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1968? Not so great

June 23, 2008

Re "From 1968 to eternity," Opinion, June 17

I am not sure where Todd Gitlin was in 1968, but I was observing the situation up close. I saw the decades-old fight for basic civil rights degenerate into a demand for special privileges. I saw Students for a Democratic Society trample on democratic principles. I saw academic freedoms and standards diminished by political correctness.

Gitlin gives the movement credit for making it possible for Nicolas Sarkozy, descended from Jews, to be elected president of France. Does he forget that Pierre Mendes-France was elected prime minister in the 1950s? He ridicules the "stodgy Gaullist state" of France. Does he realize that France is prosperous and free today because of Charles de Gaulle? He gives the movement credit for advancing opportunities for ethnic minorities and women. Yet the major civil rights laws had been enacted before 1968, and women's voting and property rights were established generations earlier.

The truth is that 1968 was a step backward.

Arthur Benveniste

Venice

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