Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Game-changing Event in Your Lifetime


In the course of my lifetime (1948-2010) many events have shaped me. If I had to pick one, and this is a difficult task, I would choose Watergate. For the first time I understood what lengths men would go to to hang on to power. I understood that Presidents lie.

I could have chosen a book like Rachel Carson's, or the polio vaccine, or Roe v. Wade, or Brown v. Board of Education, or any one of the many assassinations I lived through. I could have chosen the Vietnam War, the McCarthy Hearings (barely remember them), the execution of the Rosenbergs, the Cuban Missile Crisis. But I will stick with Watergate, which didn't make me hate government--just made me cautious of the mantle of power. What do you choose in your life span? What made you the person that you are?

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

Geez Louise, how can we pick just one? It's too hard.

I'd have to go with the year 1968 - two assassinations, the uprisings in Paris and elsewhere, the Chicago convention/police riot, Tet and Johnson deciding not to run for re-election, student takeover at Columbia, Russians sending the tanks into Prague, black power salutes at the Mexico City Olympics and Ralph Beamon's incredible leap, and the Tigers beating the Cardinals in one of the great World Series.

You really felt the world was changing, and mostly not for the better.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

That was definitely the pivotal year of my life. Oh and the riots in cities like Detroit. I didn't live here then but locals claim it was the big game changer for Detroit. It never recovered.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - Hmm..I would have to say the Three Mile Island nuclear scare of 1978, I was living in south-central Pennsylvania at the time, not really far from those reactors and the thought of a nuclear melt-down and all it would mean changed my perspective. It reminded me of how fragile life is...

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, a good one. And certainly Chernobyl too.

John McFetridge said...

Hey Jeff, have you read Mark Kurlansky's book, "1968?"

All those big events are significant, for sure, but the first "oil crisis" in the 70's really woke me up to how little control we have over our lives and how interconnected the whole world is.

And, I guess, what lengths we'll go to in order to keep up our way of life.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I read it and liked it a lot more than SALT.
Waiting in line for gas was pretty darn scary but did it change the way the world does business. NOoooooooooo.

Anonymous said...

John, thanks for mentioning the Kuriansky book. I've read a bunch of stuff about that era including Joe Haldeman's 1968, but not that one.

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

Sorry - Kurlansky.

Gotta proofread.

Jeff

PS - will check it out.

Richard S. Wheeler said...

Hiroshima. I remember the bold headlines. That was before TV, and the best source was Pathe News, the excellent black and white newsreels playing in theaters. The event was viewed as a life-saver because the impending invasion of Japan would cost countless casualties (two million, we learned later).

pattinase (abbott) said...

Although I wasn't born yet, I have to say that was probably the biggest event of the 20th century.
Although computers might end up having the most profound effect.

Todd Mason said...

I must admit, I'm impressed that you could get through the Johnson Administration, and have learned anything about US history, and been surprised by the lies of a US President, much less shaken to the core that they might lie.

Hiroshima, happening 19 years to the day before I was born, was another big step in New Advancements in Genocide, but the previous century was full of those.

Personally, the biggest event in my life was the introduction to the persistent abuse I was to find at the hands of certain people I'd have to deal with once I was old enough to be left with others, "caregivers" if one wants to call them that and of course the nastier kids in the schools. Apparently I'd had at least one bully to deal with before moving to New England in 1969, but I have no memory of him. I sure as hell remember the thugs in New England, which encourages a rather hostile attitude toward one's fellows, moreso than most regions of the country (in the latter, various forms of politness or "mellowness" or both frequently mask the hostility).

Perhaps as a result, the various incompletely successful but nonetheless inspiring liberation movements of the last century were most important to me, in the larger compass.

Todd Mason said...

Or, for that matter, the McCarthy hearings...

Joe Barone said...

I could choose any one of those you listed, but I immediately thought of something else, a small thing. The Willie Horton presidential ad. Politics has always been nasty, but I think that ad brought nasty politics into the media age in way we are still living with today.

Admittedly, everything on your list is probably more important.

Charles Gramlich said...

Really good question. I think most of my things would be far more personal. First relationship. That sort of thing. As for a big public event, I'd have to pick the first moon landing.

Ron Scheer said...

I am of German descent, and to be honest, the war against Nazi Germany has probably had the biggest impact on me, though I hardly remember it. It was the end of innocence about the true nature of evil in the world. As a result, unlike other Americans who celebrate their origins with hyphenated labels, Irish-American, Mexican-American, African-American, I have always been unhyphenated - an "American." For better or worse, my roots are here.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am 3/4 German descent too.
Funny, my husband said meeting me was the biggest game changing event in his life. I never even thought of it. Good for you for valuing the personal over the political because in the long run...
That ad was horrible, Joe, but back in 1964 I got to see the ad Barry Goldwater was going to run in the election against Johnson. (I was briefly a Goldwater girl in high school) That made everything that's come since fade.

John McFetridge said...

Sometimes I think the next big change won't have an "event" to mark it. This century will likely end up being about how China came to dominate everything.

Have a look at this from the Washington Post about China and the movie business.

Apparently China wants to buy a Hollywood studio. I was a little surprised when I took my kids to see The Karate Kid remake that it was pretty much an ad for China.

I guess this is why none of us have mentioned Tianamen Square as a big event.

Todd Mason said...

Actually, Patti, the "daisy" ad was a Johnson ad against Goldwater. Goldwater's campaign wasn't competent enough to do much of anything (though Texas Republicans came up with an ad tying in Johnson with Billy Sol Estes that was as lurid as anything involving Willie Horton).

China won't get to control everything, anymore than "we've" been able to, John. Hell, even the film industry is booming not only in India but Nigeria...and if we don't see much of the Indian product, we see even less of the Nigerian...

Todd Mason said...

But what made you a Goldwater Youth? Were you a YAFfy?

Todd Mason said...

Or, sorry, Patti, do you refer to another ad altogether?

Evan Lewis said...

Don't know if Watergate had any lasting effect on me, but I sure enjoyed watching it play out. It still ranks as the greatest reality TV entertainment of all time, beating out even the Tanya Harding scandal.

Todd Mason said...

Gore Vidal used to refer to needing his Watergate fix, Evan...the 1964 Texas GOP ad I remember seeing in a televised discussion of notable campaign ads was Mostly about Estes, but also made a few semi-indirect references to racial matters and other reasons why Johnson was Satan.

"In your heart, you know he's right"...the tag for the Goldwater ads that did run...inspiring immediately the joke, "Yes, but he's Too Far Right."

George said...

It's a toss-up between the war in Vietnam and the Lunar Landing. Darkness vs. Light.

Dana King said...

I'd have to say Vietnam. World War II was a bigger deal, but I wasn't around then. I remember Vietnam War coverage, and I've since learned enough history to know how significant the changes would become to me, though i was unaware of them at the time.

Charlieopera said...

Reading The Friends of Eddie Coyle in college.

Seeing one of my kids waiting for me outside a hospital with his mother. His head was bandaged after a fall (we were divorced and not being there for the kids hit me very hard that day)

A couple of nights in lockup (this ain’t so bad … a dumbass attitude that could’ve turned out a lot worse).

Meeting my wife. Changed everything for the better.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I saw A CHOICE NOT AN ECHO. I went to a Christian High School and was briefly influenced by their frightening yet oddly omniscient politics.
People have been saying the Chinese would dominate the world for as long as I can remember. They have now achieved this by some pretty dubious means.
Good coverage of the spectrum, Charlie: books, home life, youthful indiscretions.

Chuck said...

Serving in Viet Nam and the Supreme Court stopping the recount in Bush v. Goge in 2000. We seemed to have recoved from the first debacle but will ever recover from the second? I am beginning to doubt it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Great one, Chuck. It set us on a course which we can't stray from. I read an article recently that delineated all of the money spent and lives lost due to our over the top reaction to 9/11. Would Gore have reacted thusly?

Richard R. said...

Well this is one of those just say it off the top of your head, don't over think it questions.

* Dave Garroway hosting the first live coast-to-coast television broadcast. I was terribly impressed.
* Assassination of JFK. I was horrified.
* Armstrong landing n the moon. Simply amazing.
* The Alaska earthquake. Living in earthquake country, it was the first time I'd really seen the power and destruction of one in my lifetime.
* The Watts riots in Los Angeles. A game-changer for the city and it's neighborhoods.
* The riots in Chicago during the democratic convention, the Chicago Seven
* Watergate. Of course. Like Evan, I was glued to the television. What a cast of heros and villains.

On a more personal note,
* my first car (1950 Ford Tudor)
* my first new car (1972 Dodge)
* the death of my father
* the summer of love in San Francisco - I bought into the ideals and still hold some of them. I had the hair, did the drugs, listened - deeply - to the music
* my first computer with a GUI and mouse (a Pc clone running Windows 3)
* buying my first home
* the death of my mother
* meeting and marrying my wife

pattinase (abbott) said...

Richard=-a great list-personal and political. We had a Dodge Swinger in 1972.

Todd Mason said...

If I'd known you were present for the 1964 Alaska quake, I'd forgotten, Rick. I was in Fairbanks, not near the epicenter as Anchorage was, and was minus-two months from parturition, at least. Can't imagine it was fun. Some of my parents' friends were killed. All told, the San Francisco experience sounds preferable.

Anders E said...

As a European, I'll have to go with the liberation of the Eastern Bloc.

Toemailer said...

Personally, I would have to say it was Reagan getting elected. He was soon followed by Thatcher in England and Mulroney in Canada - I thought of it as a kind of political Bermuda Triangle, a place where hopes and dreams vanished. And it did set the stage for American politics for the next 30 years giving us the ridiculous mess we have in the world today.

pattinase (abbott) said...

How few of these events are good ones. Sad. In many ways, the birth of the Reagan Dems really was as pivotal as his election. This group has swung the pendulum.

Anonymous said...

That day in High School I read "The Maltese Falcon."

Dan Luft

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am surprised we didn't mention books more. Books continually change my life.

Todd Mason said...

Well, I did most of my learning about liberation movements via books and magazines...and inversely from dealing with Reagan Democrats even when they were still Wallace Democrats, and well before they became BubbaCrats...

Katherine Tomlinson said...

The 1969 moon landing. Because 1968 was a year that brought me to the brink of despair and landing on the moon made all things seem possible again. Last year's celebrations of the event (Can it really have been 40 years) moved me to tears.

And a close second--bearing witness to the landing on Mars and seeing the landscape of another planet in color and up close. Go little Rover go.

pattinase (abbott) said...

It was magical and I doubt anyone not there then would get it.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

When Chester left Gunsmoke.

pattinase (abbott) said...

???? I am fumbling. Was he the one with the limp?

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

That's him. And I'm not being glib. I loved the show and loved Chester and when I read in the paper he was quitting I was devastated. After that, every big loss and letdown in life was just another Chester limping away.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Wow! I bet that Dennis Weaver would be gratified to know he's made such a mark. I never got over it when I figured out what Miss Kitty's place was all about.