American Patriotism, American Protest: Social Movements since the Sixties

American Patriotism, American Protest: Social Movements since the Sixties

American Patriotism, American Protest: Social Movements since the Sixties

American Patriotism, American Protest: Social Movements since the Sixties

Synopsis

During the 1970s and beyond, political causes both left and right--the gay rights movement, second-wave feminism, the protests against busing to desegregate schools, the tax revolt, and the anti-abortion struggle--drew inspiration from the protest movements of the 1960s. Indeed, in their enthusiasm for direct-action tactics, their use of street theater, and their engagement in grassroots organizing, activists in all these movements can be considered "children of the Sixties." Invocations of America's founding ideals of liberty and justice and other forms of patriotic protest have also featured prominently in the rhetoric and image of these movements. Appeals to the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights have been made forcefully by gay rights activists and feminists, for instance, while participants in the antibusing movement, the tax revolt, and the campaign against abortion rights have waved the American flag and claimed the support of the nation's founders.

In tracing the continuation of quintessentially "Sixties" forms of protest and ideas into the last three decades of the twentieth century, and in emphasizing their legacy for conservatives as well as those on the left, American Patriotism, American Protest shows that the activism of the civil rights, New Left, and anti-Vietnam War movements has shaped America's modern political culture in decisive ways. As well as providing a refreshing alternative to the "rise and fall" narrative through which the Sixties are often viewed, Simon Hall's focus on the shared commitment to patriotic protest among a diverse range of activists across the political spectrum also challenges claims that, in recent decades, patriotism has become the preserve of the political right. Full of original and insightful observations, and based on extensive archival research, American Patriotism, American Protest transforms our understanding of the Sixties and their aftermath.

Excerpt

On Sunday 11 October 1987, more than 200,000 protesters gathered in Washington, D.C., for a national march for lesbian and gay rights. the day began with the unveiling on the Mall of the aids memorial quilt. Containing 1,920 three foot by six foot panels made by the lovers, friends, and families of those lost to the epidemic, the quilt (which by 2010 had grown to more than 40,000 panels) was a powerful and moving tribute. One newspaper report noted that as the pieces were “unfurled and hooked together” the “early morning quiet” was “punctured” by the “sound of sobs” and the reading aloud of the names of those who had died. the march itself, which began at 1 p.m., was a festive and colorful affair: scores of gay couples exchanged vows during a mass wedding and the crowd was adorned with banners, placards, flags, and balloons. Throughout the day, lesbians and gay men were urged to demand with pride their rights as American citizens. John Bush, a long-time activist, told the crowd that “All men are created equal. and we have to stand up and say, ‘We’re gay and we’re here’,” while San Francisco supervisor Harry Britt recalled his slain predecessor Harvey Milk’s desire for “us to associate ourselves in a powerful way with the symbols of this country.” in his keynote speech Rev. Jesse Jackson explained that the marchers had gathered to “insist on equal protection under the law for every American.” With protesters singing “We Shall Overcome” and Jackson taking a high-profile role, comparisons with the civil rights movement were perhaps inevitable; certainly many demonstrators claimed inspiration from the August 1963 March on Washington. Two days later more than two thousand gay men and women gathered outside the Supreme Court to protest its controversial 1986 decision to uphold a Georgia sodomy law. At about 9 a.m. activists, “moving intermittently in groups of 15 to 30,” began to walk past the police barricades and toward the court, where . . .

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