And Crooked Places Made Straight

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And the Crooked Places Made Straight David Chalmers was born in New York. He received his Ph.D. in History at Columbia History. His specialty is contemporary American history with an emphasis on urban and social problems. He has lectured in Vietnam, Korea, Tokyo, and the Philippines. He has received the prestigious Fulbright award for excellence in academic teaching. Currently, he is a Professor of History, Emeritus, at the University of Florida. During the nineteen-sixties, Chalmers took part in numerous demonstrations for black equality. Some of his works include: Hooded Americanism, Neither Socialism nor Monopoly, and The Social and Political Ideas of the Mudrackers. He also lives with his wife in Florida. In his book, And the Crooked Places Made Straight, Chalmers focuses in upon the nineteen-sixties as a decade of profound upheaval. Established institutions corporations, academia, and the government became the subject of profound criticism. People young and old, black and white, male and female began taking an active part in the social and political process. He declares that they made real progress blacks secured the right to vote, women won abortion rights, college students began protesting against the Vietnam War and took part in nationwide campus protests, and gays and lesbians openly confessed their sexual identities. Slogans exhorting black power, sexual equality, and political utopianism were seen everywhere. The media radio, newspapers, and, especially, television emerged as a powerful medium in communicating political ideas. Movements grew in both size and strength. Communities and communes sprouted everywhere. In effect, America became a battleground for the experimentation of new ideas and ideologies. Chalmers describes the backdrop of the nineteen-sixties with skill. In his chapter, Coming Out of the 1950s, the domestic home front was one of quietism. With the exception of black protest in southern states and Communism, America was free of internal dissent. Employment and the consumption of domestic goods and service boomed. People, especially the young, seemed devoid of individual thought and collective action. He [Chalmers] calls the young of the nineteen-fifties, the silent generation. By the early nineteen-sixties, Chalmers states that the landscape had changed dramatically. Blacks staged sit-ins in places like Greensboro, North Carolina and Montgomery, Alabama formed groups like the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), marched on Washington with Martin Luther King for peace and equality among both races. The passage of three Civil Rights Bills, black participation in politics increased dramatically. Black employment and enrollment in white universities began to increase. Within a decade, blacks formed ten percent of the enrollment quota. Only in the areas of poverty and health, did blacks see a slow, steady decline in their condition. Others, led by Malcolm X and Stokley Charmichael, opposed integration with whites and urged forming a separate country altogether or returning to Africa. They preached black pride and urged blacks to fight for their rights, unlike King who advocated peaceful cooperation.Campus protests led by Mario Savio, Tom Hayden among others began to question and challenge academic policy and government action, both domestic and international. Like African-Americans, they, too, began organizing marches, distributing political and philosophical pamphlets, and urging membership into campus organizations like the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Committee against the American Intervention in Vietnam (CAIV). As American involvement in Vietnam grew so did the opportunity for violent confrontation. Chalmers points out that campus revolts in places like Kent and Jackson State, confrontations between students and the police became frequent. Sometimes they resulted in death. In other situations, students took over offices and administrative buildings like Columbia and Berkeley. The sixties movement formally ended with the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam. Chalmers describes the widening gulf separating Americans. On the one side, there were those who believed that America were protecting democratic interests, thereby preventing the spread of Communism. On the other, there were those who believed that the government was exploiting capitalistic interests. Confrontations between both sides became frequent and violent. Some were beaten, even killed, for their beliefs. Thousands marched in protest and hundreds more were imprisoned for their beliefs. After the Tet invasion, in nineteen sixty-eight, American support for the war began to wane. During this time television and journal reporter made a deep impact upon the American public. Millions saw the bloody conflict directly from their television sets. War now came into the home and workplace. The same year President Johnson announced that he would not seek re-election. By nineteen seventy-three, President Nixon finally withdrew the last of American troops from Vietnam. Women also emerged onto the political scene. Chalmers contends that they lobbied for equal rights. Women, especially black women, faced a tough, uphill battle. They met the challenge head on. Young women took to the streets to proclaim their message of equality among the sexes; the old took to the courts to ensure the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. Empowerment was the maxim of the day. The Gay and lesbian movement took its place alongside the women's movement. (They also desired acceptance and respect.) The movement won several important victories. The Supreme Court decision, Roe versus Wade, allowed women to have abortions. Others took their seat alongside men in local, state, or federal circuits like Sandra Day O Connor. The sexual revolution, Chalmers asserts, produced fundamental changes the way American s viewed sex. Unmarried men and women began living together. Many experimented in sexual practices largely due to the emergence of The Pill. Drugs frequently accompanied sex. Partly because of its aphrodisiac properties and partly because of its euphoric effects, drug use, along with drug addiction, became widespread. Chalmers declares that government action increased during the nineteen sixties. On numerous occasions, the police and National Guard were called out to enforce civil obedience. Sometimes, as in the case of Little Rock, they were used to protect black students from angry whites. During the Democratic National Convention, in nineteen sixty-eight, policemen were used to disperse protesters protesting the Vietnam War. On the other hand, the government assisted in providing funds to the elderly, the poor, the uneducated, and the sick. Medicare and Medicaid were established under the Johnson administration as were unemployment acts and assistance for underprivileged children. Unfortunately, such programs were weakened under the Nixon administration. Government feelings towards the sixties, at best, were mixed. He maintains that there were failures as well. Protesters formed a small part of the American population. Many middle-class workers remained estranged from the movement. As the sixties progressed drugs, violence and internal opposition divided and fragmented the numerous movements. Drugs, despite their uplifting effect, turned thousands into dependent addicts. Hippies and campus protesters often had divergent views of society. Hippies wanted to live in communes away from society. Conversely, campus protestors wanted to reform society. With the end of America s involveme

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