The 1960s were a time of great change in American society characterized by ethnic consciousness and civil rights, womens rights and female liberalism, anti-war demonstrations, student protests, and the genesis of the counterculture. A noted speaker once said, The Cold War, conformity, and consumerism provided the background for the social protests movement of the 1960s. The cause of the protest movements were much more deeply rooted in U.
S. institutions and history. Although the protest movements of the 1960s were deeply rooted in U. S. institutions and history of the 1950s, the Cold War, conformity, and consumerism provided much more than a background for these movements, in a way they were the reason behind them.
In the 1950s politicians constantly used the Cold War as a threat to the lifestyle of the American people-a conformist lifestyle dominated by consumerism in which families for the first time in history had the purchasing power of credit. Families now had the power to own homes, which resulted in the construction of ethnic communities and they had the ability to afford luxuries, which they could never dream of before, these include cars, televisions, and other new appliances. This ideal lifestyle was championed on television sitcoms such as Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best and it included the above mentioned luxuries, furthermore it illustrated the breakdown of the family and how it was supposed to appear. The shows stressed the breadwinner and head of the family as the father, the mother as the ideal housewife, taking diligent care that all the housework be done before her husband arrives from work, and the children as well-mannered and respectful citizens upon whose problems the shows usually center. In essence the shows stressed the importance of family and family life, and what threatened the family-Communism, Cold War-the Communist that could be living next door! McCarthy and McCarthyism, in essence, gave the people of the 1950s a cause, a cause of preservation characterized by scare tactics in which he (McCarthy) constantly accused others as being Communists who sell secrets to the Soviets and thus threaten the livelihood of Americana.Order now
As the younger generation of the 1950s grew older, however, disenchantment with the idealized American lifestyle, which had in some cases already been around, seemed to grow. In Takin It to the Streets, the author writes that young people resist the efforts of adults to shape and control their maturation (9). The refusal of children to follow in their parents footsteps is one of the first signs of a generation gap growing between the parents of the 50s and what will be the children of the 60s. A generation gap that is characterized not by conformity, but rather change, sweeping change that alters the course of America and American history.
Growing men in the family saw through their fathers that the roles they would play, in the idealized family, were not very fulfilling. This was evident in the high rate of divorce, alcoholism, heart disease, and other personal and social disorders prevalent among breadwinners (Breines, 10). Young women too saw no bright future if they followed the female path so championed in the 1950s. A path that only led to two titles: wife and mother, a path in which there was no future outside of the family. The result of these young peoples resistance to the trends set forth by their parents were the social movements of the 1960s-movements that were reactions against the conformity instilled into the American people through the threat of the Cold War and Communism. The cause of the 1960s was not one of preservation, but rather change, for people of the 60s no longer saw America as an ideal place, but rather as a place that demanded change.
No longer was the focus on family, instead young people of the 1960s focused on the problems of America and American society. While white America did not wake up to social issues (on a large scale) until the 1960s, many black Americans started to champion civil rights, with limited success, in the 1950s. These victories came mainly from the NAACP who fought black disenfranchisement in the realm of education. In 1954, the NAACP won its battle