was a shining light to the rest of the world, even (or especially) to those living in communist nations like Yugoslavia.
What a difference forty years makes. Now we're a bad example, not a good one. We wage war based on false premises. Our economy is tanking. The only dream most American politicians have is how to get re-elected.
I'm hoping that whoever ends up as the Democratic candidate for president will rekindle my '60s the times they are a-changin' optimism.
The deaths of King and Kennedy dampened the spirits of my generation. But lots of us are still revolutionaries at heart. We've just been waiting a long time for an a-changin' leader.
Barack Obama strikes me as much more King and Kennedy-esqe than Hillary Clinton is. So my 1968 soul hopes that I'll be able to see President Obama elected in 2008.
Clinton has a bit more momentum than Obama at the moment. Bob Dylan, though, tells us what can happen to frontrunners.
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.
I only hope.
Very interesting post and topic sir.
I wish this weren't going to be an election of "lesser of two evils" again, but to my eye it is. When I look at the two "progressive" front runners, I'm unimpressed by both unfortunately. Clinton strikes me as so power hungry she can't see straight, and therefore a corporate hack. Obama seems very willing to saber-rattle if he thinks it will gain him political power -- what a huge disappointment.
I'd love to vote for a peace, education, economy, and environment president. I don't believe I'll have that choice.
Posted by: Bpaul | January 22, 2008 at 11:48 AM
Sorry to go off topic there but that's where my thoughts went by the end of the reading. Optimism to "realism" -- blah.
Posted by: Bpaul | January 22, 2008 at 11:50 AM