From The 50’s To The 60’sPosted: January 6, 2008
I’ve felt for the past few years that America was living in a weird, funhouse reflection of the 1950’s. Bush is something of a distorted Eisenhower – both conservatives from Texas, with a folksy demeanor. Of course, Eisenhower was a war hero who really was from Texas and who warned about the Military-Industrial Complex. Bush, by contrast… well, no need to state the obvious here.
The 1950’s political climate was dominated by the Cold War and McCarthyism. Today the War on Terror serves as the analog to the Cold War, another ongoing, shadowy, and vague ideological conflict (if anything, the War on Terror is more shadowy and vague, and even harder to “win”, assuming victory is even possible). George Clooney’s 2005 film Good Night, and Good Luck served to remind the country how similar the political climate in America has been to those bad old days.
The successor to the 1950’s in America was, of course, the 1960’s, a period which favored the word “revolution”. The Cold War was still in full swing, and became even more bleak and serious as the 60’s progressed, with the onset of the Vietnam War.
But there was also a sense of wide-eyed optimism – the iconic image of hippies putting flowers into the guns of soldiers captures the era perfectly. It was also a time of much domestic unrest and violence. People were “mad as hell, and not taking it anymore”*.
What prompted me to write this now was Barack Obama’s brilliant victory speech in Iowa. Among all the Democratic candidates, he is the visionary Kennedy that the Democrats crave. He is the current-day analog to JFK.
If this country does decide to transition from a 1950’s mentality to a 1960’s mentality, it will be on Barack Obama’s shoulders.
p.s. I haven’t mentioned the Civil Rights movement (at least not explicitly), because I don’t see a clear contemporary analog. Obama did invoke the March on Selma in his speech, though.
p.p.s. This is not an endorsement of Obama – my point is that if the Bush era has mirrored the Eisenhower years, Obama is very likely to mirror the Kennedy years.
* Yes, I know that Network came out in the 1976, but it was still a movie with roots in the 1960’s.
UPDATE: Added some YouTube links 2012-Jan-6