To hear David Gergen tell it, the turbulent history of America’s 1960s protest movement was little more than a polite disagreement between old pals.
“The anti-war movement in Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s and 70s, both of these were more civil in tone” than the pro- and anti-Trump forces in 2018, Gergen, a Republican adviser to Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and Bush claimed on CNN Monday night.
The political analyst was rightly dragged on Twitter — and even found himself subtweeted by a CNN anchor, who posted bloody images from the Civil Rights struggle. (Emphasis on “struggle.”) Gergen, who was in his 20s and interning for a (pro-civil rights) southern governor in the early 1960s, has zero excuse.
His words may be hyperbole. They’re part of the GOP’s attempt du jour to stoke a “civility” controversy over a Virginia restaurant owner politely informing the truth-challenged Trump spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders that she was not welcome in his establishment.
But they’re also indicative of a troubling trend: the 1960s is slowly being whitewashed, the “civil” in civil rights commonly misunderstood, and the decade’s true spirit is fading before our eyes.
It’s not just that too many politicians and pundits routinely misunderstand the meaning of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. every MLK Day. (Memo to everyone: If you want to understand the man, make sure you’ve read and re-read King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail on the unsurpassed danger of quiet, polite moderation, and the necessity of “extremism” in the face of “unjust laws.”)