On December 4th it will be 44 years since a select unit of 14 Chicago Police officers executed a pre-dawn raid on a west side apartment that left Illinois Black Panther Party leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark dead.
In Boston in 1969, homosexuals were everywhere, but the trouble was finding them. I did a lot of walking around Boston on weekend nights trying to do just that. I was in the city as a 19-year-old conscientious objector fulfilling my alternate service work contract in lieu of military service.
We may mark time as before and after the Stonewall riots, before and after Rosa Parks sat where she pleased, before and after Jackie Robinson stepped onto Ebbets Field, but those moments were made possible by many, many, many named and unnamed people who came before.
As a 44-year-old man born in 1969, I can only imagine what it was like for those who were in New York City during the Stonewall riots that year. This is why it is wonderful to be able to talk to someone who witnessed it firsthand: Donald Reidlinger, who was a teen during the summer of '69.
Armstrong's death last week has evoked numerous gauzy tributes to his amazing courage. But romantic memories of that historic moment belie the real triumph for Armstrong, NASA, and our deeply conflicted nation of the late 1960's.