Making Sense Of The Sixties Essay Research

Making Sense Of The Sixties Essay, Research Paper

Many social changes that were addressed in the 1960s are

still the issues being confronted today. The ’60s was a

decade of social and political upheaval. In spite of all the

turmoil, there were some positive results: the civil rights

revolution, John F. Kennedy’s bold vision of a new frontier,

and the breathtaking advances in space, helped bring about

progress and prosperity. However, much was negative:

student and anti-war protest movements, political

assassinations, and ghetto riots excited American people

and resulted in lack of respect for authority and the law.

The decade began under the shadow of the cold war with

the Soviet Union, which was aggravated by the U-2

incident, the Berlin Wall, and the Cuban missile crisis, along

with the space race with the USSR. The decade ended

under the shadow of the Vietnam war, which deeply

divided Americans and their allies and damaged the

country’s self-confidence and sense of purpose. Even if you

weren’t alive during the ’60s, you know what they meant

when they said, "tune in, turn on, drop out." you know why

the nation celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. All

of the social issues are reflected in today’s society: the civil

rights movement, the student movement, the sexual

revolution, the environment, and most controversial of all,

Hippies. The sixties is also known for it’s rapid birth rate.

Nearly 76 million children were born to this generation, and

for that they are called the " Baby Boomers." Surprisingly,

even though so many children were being born, not many

parents knew how to raise them. The parents of the 50’s

and 60’s were so concerned with the world around them

that going to work was the only image children had of their

fathers. Kids didn’t understand why they worked so much

just to gain more material possessions. Children of this

generation grew up learning just about how to be free and

happy. Most of the time, when thinking back to the sixties,

people remember hearing about things such as sex, drugs,

and racism. However, what they often tend to overlook is

the large emphasis "freedoms" had on the era. This does

not just refer to the freedoms already possessed by every

American of the time. This focuses on the youth’s fight to

gain freedom or break away from the values and ideas left

behind by the older generation. These fights were used to

help push for freedoms from areas such as society’s rules

and values, competition, living for others first, and the older

generation’s beliefs as a whole including the freedom to use

drugs. The younger generation just wanted a chance to

express their own views rather than having to constantly

succumb to the values and rules left behind by the older

generation. In order to find these unique and different

qualities in each other and themselves, the younger

generation often turned to drugs. This was another freedom

which they were required to fight for since the older

generation did not support drug use as a source of pleasure

or creativity. This could basically be considered an outright

rejection of the older society’s values. Drugs were also

seen as a freedom from reality. They enabled the youths to

escape to a different kind of world. Because of the youths’

great desire to achieve a universal sense of peace and

harmony, drugs were sometimes a very important part of

one’s life. Sometimes, they would plan a day or evening

around the use of a major drug so that they could enjoy it

to the fullest extent. This could almost be considered ironic

in the sense that while trying to gain one freedom, the ability

to use drugs, the youths appeared to have lost another

freedom, the ability to live their own lives. It seems more as

if their live! s were controlled by the drugs and the drugs’

effects than by the people themselves. The combination of

defiance, revolution, and drugs created a major Hippie era.

Thousands of hippies would flock to the party capitals of

the world for the high of a life time. Haight Ashberry, San

Francisco, was once considered hippie central for the

world. Here people would just line the streets with drug

use, sex, and wild music. In 1967, came the "Summer of

Love." This period was not unlike the previous acts of the

hippies, just more intense. And to top off the hippie era,

one of the largest concerts in the world took place in

Woodstock, New York. During the several days of music,

sex and drugs were abused heavily, almost to a point of

complete stupor. But even though it may have seemed like

under mayhem, it was one of the greatest moments of the

60’s. The momentum of the previous decade’s civil rights

gains led by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. carried over into

the 1960s. But for most blacks, the tangible results were

minimal. Only a minuscule percentage of black children

actually attended integrated schools, and in the south, "jim

crow" practices barred blacks from jobs and public places.

New groups and goals were formed, new tactics devised,

to push forward for full equality. As often as not, white

resistance resulted in violence. This violence spilled across

TV screens nationwide. The average, neutral American,

after seeing his/her TV screen, turned into a civil rights

supporter. Black unity and white support continued to

grow. In 1962, with the first large- scale public protest

against racial discrimination, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Gave a dramatic and inspirational speech in Washington,

D.C. After a long march of thousands to the capital. The

possibility of riot and bloodshed was always there, but the

marchers took that chance so that they could accept the

responsibilities of first class citizens. When King came to

the end of his prepared text, he swept right on into an

exhibition of impromptu oratory that was catching,

dramatic, and inspirational. "I have a dream," King cried

out. the crowd began cheering, but king, never pausing,

brought silence as he continued, "I have a dream that one

day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves

and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit

down together at the table of brotherhood." Everyone

agreed the march was a success and they wanted action

now! But "now!" remained a long way off. President

Kennedy was never able to mobilize sufficient support to

pass a civil rights bill with teeth over the opposition of

segregationist southern members of congress. But after his

assassination, president Johnson, drawing on the Kennedy

legacy and on the press coverage of civil rights marches

and protests, succeeded where Kennedy had failed.

However, by the summer of 1964, the black revolution had

created its own crisis of disappointed expectations. Rioting

by urban blacks was to be a feature of every "long, hot,

summer" of the mid-1960s. About this same time, the term,

"black power" was coming into use. It was meant to infer

long-submerged racial pride in Negroes. Martin Luther

King, Jr. Specifically sought to rebut the evangelists of

black power. "It is absolutely necessary for the Negro to

gain power, but the term black power is unfortunate,

because it tends to give the impression of black nationalism.

We must never seek power exclusively for the Negro, but

the sharing of power with white people," he said.

Unfortunately, the thing that really moved the civil rights

movement along significantly was the murder of Rev.

Martin Luther King, Jr. in late 1965. Rioting mobs in the

Negro suburb of Watts, California, pillaged, burned and

killed, while 500 policemen and 5000 national guardsmen

struggled in vain to contain their fury. Hour after hour, the

toll mounted: 27 dead at the week’s end, nearly 600

injured, 1700 arrested, and property damage well over

$100 million. The 1960’s could definitely be considered the

most controversial decade of this century. Hippies, racism,

drugs, war, and breaking every rule that had ever been set

gave this time a very deserved place in the history.


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