AMST 3100 The 1960s The 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.
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Read Chafe Chapter 14, Farber Chapter 11
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.
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 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.
Photo of “hippie hill” in San Francisco, where people still gather to openly smoke pot together. Note the smoke rising from the crowd.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Veterans hold a large antiwar protest in Washington in April, 1971.
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.
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 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 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.
April 22, 1970 was the first Earth Day celebration. This rally was extremely successful and the environmental movement remains strong today.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We take images like this for granted today, but this image was almost unheard of in the 1950s, especially in the South.
Organizations like this began to proliferate after the 1960s. Today most Americans celebrate rather than condemn social and ethnic diversity.
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.
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.
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.
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.