Conservapedia:American History Lecture Twelve
Review: Imperialism (extending power over other peoples) around turn of the century (1900). The Treaty of Paris at the end of the Spanish American War enabled the United States to annex the Philippine Islands and also Guam and Puerto Rico. Spain had held the Philippines ever since explorer Ferdinand Magellan discovered it in 1521. But after we took over, a bloody rebellion continued there by natives. We sent 70,000 soldiers to suppress them. Many Americans opposed this imperialism, including Mark Twain and Andrew Carnegie. They said it was against our American tradition. After we killed off many of the insurgents, Carnegie wrote to our government, “You seem to have about finished your work of civilizing the Filipinos. About 8000 of them have been completely civilized and sent to Heaven. I hope you like it.”
What is the most important event in America in the current decade 2000-2010? The terrorist attack of 9/11? President Bush’s elections? Change at the Supreme Court? Or this class? Do not think that history is something that involves only other people. You shape history too.
Consider the history of the United States to be like a child who grows into an adult. At what age would you expect a baseball player to hit his first home run? At what age would you expect a country to be old enough to have a prolonged Civil War? At what age would you expect a country to be able to lead the world? Put things in perspective and realize that we had to be 180 years old before we could write a Constitution, and over 300 years old before we could become the most powerful nation in the world. But once our country grew old enough, our enemies began to grow from within (e.g., infiltration by anarchists, communists and, more recently, terrorists).
Be able to identify overall trends in our history. One trend is ever-increasing federal power. Another trend is inflation. A third trend is increased democracy. A fourth trend is increasing power in the world. A fifth trend is the Supreme Court pushing us away from our religious roots. In Engel v. Vitale (1962), the Supreme Court banned prayer in public schools. Many consider this to be one of the Supreme Court’s worst decisions ever.
Also understand history as a struggle between two sides. It is like two wrestlers combating each other on a mat. The wrestlers rotate on the map as each one tries to gain an advantage on the other. Same for the two political parties: they rotate their regional support over the years. At the time of the Civil War, the Republican Party dominated in the North and the Democratic Party dominated in the South. Now it is the opposite.
We have seen several important figures who were Quakers: William Penn, Susan Anthony (who favored women’s right to vote), Whittaker Chambers and Richard Nixon. What was the Quaker religion really about? It was Protestant against Protestantism. Every Quaker is his own pastor; every Quaker is his own church using the Bible and his “inner light.” This led to a fierce independence in the character of Quakers, including a pacifism (opposition to war) by the Quakers in the eastern United States.
What “drives” or “leads” or “causes” history? Do politicians lead or follow? Do writers of books lead or follow? What’s the real cause of history?
Many would say “culture” is what drives history. In other words, what is considered “cool” to people. What is considered to be fun, enjoyable, fashionable, acceptable, etc. The movies we watch, the books we read, the activities we pursue, the styles, the festivals, the communication, etc.
In the 1950s, it was “cool” to conform. Everybody wanted to be like everyone else. Everybody dressed the same. Everybody had the same style haircut. Every man wanted to get a job with General Motors or IBM, where the workers wore a white shirt every single day to work.
You got ahead in life in the 1950s by doing what you were told. By not making waves. Tired of war, people wanted to make some money, have a happy family life, and then retire. People look back on the 1950s with much nostalgia, as though it were a better time. Television shows like “Leave it to Beaver” depict the culture. The most popular television show in the late 1970s was “Happy Days,” which was about growing up in the 1950s. An adult named Ron Howard played the happy-go-lucky teenager “Ritchie Cunningham.”
On July 13, 1950, Time magazine put a man named William Levitt on its cover. Using rapid construction techniques that he mastered as a Seabee in the Pacific, Levitt built an entire town of thousands of identical houses on Long Island, called “Levittown”. It was immediately a huge success. A post war housing crunch and the low prices of the Levittown homes led many young couples to move there. They liked living in houses just like the houses around them. They could work in jobs in New York City or on Long Island. Life seemed pretty good.
This was the “baby boom” (1946 to 1964). Having put off marriage and children due to the Great Depression and World War Two, young men and women married, settled down, and began families. The number of baseball Little Leagues nationwide increased from 776 in 1950 to 5,700 by 1960. It was a time of great prosperity. People obtained jobs and earned money. The country grew stronger.
But criticism of the culture in the 1950s emerged. One evening in 1955 in a book shop in San Francisco, a man named Allen Ginsberg stood up to read a long poem called the “Howl”. It was an attack on the conformity, materialism and hypocrisy of the 1950s. This was the beginning of the “Beat Generation,” captured best in Jack Kerouac’s book “On the Road.” The Beat Generation advocated freedom, drugs, and being different. The name comes from “beat-up” lives of its leaders.
By the 1960s the Beat Generation had blossomed into the hippie counterculture. Grow your hair long, violate laws, disobey your parents, take drugs, go to rock concerts, have sex, and do whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it. Every form of authority was rejected by hippies. Many of the leaders died of drug overdoses. Others ended up in jail, or caught sexual diseases. They had slogans like “Don’t trust anyone over 30” and sold books with titles like “Steal this Book.” Rock music started to advocate drug use. Movies changed for the worse. While the 1950s culture was about conforming, the 1960s culture was about rebelling.
The hippies had help from our political leaders. In 1962, the Supreme Court prohibited prayer in public schools, in a case called Engel v. Vitale. Our grandparents who went to public school before then in New Jersey used to say the Lord’s Prayer. The Supreme Court excluded God from our public schools and they have declined ever since.
The United States also had to confront Communism abroad. In 1960, The CIA hatched a plan for an invasion of Cuba that they thought would ignite a spontaneous rebellion against Fidel Castro. Republican President Dwight Eisenhower recognized the flaws of the plan and refused to approve it. However, Democrat President John F. Kennedy gave the CIA the green light, and the result was the fiasco at the Bay of Pigs.
A year later, the U.S. discovered that the USSR had placed nuclear missiles in Cuba, only 90 miles from the US mainland. President Kennedy ordered a naval blockade of Cuba, and for several days, the world teetered on the brink of a nuclear war. Finally, the USSR withdrew their missiles from Cuba.
President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and President Lyndon B. Johnson (“LBJ”) was sworn into office in November 1963. He was a tough Texan used to giving orders. He increased greatly our involvement in the Vietnam War, but would not let the military generals direct the war in a manner to win it. Instead, President Johnson would issue the orders for bombings and military maneuvers from the White House. Unfortunately, he didn’t know much about war, particularly guerrilla warfare.
Vietnam is a huge country: 81 million people, more than North and South Korea combined. Vietnam is also a jungle. The Communists had planted land mines everywhere. A substantial percentage of our casualties in the Vietnam War were from stepping on land mines.
We entered the war on the side of South Vietnam against the North Vietnamese, who were backed by China and the Soviet Union. We won every battle we fought. But in the jungle warfare, we were not any closer to winning after years of struggle.
Our leaders mishandled everything about the war. We would win a battle and then our leaders would call for a “cease-fire” to discuss settlement. But the Communists had no intention of settling, and they would just use the cease-fires to obtain replacement of all their ammunition and supplies from China and the Soviet Union.
The war became hugely unpopular, and people from all walks of life began protesting against in the United States. They caused disruption at colleges. The protests became bigger and bigger. Democratic President LBJ was in the White House, but he just kept fighting the war. He became obsessed with bombing North Vietnam, but wouldn’t let our generals win the war completely. Instead, LBJ insisted on ordering some bombing raids here and there without doing what was necessary to win the war. Later politicians swore that we should never repeat the mistake of Vietnam, which means we should never enter a war unless we are committed to doing what is necessary to win it. Later Presidents also avoided LBJ’s mistake of dictating detailed military strategy from the White House.
The hippies protested the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The tough Democratic mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley, used police to arrest and beat up the protesters. The media turned this into a major embarrassment for the Democratic Party. By then LBJ had failed so badly with the war that he had to withdraw from the presidential race. By then the leading Democratic candidate (Robert F. Kennedy) had been assassinated by someone disgruntled over the Middle East. Ultimately Richard Nixon won the presidential race when a third party candidate (George Wallace) siphoned votes away from the Democratic nominee (Hubert Humphrey).
The Reverend Martin Luther King, who was a minister advocating greater rights for African Americans, was assassinated in 1968. Our society seemed to be falling apart. In 1969, news reports from Vietnam shocked the nation with a story about how American soldiers had murdered villagers in the “My Lai massacre.” The story was that our soldiers would unsuccessfully look for North Vietnamese, known as “Viet Cong,” but in their frustration in finding the real enemy would allegedly kill innocent people instead.
At Kent State University in 1970, peaceful protesters were shot at by National Guardsmen and several were killed. The United States began looking for ways to get out of the war. When we finally pulled out completely in 1973, South Vietnamese clung to the wheels of the last airplanes, begging to leave with us. North Vietnam eventually conquered South Vietnam after we left (Saigon fell to the communists in 1975), and created the new communist country of Vietnam that exists to this day.
The hippie culture had its effect in legalizing abortion. Previously, the leaders of the women’s rights movement had opposed abortion. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, were opposed to abortion. Democratic President Jimmy Carter was (and is) against it, but did nothing about it as president. Alice Paul, a famous advocate of women’s rights in the 1920s, called abortion “the ultimate exploitation of women.”
But the culture of “me first” and “do whatever you want” led to laws legalizing abortion in New York, Washington, Hawaii and Alaska. The big change came in the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade (1973), where the Justices said that the U.S. Constitution provides for a right to abortion. Our Constitution does not support abortion, and even our textbook mistakenly says the right was based on the 4th Amendment. That is wrong. The Supreme Court said abortion is in the “penumbra” (shadowy area) of the Bill of Rights. First the Supreme Court had turned its back on God in the school prayer decision of Engel v. Vitale in 1962, and then it turned its back on the image of God by legalizing abortion in Roe v. Wade in 1973.
By the middle of 1973, 30 states had ratified the so-called “Equal Rights Amendment.” This proposed amendment provided that:
Section 1. Equality of Rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
The House of Representatives had passed this Amendment by a 354-24 margin. The Senate had passed it by a margin of 84-8. Both political parties favored it; all presidents until Ronald Reagan supported it; and the media strongly backed it. Its ratification by 3/4ths of the states (38 states), as required to amend the Constitution, seemed inevitable.
But a handful of conservative women met in a hotel near Chicago O’Hare airport on July 7, 1972, to discuss ways to stop the amendment. One woman proposed naming the movement, “Stop Taking our Privileges” or simply “STOP ERA.” The name stuck.
First they slowed the momentum of the passage of the amendment by state legislatures. After 30 states passed it in 1972 and 1973, only 3 passed ERA in 1974. Just one passed it in 1975, none in 1976, and only one in 1977. That brought the total to 35, just three shy of the 38 needed for ratification. Meanwhile, the states of Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, Tennessee and South Dakota were persuaded they had made a mistake, and they passed laws nullifying or rescinding their acts.
Deceptively attractive in its “equality” language, ERA was defeated by considering how it could legalize same-sex marriage and abortion, and even require equal use of women in military combat. Additional arguments against ERA included its transfer of power to the court system to interpret its meaning, and its transfer of power from states to Congress to enforce it.
The defeat of ERA helped elect a conservative president, Ronald Reagan, who had opposed it. Meanwhile, the hippie movement had already begun to decline in the 1970s, and by the time Ronald Reagan took the White House in 1981, it was no longer cool to be a hippie.