An unhappy history seems to be repeating itself

Riots in black ghettos. Rebellions on campus. The news these past few months, and particularly in the past week, has been full of stories that remind us, as William Faulkner wrote a little more than half a century after the Civil War, that "the past is not really dead, it is not even past."

We're seeing something that looks eerily like a recurrence of events half a century ago that led to the destruction of American cities and campuses.

Half a century before the recent uproar at Yale and the University of Missouri, America saw protracted rioting at the Berkeley campus of the University of California in the fall of 1964. Half a century before the riots in Ferguson and Baltimore, America saw in Los Angeles's Watts the first of the horrifying 1960s urban riots.

The Berkeley students' cause was "free speech," protesting the ban on tables in campus with electioneering material for candidates like Lyndon Johnson. Students held up signs proclaiming "do not fold, staple or mutilate," the legend on the IBM cards then used to input data onto huge multiframe computers. In retrospect, this was a sign of the baby boom generation's rejection of the cultural uniformity of the post-World War II years, apparent in the cultural polarization personified by 1964 freshmen Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

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