The news has been so horrific lately, I’m tempted to say I’ve never known such scary times.

But, of course, I have. I grew up in the 1960s.

Sometimes I wonder how I made it through the year 1968. Our country had somehow survived one assassination, in 1963, but it was clear that we were not a happy people. The ’60s had brought us race riots and student demonstrations against the war in Vietnam. Many parents were appalled by their sons’ long hair and their daughters’ miniskirts. Some young men fled to Canada to avoid the draft.

But I was a kid, and I worried more about my social standing than world events. I was in the sixth grade in 1967-68, and looking forward to moving up to junior high school.

We had a student teacher that year, and she clearly was trying out some innovative methods. For our study of Japan, we wrote haiku and compiled the poems into a booklet, performed a tea ceremony and built a spewing volcano. That may not sound exciting nowadays but, believe me, the old school was full of multiplication drills, spelling tests and penmanship practice.

Several of the teachers at the Village School had white hair piled into buns, and they wore black lace-up shoes. They had gone to teachers’ college when it was still called the “normal” school. I’m pretty sure they didn’t think printing off student poems was a good use of our school’s mimeograph machine.

We were not completely removed from the real world. Each of us was assigned to write to a local soldier serving in Vietnam. I was so naive that I didn’t even consider the possibility that “my” boy could die.

That would change. On April 4, 1968, I was sitting at the kitchen table doing homework. We had a portable black-and-white television perched in the corner, which I kept one eye on as I painstakingly wrote, by hand, a report on squirrels. The sound of a news bulletin caused me to focus my full attention on the screen, and I saw the tragic news that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had been killed.

As if that were not enough horror for one year, on June 5, we woke to the news that presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was the victim of an assassination attempt. He would die the next day.

“How could this be?” I thought, as I do now. Then, as now, I had the sudden sensation that our civilization was coming to a rapid end. I didn’t know much about the demise of the Roman Empire at that point; it just seemed to me that things were falling apart. It seemed to me that our country had gone haywire.

Then my grandfather died. He had cancer, and we knew his premature demise was a possibility. But I was so sad when my father told me that he kept thinking he needed to tell my pépère (grandfather) something, only to remember that he was gone. I worried about my grandmother.

It was a fast way to grow up.

The momentous spring of 1968 was just the beginning. Richard Nixon was elected president in November, dashing the hopes of the many Americans who wanted to end the war in Vietnam. Protests continued. In 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon, but two days earlier, Sen. Edward Kennedy had driven off a bridge on Martha’s Vineyard, and a young woman in his car was killed. I grew up in Massachusetts — this was huge.

A few weeks later, actress Sharon Tate and four other people were viciously murdered in a Los Angeles home. Police later arrested a creepy man, a cult leader named Charles Manson, and several of his followers, who called themselves the “Family.” Living in a commune, dropping acid, dumpster diving — as bizarre as it sounds, they were a symbol of the times.

Manson believed the Beatles’ song “Helter Skelter” was speaking to him. The whole “White Album” was. He wanted to incite racial warfare, which he thought would decimate the country enough that he could take over.

Crazy man. Psychopath. But we can still learn from him. Race wars? Really? Scrawling “pigs” on crime scene walls in victims’ blood? I don’t think we have learned a thing.

The violence in Dallas, outside Minneapolis, and in Baton Rouge, is unspeakable. We have too much rage and too little restraint. We also have the possibility of electing a president who lacks emotional control.

On second thought, I guess I haven’t seen it all. It could get a whole lot worse.

Liz Soares, of Augusta, welcomes e-mail at [email protected]

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