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015 - Ch 15 - The 1960'sThe Counterculture Strikes Back

015 - Ch 15 - The 1960'sThe Counterculture Strikes Back

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Published by Joseph Eulo

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Published by: Joseph Eulo on Sep 01, 2009
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The Counterculture Strikes Back
Duringthe 1960s,war was waged on several fronts.From 1964,when North Vietnamesetorpedoboats reportedly attaced American destroyers intheGul of Tonkin, to 1975,when the United States evacuated its military forces from Saigon, the United States,together withitsSouth Vietnamese allies,fought the Vietcong andthe North Vietnamese in Southeast Asia.On the home front, one generation of Americans battled another.Youth (generally considered to be thoseunder 30)found itselfinanideologicalbattle with age.Theydiffered over notonly the war butalso ahost ofother issues suchassexual mores,race rela- tions,lifestyle,andjust plain style.Theybelonged totwo different cultures.The older members (the "establishment") andthe youth movement liked different kinds of music, dressed differently, and wore their hair at different lengths. Indeed,hair became asymbol ofthe 1960scountercultureand served asapoint ofdeparture foroneofthedecade's mostpopularstagemusicals,
 Hair  ,
'an on BwadWlfwm
1968 to 1972.
Hair became a mnning
gag in the Beatles' first film,
A Hard Day's Nigh
(1964).And it was hair thattriggered the redneck violence against the hippie heroes in
Easy Rider (1969).
Theyounger, postwar generation, known asbaby boomers, had been raisedaccording tothe new permissiveness advocated by Dr.Benjamin Spock, whose
 Baby and Child Care
had originally been published in1946.Indeed, Spockhimself subsequently took responsibility forhis" children" and became aspokespersonfor the antiwar movement in the 1960s.According to Vice President SpiroAgnew, the "problem children" ofthe 1960swere the fault ofDr.Spock, whosebook, according to Agnew, "threw discipline out the window." The productsof this revolution in childrearing grew up to challenge the repressive codesestablished by their more conservative elders, who had been brought up inthe hard times of the Great Depression. The children of parents who foughtthe good and just war against Hitler and fascism in the 1940squestioned theAmerican ideology that had involved the nation on what was apparently thewrong side ofaseemingly unjust war in Southeast Asia. And they looked withsuspicion on the appeals topatriotism that were used to defend that war.The 1960sbegan not with violent confrontation but with the orderly transfer of power from one generation to another.In 1961,43-year-old John F.Kennedy, a liberal Democrat from Massachusetts, was sworn in as president ofthe UnitedStates, replacing 70-year-old Republican Dwight David Eisenhower.As theyoungest president in American history, Kennedy brought the energy andintensity ofyouth to his program for aNew Frontier in American political life.In his inaugural address, Kennedy noted that "the torch has been passed toa new generation of Americans" and called for a new activism, appealing toAmericans to "ask not what your country can do for you" but "what you cando for your country."With Kennedy, a new emphasis on sophistication, style, and wit enterednational politics.Jackand hiswifeJackiebecame theideal couple, and Kennedy'sadmirers likened his administration toKingArthur's mythical court ofCamelot,casting him as both Arthur and Lancelot and Jackie as Queen Guenevere.The White House became their castle, and Washington was transformedinto a utopian kingdom full of dreams about the creation of an ideal once-and-future world. Justprior toKennedy's inauguration, inDecember 1960,AlanJ. Lerner and Frederick Loewe's musical,
had opened on Broadway.And Kennedy's New Frontier naturally evoked Camelot, aworld governed byacts ofchivalry, trust, passionate idealism, and romance.
With Kennedy, thestyle of government changed. Kennedy invited noted artists such ascellistPabloCasalstoplayin theEastRoomofthe WhiteHouse. New England poet RobertFrost,who was asked to read one of his poems at the inauguration,became Kennedy's poet laureate. The president's interest in literatureranged fromFrost and Shakespeare toIanFleming.Fleming's slickly writtenspynovelsabout the exploitsofSecretAgent 007,JamesBond,doubled inpopularity afterJFK'sascination with them became public knowledge. At the sametime,Kennedycultivated theimage ofamoviestar,bringing glamour tothe WhiteHouse.Thepresidentsocialized with membersof the movie colony-with his "RatPack "buddies, including brother-in-law Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra,Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis,and with Marilyn Monroe. However,thenoveltyof theKennedystyle did not necessarilymake him the spokespersonfor 1960syouth, who questioned thesubstanceofhispolitical program. With thenotableexception ohis creation of thePeace Corps, Kennedy'sforeign policywon him fewsupporters in the new left student movement.Hisattempted invasion ofFidelCastro's Cuba, inApril 1961,at the Bay oPigs resulted in severecriticism of his tacticsby student activists and others.Hishandling of the Cuban missilecrisisinOctober 1962escalated Cold Wartensions and the danger ofnuclearwar,infuriating antinuclear protestors at home.Under Kennedy'sleadership, the presenceof American military advisers inVietnamdramaticallyincreased, expanding an involvement of  Americans inSoutheastAsiathat would ultimately result in the VietnamWar.
The Civil Rights Movement
Kennedy'sdomesticpolicy,which focused attention oncivilrights, was readily embraced byliberal high school and college students across the nation. The civilrightsmovement becamethe cornerstone of 1960sactivism,setting an agenda andestablishingastrategy of nonviolent intervention that would informsubsequentstudent protests against theVietnamWarand otherpolitical and socialproblems.But the civilrights movement was well under way even beforeKennedy tookoffice.In1960,fourblackstudents staged apeaceful sit-in atan all-white lunchcounter at Woolworth'sin Greensboro,North Carolina. Bythe end of the year,thesenonviolent protestshadsuccessfully integrated lunchcountersinover 126southerncities.In 1962,JamesMeredith became the first blacstudent toattend theUniversityof Mississippi,though he needed the assistance oederal marshalstoattend classes. Insupport of demands for civilrights set byblack organizationssuch asSNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee)andCORE(Congress ofRacialEquality), black and white students marched onWashington in1962and 1963.Theyregistered black  voters in the South during thesummers of 1963and 1964;thelatter became nownas"FreedomSummer."In 1964,three civil rights workers named MichaelSchwerner, Andrew Goodman,and JamesCheneywere murdered in Mississippi-a crimethat became the subjectofinvestigationinAlanParker's
 Mississippi Burning (1988).

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