African American, Blacks, Civil Rights, Cold War, Communism, Inner City, JFK, John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon, Riots, Russia, Selma, Soviet Union, space race, Suburban Life, Suburbs, USA, USSR, Vietnam, WIN
Note: This series premise is that we tend to see today’s world based upon what we experienced in the past. Different generations have different experiences, which can lead to different perceptions of what is happening in today’s world.
In this article we look at the 1960’s.
The 1960’s – The Three Americas
- Population: 180.0 million
- Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita: $16,986
- Median Annual Income: $5,600
- Life Expectancy: 69.7
- Average Age at Marriage: Men 22.8, Women 20.3
- % of pop. w/high school degree or higher: 41.1%
- % of pop. w/college degree or higher: 7.7%
AMERICA AS THE TECH AND COMMERCE GORILLA
The space race continued technological advancement for both the Soviet Union and the United States; however, USSR kept even the most simple advancements secret from everyone, including their own citizens. The space-related advancements for the United States were often generated by private contractors. The advancements that were not ‘Top Secret’ could be applied in open commerce and available to the private citizen. USSR didn’t lose the Space Race when an American stepped on the Moon, they lost it when millions of Americans were able to buy consumer goods that incorporated technology generated by sending a human to the Moon.
This thrust America into the center of technological advancement in commerce. In addition to space technology, new super highways, power grids, and phone lines increased commerce. The capitalist system of “build only what we know will sell” was replaced with a new space age economy of “solve problems that no one ever thought of before.”
The downside of a growing economy is that when people have more money to spend, then greed steps up to take their money. It’s one thing for a business to raise their prices to cover additional costs, or to pay for improvements to their products or services, but when prices increased for the sake of greed, then worker wages must increase to help them pay for a higher cost of living. That was the root cause for the upward spiral of inflation in the 1960’s.
AMERICA AS THE WORLD’s POLICE
Communist aggression and American pride clashed as China and Russia sought to halt the threat of bottom up government (self determinism) to their model of top down (power to the few.) The space race was fueled by Russian moves to claim the ultimate higher ground. Russia, China, and the United States began winning over developing countries in a blatant attempt to win control of strategic regions around the world. Military might became a primary resource in diplomacy. Those who stood to make money through weapon development and sales were strong proponents of meeting aggression with aggression. Governments found that the concept of small wars as a means to prevent larger wars were more palatable to the public.
With the onset of smaller wars came the utilization of forcing young men into fighting wars, while those who made the decisions to fight went home to their families every night. The gap between those who sacrifice and those who benefit from war became crystal clear. Civil unrest across the nation against the Vietnam war created a split that was widely visible through national television news. America was no longer in a post-war honeymoon.
AMERICA FACING ITS OWN FAILINGS
The Civil War purchased an end to institutionalized slavery, but it didn’t end white domination of African-Americans. Societal tools to humiliate and dominate black people created a divided America based on skin color.
Determined to no longer be oppressed, African-Americans began to challenge white society. This caught many white Americans living in communities outside of the South by surprise. Meanwhile in the South, some white groups committed heinous crimes in an effort to derail any African-American challenge to the dual-class society that protected white supremacy.
Few people fully understood how the United States of America could become so divided in the two decades following the World War II. Small town people sought simplistic solutions to issues for which they had very little understanding. The complexities leading to the chaos of the 1960’s were two much for a ‘Mayberry RFD’ mind.
With the boom in suburban living, the segregation of the races led to a flash point in many major cities. Whites choose to run away from inner city issues to live a sanitized life that sucked taxpayer money out of the neighborhoods that needed it the most. From the comfort of their new recliner in their new subdivision, white people embraced small-town thinking. Nuke Russia, nuke Vietnam, nuke Cuba, war protesters were just drugged out hippies, Blacks were responsible for their own failings, etc. were typical of positions of the 1960’s Caucasian.
NEXT: The 1970’s