I’m as much of a sucker for nostalgia trips as anybody else: Earlier this week a late-period Genesis box set crossed my desk, and I tore into it with embarrassing enthusiasm; in the spaces between the buzzy opening chords of “Home by the Sea,” I was 12 again. But as with any vice, indulging in nostalgia means knowing when to stop, and Newsweek is the pantsuited snowbird who can’t pull herself away from the slot machine: This week’s issue dedicates a whopping 21 pages to 1968, plus a cover illustration by Peter Max and the headline “1968: The Year That Made Us Who We Are.”

I presume that “us” and “we” refer to the lead editors at the magazine, which has been shamelessly chasing boomers for some time now; everybody else has a hard time figuring out what role a general-interest newsweekly is supposed to play. Yes, 1968 was an important year. But the magazine’s efforts to explain why are bizarrely blinkered and solipsistic. Witness the hot-air balloon that is Jonathan Darman‘s introductory essay to the package. Keep in mind that this is the story’s nut graf:

“[The ’60s] were an era when a generation held sustained argument over the things that have always mattered most: How should America show its power in the world? What rights were owed to African-Americans, to women, to gays? What is America and what does it want to be?”

Darman wrecks his argument in the process of making it: How were the ‘60s special if they were about “the things that have always mattered most?” Was there any decade when race, justice, and power were not central questions in American life? This eyewash would be forgivable—-or at least understandable as a dopily outsize way to promote Tom Brokaw’s new book—if the package made any attempt to look at the wider world. Another essay by Jerry Adler attempts to blunt criticism by pointing out that other years were important too, mentioning that books about specific years are quite popular these days. In the process he weirdly ignores a relevant and very good one: Mark Kurlansky’s 1968: The Year That Rocked the World. That book gives its due to MLK, LBJ, the Chicago Seven, and other American concerns that exemplify that crazed year—-and Newsweek‘s coverage of it. But Kurlansky points out that the chaos was global: there were deadly student riots in France and Mexico; the Iron Curtain dropped hard (but not before Prague Spring); France was engaged in a foolish occupation in a Muslim land.

Mentioning any of this might have made for a more interesting set of pieces than the rigorously American stack of platitudes that fill the issue. In a perverse way, it makes a celebration out of the awfulness. We’re number one! First in racism and sexism, first in assassination, first in cultural and territorial battles that any person with a brain knows Americans weren’t alone in fighting.