American Cinema of the 1970s: Themes and Variations

By Lester D. Friedman | Go to book overview
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1972
Movies and Confession

MICHAEL DeANGELIS

Newly released opinion surveys revealed that only 38 percent of Americans felt that the government operated primarily for the benefit of the people, with 53 percent believing that it was “run by a few big interests looking out for themselves” (Crozier et al. 78). Both President Nixon's historic summit talks with China and the successful conclusion of the four-year Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT), which resulted in the United States and the USSR signing the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, offered significant evidence of Nixon's support for international peacekeeping efforts, as did his sustained commitment to reducing American forces in Vietnam. On the home front, Nixon also pledged his support for increasing social security benefits, yet steadily increasing inflation rates only heightened Americans' concerns about economic stability. In the midst of a weakened economy, an increasingly conservative American public grew more anxious about domestic issues that the social justice movements of the previous decade had failed to resolve—issues such as race relations, drug use, and urban crime. As Bruce Shulman suggests, the 1960s' integrationist ideals of a previous generation were yielding to the tenets of diversity and multiculturalism, with ethnic and racial groups now celebrating differences in social identity rather than any longer attempting to blend into a national melting pot of indistinguishable Americanism (68).

The event that precipitated the major crisis in America's confidence in governmental authority occurred in June, when five men were caught and arrested after burglarizing the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington's Watergate Office Building. Although the aftermath of investigations into the break-ins would soon connect the burglars to high-ranking governmental officials, disclosures by November were insufficiently conclusive to inspire the American public to exercise its voting power to change national leadership. The November race between Nixon and George McGovern resulted in one of the greatest landslide victories in the American presidency (60.7 percent for Nixon; 37.5 percent for

-71-

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