Jamelle Bouie, at The New York Times
The simple truth is that comparisons to 1968 should be made sparingly. Yes, we have mass civil unrest, but it’s impossible at this stage to say how it will play out in November and you can’t simply plot the circumstances of a half-century ago onto the present. There are too many differences. There is no Vietnam War or disintegrating Democratic coalition. Our unrest is happening against a backdrop of deprivation and deep inequality, not the relative prosperity of the late 1960s. And while Trump benefits from a devoted coalition, it remains a vocal minority, not a “silent majority.” The protests are different too, encompassing a large, diverse cross-section of America. In turn, there appears to be greater sympathy for the protesters and their grievances, so much so that most public officials outside of the president and his closest allies have shown some understanding of the anger and discontent even as they oppose riots and disorder.
Jamelle has some great thoughts here, as always. We have a tendency to look for historical context in crisis, which isn’t necessarily bad, but we need to understand that we’re in uncharted territory.
As we try to understand the forces at work in this country, we should do so with profound humility about the limits of what we can know and what we can foresee. We should remember that the past, like the present, was contingent; that events that seem inevitable could have gone a different way; that those who lived through them were, like us, unable to see how things would unfold. We should be aware of the past — we should understand the processes that produced our world — but it shouldn’t be a substitute for thinking. We are not them, and now is not then.
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