American Experience aired the episode 1964 last week, claiming that it was a year “when everything changed”. Such claims are always a bit dubious in my mind, but any year with a US Presidential election can prove to be a game changer. It was an important year in the 1960s and is usually overshadowed by 1968, but it was the year The Feminine Mystic was published, the Civil Rights Act was passed, the Beatles took the U.S. charts, Cassius Clay became Mohamid Ali, the UC Berkeley Free Speech Movement emerged. And Michelle Obama was born. The idea that she would go on to be First Lady was beyond what most people then could even imagine. Lyndon Johnson won by a landslide, likely unaware of just how much things would change in the next four years.
I remember that year from the perspective of a second and third grader. I liked Johnson at the time because he had beagles, as did I with Julie above who I adopted as a puppy that Fourth of July. Then the images of Johnson holding up his Beagles by their ears emerged, and it seems it was that — not the U.S. involvement in Vietnam that turned me against LBJ. In the next four years, I would develop a pre-teen political awareness as the issues that were just beginning to germinate in 1964 came to a head.
As I watched the documentary about 1964, an odd thought started going through my head as often is the case with historical documentaries. I started doing the math and realized I am about two years older than LBJ when he made his presidential run. I seriously thought he was much older than that back then, and to look at those images of him and realize he would be my junior were I to step back into 1964 as my current self is rather disconcerting. His was a generation when smoking, heavy drinking, and bad eating habits were never questioned. And I look back on photos of my grandparents and their circle and see almost the shadows of LBJ. (They were a few years his senior.)
The Shattering of Time is indeed something that happens when I try to hold up the lives of my ancestors and use it as a template against my own. I don’t picture myself suddenly