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There are two different positions taken about the 1960's in America. One side says that the sixties were good for America and changed the way Americans live for the better. The other side says that the sixties were bad for America and gave Americans new freedoms and ideas that changed their lives for the worse. Both positions have evidence to support their arguments and make the sixties look like a time of social and economic freedom and reform or make the sixties look like a time of ignorant rebellion and youthful playfulness that is not acceptable in the real world. This essay is going to touch on most of the important reforms of the sixties but concentrate mostly on the Vietnam War in the sixties and its impact on the American people back home and in the war. The essay will also concentrate on the popularization of drug use in the sixties and its effect on the society and America's view on drug use.
The position that is in favor of the sixties being a good time in America has many supporters. The sixties were the age of youth, as 70 million children from the post-war baby boom became teenagers and young adults. These people are known today as the baby boomers and they are people like my parents and teachers. The movement away from the conservative fifties continued and eventually resulted in revolutionary ways of thinking and real change in the cultural fabric of American life. No longer were people content to be images of the generation ahead of them, young people wanted change. The changes affected education, values, lifestyles, laws, entertainment, and public thinking as a whole. Many of the revolutionary ideas which began in the sixties are continuing to evolve today and help improve the way Americans live.
Two of the more important events to come out of the sixties were the Vietnam War and the popularization of drug use. The Vietnam War was probably the most unpopular war in the history of American wars but there were still many positives that came out of the war. The war was fought to contain communism and keep Vietnam from becoming another China. Many Americans fought and died in Vietnam and the most important thing that America should have learned for the war was that we cannot just go into a country and bully them around, resistance will be fierce and support back home is needed to win wars.
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Unfortunately there are probably more negatives to come out of Vietnam than there are positives. The problem with Vietnam was the enemy was not quite clear, unlike in previous wars in which we knew what we were fighting against. During wars like WWII, nationalism grew and we expected to win. However, where Vietnam was concerned, many people did not even know why we were fighting, including the soldiers. Something else that made Vietnam different from other wars was the huge presence of the media on the battlegrounds. Every night, American civilians were faced with the harsh realities of a war we could not win on their television sets. Vietnam was the first televised war, and many say that the media is what made people think so negatively of the whole conflict. Others say that the media is what made us lose the war, although that opinion is not shared by the majority. There was also growing social tension at the time. The sixties were very tumultuous years, because of the war and the social rebellion that took place in this country. The younger generation and their parents were separated by their ideals, culture, and opinions. These young people led many antiwar protests, as well as the civil rights movement and a fight for the environment.
Drug use is another issue to come out of the sixties that has mixed opinions, although most people have a negative view on drug use, the sixties is the first time that drugs were really popularized and have some positive attitudes. Marijuana use soared and became one of the most popular drugs used in America during the sixties along with LSD, mushrooms, and cocaine. Respected figures such as Timothy Leary, a Harvard researcher, encouraged the use of LSD as a mind-opening drug because he believed that psychedelic drugs altered our consciousness and allowed us to explore "other areas of being". The hippie movement endorsed drugs, rock music, mystic religions and sexual freedom while opposing violence at the same time. The Woodstock Festival, at which 400,000 young people gathered in a spirit of love, sharing, and wide spread drug use represents the pinnacle of the hippie movement and legal drug use.
Although drug use was popular in the sixties it does not mean it had a positive effect on society, in fact, it has many more negative affects than positive effects on the human body. Many people have become addicted to drugs and lost their jobs, homes, and families because of it. There are many negative affects of drugs on the human body and mind. Drugs can have many effects on your behavior and your ability to make decisions. As a result, drug usage can compromise your personal safety by: Putting you at increased risk for unwanted and unintended experiences, slowing your reactions to potentially risky situations, disabling your sound judgment, making you less aware of your surroundings, making it hard for you to recognize someone else's level of intoxication, inhibiting your ability to communicate what you do and don't want, and limit your ability to practice safer sex. These are just some of the negative effects of drugs on people. In the sixties these negative side effects were overlooked while people concentrated on the "high" one got from indulging in drugs.
In my opinion I think that the culture revolutions of the sixties had some good aspects and the social reforms were needed to bring America into the modern world, but in the area of the Vietnam War and drug use I think that the sixties were bad for America. The sixties were a free-for-all in which the young generation had an anything goes attitude toward life and no respect for authority. This caused many people to protest the American government, it is good to protest against government to an extent, but when the protests end violently that is when the situation gets out of hand. During the Vietnam War there were many protests against the war in which the outcome was violence and this is not good for America. The incident at Kent State University in Ohio is an example of a protest getting out of hand. Some rocks were thrown, some windows were broken, and an attempt was made to burn the ROTC building. Governor James Rhodes sent in the National Guard and four people were killed. I think that this particular protest shows the extremism of the sixties against the Vietnam War and how it can be bad for America.
The sixties brought heavy duty drug use into the mainstream and I think that this is extremely bad for America. Drugs have ruined some people's lives, and kill people at a higher rate than cancer. The sixties brought with them the idea that drug usage was liberating and expanded the mind to see things never experienced before. But the popular drugs used in the sixties have been shown in later years to have more negative effects on the body and mind than first realized. The "high" feeling the person gets when on drugs is the drug offsetting chemicals in the brain making the person have weird sensations and hallucinations depending on what drug was taken and what part of the brain it effects. The bad part about drugs is that they can become addictive and too much of them can kill a person. The sixties proved to be a time of great experimentation with drugs but the outcome is bad for America because the government has spent billions of dollars every year trying to fight drug usage that became popular during the sixties.
Although I personally side with the position that says the sixties are bad for America, particularly the Vietnam War and drug use, I can see how they can also be good for America. During the sixties there were many reforms and improvements on the way people lived their everyday life and how they looked at the way the government ran the country. The sixties could be good for America during the Vietnam War because the media brought the war back home and for the first time Americans could see the harsh realities of war from their living rooms. This would make the American people more involved in foreign wars which I think is a positive. Also, Americans used the protest in many different forms all over the country which I think can be a positive so the American people remember that their opinions count too. But the protest and the media coverage of the war can also be bad for America if the protests get out of hand like I stated earlier and if the media gets so involved in the war that they interfere with the military procedures that have to go on then I think that the media can be negative. The media can also put a negative spin on the war for the people back home which can cause even more protests to become violent and to lose support from home that is desperately needed during any war.
I can also see where drug use can be good for America although I think that it is bad. The drug use in the sixties brought about a culture of more open minded thinking that can be liberating to a society. If people all think the same than that is not good for a society because they will not know if someone is oppressing them. The drugs also helped people get away from the pain of the Vietnam War and the stress of their jobs. But on the other hand I can see why people would say that drugs are bad for America. All of the scientific facts showing the dangers of drugs to the human body prove that drugs are not good for us. Also drugs have a negative impact on the society as a whole because the government has to spend time and money trying to stop drug use because of the violence and crime it brings with it. The violence and crime brought on by drug use hurts our culture and makes our streets unsafe to walk. In the end I can see where both positions are correct and the sixties can be both good and bad for America.