Legacy of the 1970 Thesis

Pages: 8 (2510 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: American History

¶ … era of women's rights and Watergate was one of the most tumultuous in American history. Worldwide, the 1970s were a decade signifying tremendous change and turmoil. An oil and gas crisis brought to light the conflicts brewing in the Middle East, which were the direct product of centuries of colonialism. As a result of shifts in global balances of power, the cost of living skyrocketed. Communism and the Cold War reached their peak. The social consciousness brewing since the late 1960s had taken root, growing by leaps and bounds in American and global popular culture and the arts. Civil rights movements manifested in changes to federal law such as Row v. Wade and the Special Education Law. Television, movies, and radio offered grittier movies, more sardonic satires, and heavier music by the minute. Technology burrowed its way into the public mind and the personal computer, video games, and cable television became household items. Few eras embody the dichotomy of the human spirit as much as the 1970s.

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American culture, politics, and history were shaped mainly by three trends that culminated in the 1970s. First, the civil rights movement marked a profound change in social norms and subsequent legislation. Second, the Vietnam War and Watergate signaled the need for intelligent political discourse, media literacy, and social criticism. Third, the counterculture movement that brewed worldwide helped to usher in a new generation of more cynical yet more empowered global citizens.

Thesis on Legacy of the 1970's Assignment

The civil rights movement that began in the 1960s came to fruition in the 1970s. Many of the strides that marked civil rights progress did not become codified into law until the 1970s, including the Education for the Handicapped Act and Roe v. Wade. The Education for the Handicapped Act revolutionized the way persons with disabilities were viewed and treated. After the Act was passed, children with disabilities were legally guaranteed the right to receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education, (FAPE). The Act symbolized the shift away from segregation toward integration, and helped squelch discrimination in public schools and in the workplace. Persons with disabilities were to receive equal access to public education for the first time in American history.

Race relations remained strained throughout the 1970s in spite of the tremendous strides that characterized the civil rights movement. Although Brown v. Board of Education had already been a part of history, schools were far from integrated and far from egalitarian. President Richard M. Nixon offered a conservative solution to the issue of mandated school integration, essentially putting off the problem entirely ("The 1964 Civil Rights Act to the Present"). Bussing African-Americans to predominantly white neighborhoods was a band-aid solution that became common practice in the 1970s. Ignoring the practical problems of poor Race relations exacerbated the income divide that further disenfranchised America's non-white communities. The 1970s bore witness to severe social problems ranging from race riots to skyrocketing rates of violence in American cities.

Gender roles and gender relations were also changing in the United States and abroad during the 1970s. The birth control pill was invented and commercialized during the 1960s, with dramatic results on social norms in the 1970s. More than just a contraceptive device, the Pill meant that women were empowered to choose whether or not they wanted to bear children. As a result, women could select their sexual partners more freely and also enjoyed a great degree of social freedom. Reproduction became a choice, not an obligation. Choosing motherhood represented a radical shift away from restrictive social norms and toward more progressive ones. The change in gender roles and norms created a rocky road for American social health, as family structures changed in response. An empowered female population changed the demographics of the American workforce and brought to light some of the endemic social ills associated with misogyny and patriarchy. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) enjoyed a high level of media publicity during the 1970s even though it was neither new nor popular enough to be ratified in Congress.

The 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade was a landmark case that embodied the social revolutions taking place during the 1970s. Roe v. Wade coincided with budding awareness about the needs and rights of women by prohibiting state and local governments from criminalizing abortions. The decision can be viewed as a civil rights case: an affirmation of women's civil liberties and egalitarian social values. The Pill and Roe v. Wade both allowed women to opt out of motherhood and a restrictive domestic life. As women became less defined by reproduction, their presence in public life and politics increased. Women became more visible in almost every area of life, from the arts to the sciences to business. The trend was worldwide, as many women became elected officials during the 1970s including Britain's Margaret Thatcher. Legislated equality for women, non-white minorities, and for the disabled meant that the United States was becoming a far more egalitarian society during the 1970s.

However, the 1970s were not a happy decade in general. Changing social norms also wreaked havoc on American lives by upsetting the balance of power. Race and gender relations did not instantly shift, even if the legislative acts were in place to ensure a more equal society. An economic downturn and the lingering effects of the Vietnam War left the nation in social and political turmoil.

The early 1970s were colored by two main events: the Watergate scandal and the messy end of the Vietnam War. Both signaled major turning points in American politics, political culture, and social values. The Watergate scandal reached a peak in 1974, when for the first time in American history the President of the United States resigned in dishonor. President Nixon's resignation and the criminal acts that caused it led to wide scale collapses of public trust in the government. Americans had always enjoyed a healthy skepticism about what their political leaders were doing behind closed doors, but Watergate proved that corruption was rampant in Washington. The Watergate scandal did lead to a productive upswing in the quality and nature of journalism, though. Journalism increasingly lived up to its role as the fourth estate, and as a crucial feature of a political democracy. The press became big business during the 1970s, coinciding with the proliferation of television and film dramas that also depicted current events with gritty cynicism.

Like Watergate, the Vietnam War took a toll on public trust in government. The Vietnam War raged on until 1973, in spite of dwindling public support. Yet even after the cease-fire in the early 1970s, American foreign policy remained interventionist in nature. American interventionism became the new face of imperialism. Related political satire and commentary became embedded in popular culture and the arts. For example, the movie and subsequent television series M*a*S*H used the Korean War backdrop to introduce issues that were still relevant in the early 1970s. The Vietnam War, like the Korean War a few decades earlier, proved that by the 1970s the United States had become a massive military and political power unlike any other. Its standoff with the Soviet Union, the Cold War, became deeply ingrained in the American public consciousness. Fear of communism fueled both the Korean and the Vietnam War and also led to a series of smaller-scale and more clandestine political maneuvers during the 1970s and in later decades. The United States helped create coups in nations all over the world: the most famous of which include Chile and Iran. In the wake of colonialism, dictatorial regimes characterized much if not most of the developing world and especially in Africa, South America, and the Middle East.

The most important foreign policy initiatives to take place during the 1970s may have been those that related to the Middle East. A burgeoning oil industry meant that nations controlling the supply of oil could, and did, strangle the global market economy and global politics. Two major oil crises occurred during the 1970s, both of which had their roots in reactions to American foreign policy and both of which also had huge impacts on the American economy. In 1973, Egypt and Syria led a major offensive against Israel in response to the 1967 Six-Day War. The offensive also included an oil embargo aimed at the United States as "punishment for their involvement in recent Arab-Israeli conflicts," ("The Mideast Oil Crisis"). The embargo had both immediate and long-term effects. Immediate effects included "sold out" and "no gas today" signs that graphically illustrated the nation's dependence on Middle East oil suppliers (Halber 2007). Longer-term effects included inflation, as the 1973 embargo drove oil and gas prices up. The rising cost of oil led to a practically uniform increase in the cost of living in the United States during the 1970s.

The oil embargo reflected a much broader anti-American (and anti-British) political trend fomenting in the Middle East. By the end of the decade, the region was a hotbed of political and social turmoil. Saddam Hussein rose to power toward the end of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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