Analysts look at 1960s in light of the PBS series

January 20, 1991|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

LOS ANGELES -- Like "Eyes on the Prize" and "The Civil War," "Making Sense of the Sixties" largely involves statements by participants in the events depicted, as well as by analysts of the period.

PBS brought three of them -- Claude Brown, author of "Manchild in the Promised Land"; Annie Gottlieb, author of "Do You Believe in Magic? Bringing the Sixties Back Home"; and Hendrik Hertzberg, editor of the New Republic -- to a recent press conference about the show. Here are excerpts from their comments.

"It seems to me that America was profoundly traumatized in the '60s," Mr. Brown said, "by the deaths, or assassinations, the violent deaths, starting with Medgar Evers and going through . . . Martin Luther King.

"It took a lot of the energy out of us, a lot of the ambition and a lot of the hope. More hope than anything else vanished."

He said there is so much nostalgia about the decade because "nothing as exciting, as interesting or as promising has happened since."

Mr. Hertzberg said he thought some young people are "sick and tired" of hearing about the '60s, an annoyance linked to both "the real '60s and [the fact] that we have been inundated with layers of manufactured '60s -- kind of cleaned-up, manufactured '60s nostalgia."

Ms. Gottlieb, asked about '60s "dreams" and whether they seem laughable today, defended that vision.

"The idea that America could keep its promise to all its people . . . that you could have diversity and still have respect for differences, this is a vision that began with the founding fathers and is constantly being expanded," she said.

"What maybe looks crazy is the idea that sleeping with anybody you wanted to anytime you wanted to would make you a happy, fulfilled person and bring world peace."

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