The most turbulent time in modern American history (it's not now)
Updated 12:10 PM ET, Fri May 18, 2018
(CNN)A president with low approval ratings. Tensions between the US and North Korea. Athletes protesting racial injustice. Bitter divisions threatening to rip our country's social fabric apart.
Sound familiar? But we're not talking about 2018.
All this happened 50 years ago, in 1968.
Echoes of that year, considered by many the most turbulent in modern US history, can be found in today's headlines about President Trump, social protests and shocking acts of gun violence. Our country has changed immensely -- the internet, a black president, same-sex marriage -- since then. And yet, some things feel eerily similar.
"Yes, it's a continuation," says Charles Kaiser, author of "1968 in America: Music, Politics, Chaos, Counterculture, and the Shaping of a Generation," about parallels between 1968 and now. "We're certainly still fighting many of the same battles."
Here are five of them.
Our embattled president was warring with the media
Lyndon B. Johnson, thrust into the presidency after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, enjoyed widespread support during his first years in office. But by the summer of 1968, his approval rating had plummeted to 35%.
The main reason was the war in Vietnam, which was going increasingly poorly. The North Vietnamese's Tet Offensive earlier that year had dashed any hopes for a swift end to the war. Americans' appetite for the conflict was waning, and anti-war protesters filled the streets of US cities.
Caught between hawks who urged him to send more troops to Vietnam and doves who wanted him to pull out, LBJ trod a middle path that pleased almost no one. A fractured Democratic Party turned against him.
He also faced an increasingly hostile press corps who suspected he wasn't being candid about what was happening on the ground in Vietnam.
In March, Johnson stunned the nation by saying he would not seek re-election.
Fast forward to today, and while we're not at war, you see some similarities with President Trump. His approval ratings have mostly hovered under 40%, although they have ticked up lately.
Trump has had an antagonistic relationship with the news media, refusing to grant interviews to outlets he views as unsympathetic and blasting stories he doesn't like as "fake news." In return, many media outlets have repeatedly called him out over false statements.
Meanwhile, he's faced vociferous protests from women, students and intellectuals -- three groups that also opposed LBJ.
We were locked in a tense war of words with North Korea
Trump spent much of his first year mocking North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Twitter, calling him "Little Rocket Man" and urging then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson not to negotiate with the totalitarian nation. Meanwhile, North Korea launched dozens of test missiles into the ocean and made vague threats about topping long-range missiles with nuclear warheads.
Tensions between the two countries peaked in January, when Trump warned Kim about US nuclear capabilities and boasted of his "much bigger & more powerful" nuclear button. The inflamed rhetoric alarmed many Americans who feared it would lead to a nuclear attack.
Things have calmed down since then, and the two leaders are tentatively set to meet next month in Singapore amid indications that North Korea may scale down its nuclear weapons program.
But in 1968, an equally frightening episode brought the two countries to the brink of war.
On January 23 that year the USS Pueblo, a Navy intelligence vessel, was seized by North Korea, which accused the vessel of illegally spying in North Korean territorial waters. Its 83-man crew was transported to Pyongyang, imprisoned and tortured by interrogators who demanded they sign "confessions."
After 11 months of delicate negotiations, the seamen were freed that December. But classified documents show tensions between the countries got so high that US military leaders drafted a secret plan to defend South Korea against a possible second invasion by the North.
Now, 50 years later, the surviving USS Pueblo crew members and their relatives are suing North Korea over their treatment while in captivity.