For years I believed my fate was tethered to Theodore Parker’s arc of the
Moral universe bending toward justice. However, objective, empirical evidence indicates that I am condemned to wander in a wormhole with its ends fixed between the 1960s and 2010s. In 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King concluded an address to the graduating class at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University stating “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” in quotation marks. President Obama and Time Magazine attributed the quote to Dr. King, but the provenance moves the date back to before the Civil War and a series of sermons given by Theodore Parker.
What a time it was. Baby boomers came of age. For the first time in history over 50 percent of Americans were under the age of 25 and looking for a cause to fight for (it’s what people under 25 do). Revolutions of many colors were in the air, anti-anything was good. Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll took the country by storm. The Cold War was at its zenith. The Bay of Pigs, the Cuban missile crisis, Vietnam, and assassinations filled the headlines. Technology was ascending and science became the new religion. Space travel was no longer the domain of Buck Rogers or science fiction authors. Check out some of the U.S. headlines:
1960: Russia shot Gary Power’s American U-2 spy plane downed over the motherland * An irritated Khrushchev canceled the Paris summit conference * The Israelis invaded Argentina to capture Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi noted for the extermination of Jews (The Israelis executed Eichmann in 1962) * Mao’s Communist China and the Soviet Union split in conflict over Communist ideology * Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Madagascar, and Zaire (Belgian Congo) gained independence * Cuba confiscated $770 million of U.S. property * 900 U.S. military advisers were in South Vietnam * 1961: U.S. and Cuba severed diplomatic relationship * Robert Frost recited “The Gift Outright” at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration * Moscow’s Yuri Gagarin became first man in orbit around Earth * Cuba routed the U.S./exiles Bay of Pigs invasion *The U.S.’s astronauts, Alan Shepard and Virgil Grissom, made it into space * Russia’s Titov went one better by orbiting the earth over seventeen times in the Vostok II * East Germans erected the Berlin Wall to keep the East Berliners home * The U.S. detonated a really nasty 50-megaton hydrogen bomb * 2,000 U.S. military advisers were in South Vietnam * 1962: Lt. Col. John Glenn, Jr. was the first American to orbit Earth * Algeria gained independence from France * The Soviets and Americans faced off during the Cuban missile crisis * James Meredith registered at University of Mississippi thanks to protection from federal marshals * Cuba released 1,113 prisoners from the Bay of Pigs invasion attempt * Burundi, Jamaica, Western Samoa, Uganda, and Trinidad and Tobago became independent * 11,000 U.S. military advisers were in South Vietnam * 1963: France and West Germany signed a treaty of cooperation ending four centuries of conflict * Dr. De Bakey implanted the first artificial heart in human; the patient lived four days * Pope John XXIII died and was succeeded by Cardinal Montini, Paul VI * U.S. Supreme Court ruled no locality may require recitation of Lord’s Prayer or Bible verses in public schools * The U.K.’s Profumo scandal broke out * Dr. Martin Luther King delivered the “I have a dream” speech to a Civil rights rally held by 200,000 blacks and whites in Washington, D.C. * Washington-to-Moscow “hot line” communications link opened to reduce the risk of accidental war * President Kennedy was assassinated by sniper in Dallas, TX and Lyndon B. Johnson became president * Lee Harvey Oswald, accused assassin of President Kennedy, was murdered by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner * Kenya achieved independence * Betty Friedan published “The Feminine Mystique” * 15,000 U.S. military advisers were in South Vietnam * 1964: U.S. Supreme Court ruled that congressional districts should be roughly equal in population * Ruby convicted of murder and sentenced to death for slaying Lee Harvey Oswald (the conviction was reversed Oct. 5, 1966; Ruby died Jan. 3, 1967) * Three civil rights workers—Schwerner, Goodman, and Cheney—murdered in Mississippi * Twenty-one arrests resulted in trial and conviction of seven by federal jury * Nelson Mandela sentenced to life imprisonment * Congress approved Gulf of Tonkin resolution (The Gulf of Tonkin turned out to be a false flag incident) * The Warren Report concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone * The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show * 23,310 U.S. military personnel were in South Vietnam * 1965: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and more than 2,600 other blacks arrested in Selma, Ala., during three-day demonstrations against voter-registration rules * Malcolm X, black-nationalist leader, shot to death at Harlem rally in New York City * U.S. Marines and Army Rangers landed in Dominican Republic * Medicare, senior citizens’ government medical assistance program, began * Blacks rioted for six days in Watts section of Los Angeles: 34 dead, over 1,000 injured, nearly 4,000 arrested, fire damage put at $175 million * A power failure in Ontario plant blacked out parts of eight states of northeast U.S. and two provinces of southeast Canada * Ralph Nader’s published “Unsafe at Any Speed” * 184,314 U.S. military personnel were in South Vietnam * 1966: Black teenagers rioted in Watts, Los Angeles; two men killed and at least 25 injured * The Supreme Court decided Miranda v* Arizona * 382,010 U.S. military personnel were in South Vietnam * 1967: Three Apollo astronauts—Col. Virgil Grissom, Col. Edward White II, and Lt. Cmdr. Roger Chaffee—killed in spacecraft fire during simulated launch * Biafra seceded from Nigeria * Israeli and Arab forces engaged in the Six-day War that ended with Israel occupying Sinai Peninsula, Golan Heights, Gaza Strip, and east bank of Suez Canal * Red China announced the explosion of its first hydrogen bomb * Racial violence in Detroit; 7,000 National Guardsmen aided police after night of rioting * Similar outbreaks occur in New York City’s Spanish Harlem, Rochester, N.Y., Birmingham, Ala., and New Britain, Conn. * Thurgood Marshall sworn in as first black U.S. Supreme Court justice * Dr. Christiaan Barnard and team of South African surgeons performed world’s first successful human heart transplant-patient died 18 days later* 485,600 U.S. military personnel were in South Vietnam * 1968: North Korea seized U.S. Navy ship Pueblo and held 83 on board as spies * Tet offensive started, turning point in Vietnam War * My Lai massacre * President Johnson announced he would not seek or accept presidential re-nomination * Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated in Memphis and James Earl Ray, indicted in his murder, captured in London (in 1969 Ray plead guilty and sentenced to 99 years) * Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was shot and critically wounded in Los Angeles hotel after winning California primary-he died the next day * (Sirhan Sirhan convicted 1969) * Czechoslovakia invaded by Russians and Warsaw Pact forces crushed the liberal regime* 549,500 U.S. military personnel were in South Vietnam * 1969: Richard M. Nixon inaugurated 37th president of the U.S. * Stonewall riot in New York City marks beginning of gay rights movement * Apollo 11 astronauts—Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, Jr., and Michael Collins—took man’s first walk on moon * Sen. Edward Kennedy plead guilty to leaving scene of fatal accident at Chappaquiddick, Mass. in which Mary Jo Kopechne drowned—got a two-month suspended sentence * Woodstock Festival * Sesame Street debuts * Internet (ARPA) goes online * 549,500 U.S. military personnel were in South Vietnam *
Meanwhile back in the 2010s
Apart from the reality that the U.S. now pays Russia (our former arch enemy) to haul our American bottoms into space and Americans are not walking on the moon, things are pretty much the same. Some names have changed and a few little things here and there are different. Other than that I might as well be in the 1960s without the benefit of the great music:
- 1,400,000 active U.S. military personnel haunt several open and secret theaters around the world against a new and improved arch enemy (soldiers are still dying and being maimed)
- The U.S. government still refuses to take care of veterans
- Intermittent race-based riots still provide cover for looting business
- The Black Panthers and others are menacing, killing and maiming police officers
- Russia’s Putin longs for the good old days of the U.S. and is still intimidating its neighbors
- Gays, et. al., are still fighting for rights
- Africa is still trying to find its continental feet
- The U.S. and Russia no longer test nuclear weapons, but many others do and the threat of nuclear confrontation remains real
- Israel is still fighting to exist
- Politicians still leave the scenes of accidents they cause
- Over half of the billion or so in the Muslim faith are under the age of 25 and looking for a cause to fight for (it’s what people under 25 do)
The Internet, however, works great!
Have we, as a species, learned so little? In a country that guarantees a right to the redress of grievances, must we continue to loot and destroy? And on the other side are extremists hollering for the violent overthrow of the U.S. government, which appeals to some people under 25 looking for a cause. In the middle of the chaos some call for the murder of police officers? Yet, we tolerate mutating historical records. Imagine seriously considering erasing the Holocaust because it may offend someone. The evidence indicates that between the choices of educating others so they may make informed choices and random radical violent outbursts, we, as a species, tend to select radical violent outbursts. The thread is that civil disorder leads to dire consequences; innocent people die, business and manufacturing dies, and antiquities as well as history are destroyed.
I have close friendships with people from many differing cultures and belief systems who echo the same frustration. As a species our moral growth is painfully slow; so slow that on occasion it appears to be retrograde. I am heartened by authors like James C. Bennett and Michael J. Lotus along with organizations like Mises, Altas, FEE, and the Explorers whose ideas offer further advancement toward justice in the philosophical sense. I am also inspired by the many voices standing up for freedom on the new type of community called Internet. I remain hopeful that I am tethered to the long arc of the Moral universe bending toward justice, but vigilant to the possibility of a wormhole between the 1960s and the 2010s.