America's Uncivil Wars: The Sixties Era: From Elvis to the Fall of Richard Nixon

America's Uncivil Wars: The Sixties Era: From Elvis to the Fall of Richard Nixon

America's Uncivil Wars: The Sixties Era: From Elvis to the Fall of Richard Nixon

America's Uncivil Wars: The Sixties Era: From Elvis to the Fall of Richard Nixon

Synopsis

Here is a panoramic history of America from 1954 to 1973, ranging from the buoyant teen-age rebellion first captured by rock and roll, to the drawn-out and dispiriting endgame of Watergate.
In America's Uncivil Wars, Mark Hamilton Lytle illuminates the great social, cultural, and political upheavals of the era. He begins his chronicle surprisingly early, in the late '50s and early '60s, when A-bomb protests and books ranging from Catcher in the Rye to Silent Spring and The Feminine Mystique challenged attitudes towards sexuality and the military-industrial complex. As baby boomers went off to college, drug use increased, women won more social freedom, and the widespread availability of birth control pills eased inhibitions against premarital sex. Lytle describes how in 1967 these isolated trends began to merge into the mainstream of American life. The counterculture spread across the nation, Black Power dominated the struggle for racial equality, and political activists mobilized vast numbers of dissidents against the war. It all came to a head in 1968, with the deepening morass of the war, the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., race riots, widespread campus unrest, the violence at the Democratic convention in Chicago, and the election of Richard Nixon. By then, not only did Americans divide over race, class, and gender, but also over matters as simple as the length of a boy's hair or of a girl's skirt. Only in the aftermath of Watergate did the uncivil wars finally crawl to an end, leaving in their wake a new elite that better reflected the nation's social and cultural diversity.
Blending a fast-paced narration with broad cultural analysis, America's Uncivil Wars offers an invigorating portrait of the most tumultuous and exciting time in modern American history.

Excerpt

Who needs another book on the sixties? Certainly bookstore shelves and Web sites are already filled with relevant titles. But every time we think we have made peace with that contentious era, it commands our attention once again. Our understanding of what the sixties were all about is not yet free of the political and cultural passions the era inflamed. In the 1980s, veterans of the New Left and antiwar movement produced important histories and memoirs. While recognizing the excesses of many activists, they celebrated the era’s efforts to overcome racial and gender inequality, to end what they saw as an unjust war, and to liberate people from a repressive culture. At the same time, conservatives led by Allan Bloom launched a powerful counterattack on an era they blamed for every social and moral disorder, from welfare to street crime and teenage pregnancy. Ronald Reagan, as their public spokesperson, condemned affirmative action, drug use, and permissive culture. In facing the world, he urged Americans to put Vietnam in the past, “stand tall again,” and renew their efforts to defeat Communism’s “evil empire.” His administration supported a right-wing counterinsurgency in Nicaragua that his critics called a potential Vietnam.

The debate over the sixties grew more heated in the 1990s. For the first time, a number of historians too young to have “been there” began to interpret what it all meant. Earlier histories had focused on the New Left, the antiwar movement, and the counterculture. For this younger generation, those movements were only part of the story. Conservatives could look back on that era as the genesis of their movement’s rise to power. Any comprehensive history of the sixties had to explain how a movement declared dead in 1964 could come to define the nation’s political agenda less than twenty years later. At the same time, the generation who came of age in the sixties began to define public policy. Former Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) members played key roles in the Reagan and first Bush administrations. The American military leaders who planned Desert Storm, the invasion to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, had Vietnam very much on their minds. Almost all were veterans of that conflict. For this war, they insisted on overwhelming force, broad domestic and international support, and an exit strategy—precisely those factors missing during Vietnam. In the wake of the allies’ crushing victory, President George H.W. Bush exulted, “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.”Yet the failure to topple Saddam Hussein left the outcome much in doubt. The United States had snatched “a modest victory from the jaws of triumph,” a marine corps general groused.

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