AMST 3100 The 1960sThe End of an Era Powerpoint 15 Read Chafe Chapter 14, Farber Chapter 11
The End of the 60s • By the late 60s, the Vietnam War had become a prism of American society: it revealed a society divided deeply over war and over cultural values. • To some Americans, the 60s war protests were all about democracy and the chance of ordinary citizens to participate in political and social affairs. It was about empowerment. • Most Americans probably felt differently. A national poll done in the Fall of 1969 showed that 69% of the respondents believed the antiwar protesters were “harmful to the American way of life.” • They believed the protests symbolized a refusal to support America. Conservatives believed that the social order had to come before free speech and the right to protest. By the late 1960s, most Americans felt the rebellious counterculture was pushing too hard, and many simply found the counterculture war too weird. This image was partly the consequence of the commercial media, which seeks sensationalism and extremism to drive profits, but there’s no question there were plenty of targets.
The Counterculture • To many protesters, the war itself was a consequence of certain flaws in the American way of life: racism, militarism, capitalist imperialism, etc. • These protesters rejected the “traditional values” of competition, consumerism, imperialism, know-your-place racism, and other aspects of American core values. • The “shock troops” in this culture war were the long haired freaks of the counterculture. They were the greatest threat because they came from the suburbs, and they had turned against this ideal. It is likely that the parents – and especially the grandparents – of this couple would not understand or agree with their lifestyle choices. The generation gap was a major source of conflict and misunderstanding as a new wave of values and attitudes had swept into the youth culture.
The Counterculture • The Diggers were the visionary core of the counterculture. They were putting the 1962 SDS manifesto into practice: • Egalitarian • Anti-materialist • Anti-corporate capitalist • Cooperative • Organic, democratic socialists • Community oriented • Trying to restore a sense of tribal community • The Diggers set up free medical clinics, free stores, and free food co-ops. The Diggers, established in 1966, named themselves after the original English Diggers (1649-50) who promoted a society free from private property and all forms of commercialism. Operating in San Francisco, they set up free food, health care, clothing and other co-ops. Essentially they were an anarchist guerilla street theater group committed to the utopian ideals of the counterculture.
The Counterculture • Meanwhile, the drug culture aspects of the counterculture merged with the music aspects to help bring solidarity. • By 1974, more than 445,000 people had been busted for pot. This further alienated them from the mainstream “hung up” norms of the “straight” society. • Pot smokers passed their joints communally and got stoned together, symbolizing a cherished sense of community. And they knew that pot, unlike alcohol, gives a gentle, peaceful high. Photo of “hippie hill” in San Francisco, where people still gather to openly smoke pot together. Note the smoke rising from the crowd.
The Sexual Revolution • One of the key culture wars of the 60s involved sexual mores. In 1969, more than two-thirds of all Americans believed that premarital sex was wrong. • Consequently, the hippie anthem of “free love” sounded like a war cry. • The major change in American sexual mores would come about by the 1970s as a consequence of the hippie counterculture. • But this change was never complete, and reactionaries succeeded in reversing the pendulum by the 1980s. Sexual “liberation” is in context of traditional Christian values that hold that sex is only permissible when it is sanctioned by the Christian church and is done for procreation purposes. The historical forces of technology and globalization brought Americans in contact with other cultures with different sexual mores. Combine this with the pill, the new values of the counterculture, and the marketing of capitalism and you get an explosive result.
Sexual Liberation • The issue of sexual morality has been addressed by the Supreme Court, which has never been able to clearly define obscenity. This difficulty reinforces a sense of hypocrisy and exposes the subjective nature of this debate. • The 1970s explosion of sexually oriented material was partially a consequence of • 1. Pre-1960s sexual repression that created a bottle-neck of sexual frustration and ignorance waiting to explode, and • 2. Changes in values toward sensual hedonism brought by the Beats, hippies, youth culture, and capitalists. These changes felt liberating, given the repressive Christian mores that operated before this era. The breakdown of conservative mores helped to liberate women, who were subject to a patriarchal sexual double standard. The Supreme Court in the 1960s and 1970s struggled with the issue of obscenity. Generally it would endorse the civil libertarian perspective that treats adults as capable of deciding for themselves what they see and read in the media. The Court, which is traditionally conservative, was more liberal in this era. It would slide back toward conservatism by the 1980s.
Sexual Liberation • In 1953, Playboy magazine emerged to exploit the rising capitalistic and sexual hedonism of the post-war period. • Playboy was not a countercultural magazine, but it did challenge the prevailing sexual mores of the 1950s in favor of open sexuality and hedonism. Its materialism was distinctly capitalistic, however. The Playboy Mansion symbolized “the good life” of capitalist materialism that future yuppies would yearn for. • The birth control pill also helped change the sexual more system. Now, one could truly enjoy free love. • The sexual liberation emphasis in the 1960s was one of the key debates in the culture wars of this era. • The commercial exploitation of the sexual liberation movement co-opted the liberation aspects of the movement (as reflected in the sexual liberation book“Our Bodies, Our Selves”)and twisted its message into one of patriarchal sexual hedonism (as reflected in the emerging porn industry). By the 1970s, many firms were capitalizing on the “sexploitation” of women. The counterculture was dripping in sensuality, but their version of sexuality was not what the commercial industry exploited by the 1970s. Much, but not all, of the capitalistic pornography of the 1970s contained shallow sexist messages. To many in the counterculture, sexual liberation meant something deeper and less exploitative.
Decline of the Counterculture • By the late 60s, dope selling was increasingly becoming colonized by organized crime – it was becoming big business. • As small time growers and dealers were muscled out, the pot subculture was losing its communal roots. • By this time, Haight Ashbury was also losing its communal qualities. Many who were still there by the late 60s and early 70s were “low lifes” and “lost souls,” such as the kind that Charles Mansion preyed upon and exploited. • Manson’s Tate-LaBianca murders symbolized the death of the innocent and idealistic 60s. • Many in the counterculture felt it was time to move on. Charles Manson preyed on hippies, often from broken homes, who had fled to California to find a new life. They were easily manipulated in a cult-like setting with open drugs and sex. Predators like Manson were becoming more common in the late 1960s.
Decline of the Counterculture Jim Jones attracted a racially diverse following in the 1960s. He acquired a cult-status in the 1970s that led to the mass suicide of 900+ people in Guyana in 1978. • Some succeeded in establishing alternative micro-communities and communes. • Some joined religious cults. • The most notorious was the California cult run by Jim Jones. This was an idealistic multiracial Christian cult that succumbed when they isolated themselves and Jim Jones developed paranoid megalomaniac qualities. • Some joined the mainstream culture, and they brought their countercultural values with them. • The mainstream culture was very influenced by specific values of the counterculture, making it more accommodating to hippies, blacks, feminists, and radicals by the 1970s.
How did the counterculture affect the mainstream culture by the 1970s? • Relaxation of everyday norms – people became less uptight and less bigoted. • Looser dress codes • Looser sex codes • Looser drug codes (Jimmy Buffet does not seem so threatening today) • Looser gender codes • Looser race codes • Less emphasis on the almighty dollar, perhaps. • New forms of music, art, and spiritualism. • Our democracy became open to minority participation. • More tolerance for cultural diversity – multiculturalism. • More humanized forms of formal organization. One of the greatest successes of the counterculture and the civil rights movement in particular involves the opening of democracy to new constituencies. Since the 1960s, Barack Obama and other African Americans have political opportunities that did not exist in the 1950s.
Vietnam Veterans • After the Tet Offensive, American GI’s tended to lose heart about the war and become increasingly bitter at the political system. • By 1970, half of the GIs were using escapist drugs in Vietnam. • In 1971, thousands of Vietnam veterans staged a Washington DC protest where some took their medals and tossed them away as the stunned nation watched on TV. • The majority of veterans did not protest against the war. Most hated the war by the 1970s, but they also hated the war protestors because they had not fought in the war. To many of these working class veterans, the protestors seemed like spoiled middle class kids. Finally, many war protestors did not treat the returning soldiers well, confusing them as pro-war “imperialists” when in fact many of them were draftees or simply patriots obeying their country. In a war without victory, these veterans paid the highest price. Veterans hold a large antiwar protest in Washington in April, 1971.
Kent State • When Nixon widened the war into Cambodia in 1970, the counterculture erupted in anger. • More than 24 ROTC buildings were set on fire across the country. • Militarily the Cambodian invasion produced mixed results, but the domestic reaction was tragic. Americans protested all across the country, especially on college campuses. • At Kent State, the Ohio National Guard shot into an angry crowd, killing 4 students. Vice President Agnew blamed the students for these deaths. He said if they had not been protesting they wouldn’t have been shot. Many Americans, fed up by the protesters, actually agreed with this twisted logic. • The Kent State killings were quickly followed by police killings at Jackson State college in Mississippi. Such events seemed to be unraveling the country and touched off a nerve. National Guard troops prepare to fire on antiwar protestors. The shooting of students symbolized a closing phase of the 1960s. This event, like so many others, contributed to a collapse of idealism.
Disillusionment • The college student killings seemed to shock Americans into the realization that there was no common ground for solutions anymore. • The innocence was gone. • The idealism was gone. • Faith in American institutions was reaching an all time low. By 1973, 50% of Americans believed that government was corrupt – this, at a time when it was becoming clear that Nixon himself was a law violator. • By the early 1970s, a new, dark mood of fatalism was settling in and protestors were starting to get burned out. Americans had become disillusioned. The expression on this antiwar protestor’s face says it all. The mood by the early 1970s was dark and angry, and many were giving up hope in the system.
The End of the 60s • America’s peace treaty with Vietnam in 1973 helped signal the end of the era of the 1960s. • There were other signals too. • The 1960s had been born in economic affluence. By the early 1970s, the “good times” of affluence were slowing down. The American economy was in disarray, and by 1973 there were gas lines due to an oil shortage in the country. • This hard economy was due to several factors: Vietnam, the welfare state, globalization, and a changing tax code system that taxed corporations less than individuals. The end result was inflation. • America’s position in the world was now being challenged by the Japanese and the Europeans, and the dollar was no longer rock-stable. • By the 1970s, American products were no longer superior, and American consumers began buying foreign products, contributing to huge trade deficits. The long gas lines of 1973 were an everyday reminder that the affluent 1960s were over. Inflation, massive trade deficits, declining job stability, and declining American world prestige were just a few of the negative features of the 1970s. The Vietnam War turned out to be costly in many ways.
The Moon Landing • In 1969 the Americans landed a man on the moon – certainly the most amazing technological accomplishment of the century. • This accomplishment owes a debt to the Cold War and the competition with the Russians to develop space technologies. • It was also due to the idealism of the early 60s, with its sense that anything can be achieved. • It is ironic that the space exploration program would be one of the casualties of Vietnam. • Vietnam was so expensive that Congress was in a budget cutting mood by the 1970s. • What some Americans saw when they viewed the Earth from the moon’s surface was a small, fragile planet that was threatened by both military and environmental destruction caused by the voracious appetite of industrial societies. The first landing on the moon occurred on July 21, 1969. It was the technological accomplishment of the millennium. The view of Earth from the moon made it appear small and fragile.
The Environmental Movement • On April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day was held in Washington. It was a celebration of this “Mother Earth” and represented an extension of the civil rights movement to include not just human dignity but the dignity of nature. • Earth day would initiate the beginning of new environmental laws, as well as the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). • Most businesses fought the creation of the EPA, but President Nixon agreed to create it anyway because there was tremendous public pressure behind this move. • The environmental movement can be traced back to 1962, with the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. This book introduced the idea of ecology and ecological destruction, making people more conscious of the costs of industrialization. • The success of the environmental movement is one of the lasting legacies of the 1960s. April 22, 1970 was the first Earth Day celebration. This rally was extremely successful and the environmental movement remains strong today.
New Single-Issue Movements Emerge • The two largest movements of the 1960s – Vietnam and the black civil rights movement – were drawing to a close by the early 1970s. • Yet other mass movements had been energized by these two movements. These include • The environmental movement • The feminist movement • The gay rights movement • The Hispanic rights movement • The American Indian Movement (AIM) • A Children’s rights and a senior citizen’s movement • An artistic freedom movement • A workers rights movement focusing on health and safety • A disabled peoples rights movement, and more. Cesar Chavez was a 1960s activist who led the United Farm Workers. He helped organize field workers to keep them from being exploited by low wages, unsafe conditions, and other hardships. There were many different single-issue rights movements by the 1970s.
Gay Liberation • The issue of gay liberation addresses one of the deepest forms of bigotry in America. Most Christians label homosexuality sinful and have been rigidly opposed to tolerating differences in sexual orientation. • Gay liberation is another product of the 60s civil rights issues. A key issue involves whether or not to view homosexuality as an “evil” (the religious angle), a “pathology” (a medical illness), or merely a different sexual orientation (a form of human diversity). • In 1973, gays won a major victory. The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from their list of mental disorders. • By this time there were more than 800 gay rights organizations across the country. Gays, too, had learned how to organize. • Gradually Americans have become more tolerant. Today, more than half of Americans do not believe in discrimination against homosexuals, but most states continue to allow employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. The Stonewall riots occurred in 1969 in NY City as gays in local clubs, fed up from being harassed and arrested by the police, rioted for three days. Ultimately, they formed gay rights organizations which took advantage of the earlier lessons of the civil rights movement. Gay rights, like women’s rights, and Native American rights, can be seen as an extension of the civil rights movement.
Turning Inward • By the mid-1970s, most Americans’ sense of economic security was gone. • Economic security had provided a critical backdrop to the social reforms of the 60s. • Now the economy was suffering, and Americans were turning inward to focus on job and family security issues. It wasn’t just mainstream Americans who were turning inward. By the 1970s many in the counterculture had given up on social activism, feeling somewhat burned out. They sought a back-to-earth simple life in rural America.
Conclusion • By the 70s, some social movements had become energized. But the two most significant movements were ending. • Most Americans felt exhausted by the mid-70s. Nixon’s Watergate scandal (1973-4) was the final straw that contributed to a national sense of exhaustion. President Nixon held his final press conference on August 8th, 1974 before stepping down the next day. Nixon, who campaigned on a law and order platform, was himself a law violator. This was the final straw that brought the collapse of idealism.
Conclusion • Among the most important goals of the 60s were • A sense of beloved community • A color blind society • A “Great Society” of affluence and education • A “higher consciousness” • Freedom and equality of race, ethnicity and sex • Personal empowerment • An end to militarism and imperialism • Humanized social organizations • None of these goals came to complete success, but many changes did occur for the better. • In the 1960s Americans began to reevaluate their Cold War assumptions, and by the 1970s, Americans abandoned the dogmatic, fervid anticommunism that characterized the 1950s and early 1960s. • Americans became less rigidly moralistic by the 1970s. • President Eisenhower’s “country club racism” was no longer tolerated by the early 1970s. • Overall the cultural landscape in which Americans searched for meaningful lives had radically expanded by the 1970s.
Conclusion • By the 1970s Americans enjoyed a new freedom of expression that was almost limitless in terms of gender roles, dress, lifestyle, language, and spiritual values. • The American defeat in Vietnam, along with the Vietnam War protests, shattered any semblance of a unified, consensual America in terms of foreign policy. • The image of Cold War hegemonic consensus was destroyed, making America less aggressive after Vietnam. This image was a myth all along. It was fed by a dominant culture that simply did not allow dissent in the 1950s. Thus it was dramatically killed in the 1960s by the war protestors. • After the 1960s, America’s “mission” in the world would be unclear. Indeed, the 1970s was a period of uncertainty over both official policies and everyday norms. (Should a man still open the door for a woman?) The colorful hippies of the 1960s symbolized freedom of expression. By the 1970s most Americans would support this value. Similarly, most Americans began to support cultural diversity and pluralism by the 1970s. Conservative traditionalists, however, were upset by these deep rooted social changes. Ronald Reagan would arouse their attention in the 1980s. There remain continuing deep fissures in American culture.
Conclusion • One of the most desired legacies of the 1960s was an end to racism and sexism. By the 1970s it was clear to most Americans that racism and sexism were immoral, and America had changed. • Whereas the South was very racist in the 1950s, by the 1970s the South would not be anywhere near as racist as it had been just a few years earlier. • Both women and blacks experienced dramatic upward mobility during the 1970s. • There were some minorities that were so frustrated with America during the 60s that they formed separatist organizations: Black Muslims, Native Americans, and some Hispanics. • By the 1970s identity politics, including single issue ethnic groups, worked not for the common national purpose but for their own group’s right to control their own institutions. We take images like this for granted today, but this image was almost unheard of in the 1950s, especially in the South.
Conclusion • By the 70s what it meant to be an American was problematic – there was no longer a monolithic, consensual definition of the “true” American. • For conservatives this was particularly disheartening. • But for minority groups it was liberating, because they had been historically excluded from this conception of the “true” American. • By the 70s, Americans finally began to recognize and celebrate what makes America so unique in the world – its ethnic diversity. The theme of pluralism became a form of celebration for most Americans. Organizations like this began to proliferate after the 1960s. Today most Americans celebrate rather than condemn social and ethnic diversity.
Conclusion • LBJ’s War on Poverty also produced dividends. It had reduced official poverty from about 22% down to about 12%. • Senior citizen poverty was reduced from about 30% down to as low as 8%. • By the 1970s the black middle class grew significantly and women experienced dramatic upward mobility. • However, the liberal welfare state was costly. By the 1970s there was rising cynicism toward government programs and inflation was on the rise. • By the 1980s, Ronald Reagan would decrease the size of welfare programs aimed at the poor by one-third. • By the 1970s, Americans were fragmented, with people clinging to their ethnic and class identities more than their national identity. • Affirmative Action programs symbolized this ethnic fragmentation, with white males tending to oppose and minorities tending to support these policies. Rural poverty especially has been greatly reduced since the war on poverty. But government programs are costly, and the severe economic hardships of the post-1960s combined with the rise of the conservative right have led to some declines in the welfare state.
Conclusion • Nevertheless, one of the most significant gains from the 60s involves Americans’ increased tolerance for people of different values, ethnicities, and lifestyles. • Americans began to embrace multiculturalism, and we are a stronger nation for doing so. • The American search for fulfillment was continued into the 70s, but it became a shallower search. It took the form of uninhibited hedonism - as promoted by the consumer capitalist system (“Just do it!”). • Drug use, sexual promiscuity, and other pleasures increased during the 70s. • Others searched in more spiritual ways. • New Age Spiritualism owes its birth to the 1960s. The explosion of cocaine use during the 1970s reflected a changing cultural climate. People seemed less interested in spiritual discovery by the 1970s. The shift to cocaine use symbolized a shift to a shallow party-oriented hedonism where the main goal seemed to be escapism.
Conclusion • To Chafe the positive legacies of the 60s include • Women’s new opportunities • Racial minorities’ new opportunities • New pro-environmental policies • Increases in gay friendly policies • Support for cultural diversity and tolerance • Loosened social mores – we are not as uptight now. • The negative legacies of the 60s include • Rising divorce rates (until the mid-1980s) • Rising shallow hedonism and self-interested behaviors • The feminization of poverty and teen pregnancies • Welfare dependencies The environmental movement has been greatly successful at reducing pollution. Essentially the movement argues that the Earth itself - not just people - should be respected lest we harm ourselves. Like the civil rights movement, this movement has fundamentally changed the way Americans behave.
Conclusion • The legacy of the 1960s can also be seen when we examine the nature of imperialism and its reforms. • 1. Foreign policy imperialism. • Most Americans learned a valuable lesson from the Vietnam War. Imperialism has great costs to our own principles. • 2. Domestic policy “imperialism.” • Before the 1960s, women and minorities were virtual internal colonies held under the power of white males. This domestic imperialism has largely ended thanks to the events of the 1960s. • 3. Personal policy “imperialism.” • Americans were held to rigid social norms during the 1950s that stifled the individual’s ability to discover who they were on their own terms. The 1960s brought great personal freedom to Americans and increased the potential for personal authenticity.
Conclusion • Perhaps the most significant negative legacy of the 60s is actually a legacy of the late 60s and the early 70s. This legacy involves the collapse of the American spirit of idealism – the same spirit that put a man on the moon and that can unite all Americans. • It was awkward when President Bush suggested after winning re-election in 2004 that Americans aim for the moon again. He unwittingly drew a connection between himself and John Kennedy, and the differences between their eras came into full view at that moment. We have lost something important. President Kennedy inspects a Gemini capsule – the Friendship 7 – that John Glenn took into orbit on February 2, 1962. The space program was idealistic, risky, bold and ambitious. These qualities were a characteristic of the 1960s.