This week at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Hillary Clinton is making history by shattering the glass ceiling. Along with millions of other Americans, I am watching the convention every night.
This week I am also remembering a DNC a long, long time ago.
The Democratic National Convention
The year was 1968. My days were languid and lazy, as self-indulgent as a 15 year-old’s summer can be. I would sleep until mid-morning, yawn through a bowl of cereal, and get into my bathing suit and flip flops in preparation for the day’s activity: meeting up with my friends at the community swimming pool.
Slathering baby oil on each other’s backs, we baked for hours with intermittent conversation and the crackle of transistor radios in our ears. Sooner or later we would amble over to the concession stand to buy a frozen Snicker’s bar or a bag of chips, flirting with the cute lifeguards as we flounced by.
One day I lay on my beach towel, unable to find a comfortable position. Every muscle ached and my throat was sore. “Walk on my back,” I implored the friend lying next to me. It felt good, like a deep tissue massage. But the relief was temporary.
By the next day I was headachy and running a fever and my mother took me to the doctor. The diagnosis was mononucleosis, and the doctor’s orders were to stay in bed.
Stay in bed? But, summer! Friends! My tan! The fun would go on without me! I cried tears of self-pity.
Every week the doctor made a house call – imagine that – to draw blood. If the blood count remained elevated, I was doomed to another week at home missing my friends. I held my breath each time the telephone call came with the results, but week after week there was no change.
I begged my mother to drive me to the pool where I could at least wave to my friends from behind the rolled up car window. She wasn’t crazy about that idea, and I didn’t push it. I was truly too exhausted to get out of bed. I had little patience for reading; even flipping through issues of Teen and Tiger Beat wore me out.
We had a small black and white TV that I was allowed to have in my room because I was sick. With the antennae adjusted just right, we were able to get three channels. Day after day I watched game shows and General Hospital.
The end of August arrived and the daytime shows were pre-empted for the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.The tension leading up to the convention had been palpable. The assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy just months before, the mounting anti-war fever, cities set afire and burning … there was an electricity coursing through the nation.
I watched the Democratic National Convention every day. Some of the images became indelibly imprinted on my brain. The shouting matches on the floor between delegates and party leaders. The violence that erupted outside, the police clubbing protesters, the tear gas canisters hurled into the crowd. It was terrifying.
The Yippies, the hippies. Dan Rather getting roughed up on the convention floor. Eugene McCarthy, the anti-war candidate, failing to garner enough support. A young Julian Bond who, upon being nominated, withdrawing his name from contention because he was not old enough to run.
Hubert Humphrey, the party’s nominee, would lose the election to Richard Nixon, who branded himself the law and order candidate.
Glued to the TV, I was both fascinated and repulsed. It was a history lesson in real time. The year 1968, proved to be one of the most tumultuous years in our history, and the Democratic National Convention unlike any before or since.
This week there have been protests, but no violence. I hope that this convention will be remembered for Hillary Clinton’s nomination, with shards of glass exploding only metaphorically.