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40 Years On

By admin Published: June 5, 2008


In the wee hours of June 5, 1968, I was at home, watching TV as the results from the California Democratic primary rolled in. I was 16 years old. ...

I was a political kid, which is not to say that I was happy with that night's voting, which found Robert F. Kennedy winning the primary and on track for the Democratic nomination. I was a Eugene McCarthy kid. But I was also intrigued by politics, and I was watching this electoral watershed to the bitter end.

As hazy memory tells me, Kennedy had made his victory speech, the network I was watching (one of three then, and I think the only one that was still on the air at that point) had begun to roll closing credits.

Then something happened. Scuffling and noise on the TV. The credits stopped. Kennedy had been shot. A long vigil began; on June 6, Kennedy died. The latest in what seemed like an unending series of '60s assassinations had happened. The political landscape was turned upside down, and I sometimes wonder if it will ever right itself.

And yet, despite Hillary Clinton's profoundly insensitive reference to RFK while defending her decision to keep campaigning until June, we have made astonishing progress since that day. The Democratic nomination came down to a woman and an African-American man. Either way, a barrier would be broken. We'll see what sort of history will be made in November.

Meanwhile, even if the details are blurred by time, I still remember that night, and watching. Sometimes I think that's one of those moments that years later led me into writing about television. Here was immediacy, drama, agony -- an event that was literally earth-shaking unfolding on that TV screen, as cameras rolled and reporters scrambled, and we could see the roll and scramble.

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