The 68ers haven’t disappeared, of course. Medical advances in the West mean that plenty are still kicking. Some were only 12 years old when they first tore the stars and stripes in protest against America’s wars in Asia—too young to access matches but old enough to appreciate the potency of gesture politics.1 Others, like the Communist politician Angela Davis, have been embraced by a new generation of activists seeking to bathe hashtag politics in the old radical’s sepia-toned aura of danger.
Yet as future French President François Mitterrand told student leaders at the time: “Being young doesn’t last very long. You spend a lot more time being old.” Today, 68ers are law partners, columnists, marketing directors and financiers, state ministers, and so on. And they teach. Nearly a fifth of 1960s American radicals were toiling in academe decades after the fact, according to one 1989 study. Pensions, home care, and the disposition of estates loom large for these erstwhile street fighters.