Legacy of the 1960s Cultural Revolution
George Bernard Shaw once observed that "revolutionary movements attract the best and worst elements in a given society."1 If any decade in American history simultaneously produced "the best and worst elements," it was the 1960s, and the legacy of that era is no less paradoxical. Much of what happened then was divisive. Many of the events that occurred in the sixties split generations, races, sexes, political parties, and even families. People lived together rather than marry. Many young people sent off to be the first college graduate in the family used their knowledge and energy to attempt to dismantle the American system. Members of the baby boom generation, leaving home to improve their minds and their lives, rebelled and attacked the values and traditions their parents had embraced: authority, the work ethic, religion, conformity, marital fidelity, patriotism, and generally whatever '"the establishment" represented. Civil rights, women's liberation, sexual permissiveness, the counterculture, the music, and the Vietnam War all contributed to fragmenting or alienating Americans. Americans fought communists in Southeast Asia, and they fought each other at home, often because they were fighting communists in Southeast Asia.
There were some bright spots. In May 1961, Alan B. Shepard was the first American in space; eight years later, in July 1969, Neil Armstrong fulfilled President Kennedy's promise to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. In 1964 Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, and the Twenty- fourth Amendment prohibiting poll taxes was ratified. The following year Congress enacted an Immigration Act and the Voting Rights Act. VISTA, a domestic Peace Corps, was a tremendous success. Conversely, black mili-