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... 5). Unfortunatley, the event that moved the Civil Rights Movement most significantly was the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1965. Moments after the assassination, terrible cruelty replaced the harmony. Rioting mobs in Watts, California pillaged, killed, and burned, leading to the death or injury of hundreds and millions of dollars in damage. Besides the Civil Rights movement, there was another important movement during the 1960s: the Student Movement. Youthful Americans were outraged by the intolerance of their universities, racial inequality, social injustice, and the Vietnam War.
The Student Movement led to the hippy culture. This movemt marked another response to the decade as the young experimented with ,usic, clothes, drugs, and a counter-culture lifestyle. Hippies preached altruism, mysticism, honesty, joy, and nonviolence. In 1969, they held the famous Woodstock Festival for peace in New York, a three day concert that emphasized their beliefs. One of the chief movemtns that came from the Student Movement were the antiwar protests during the Vietnam War. The United States firsbecame directly involved in Vietnam when Harry Truman started to underwrite the costs of France's war against Viet Minh.
Later, the presidencies of Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy increased America's political, economic, and military committments in the Indochina region. Starting with teach-ins in 1965, the massive antiwar efforts centered on the colleges, with the students playing the lead roles. The teach-in approach was at first a gentle approach to the antiwar activity. But soon other types of protest grew to replce it. These demonstrations were one form of attempting to go beyond mere words and to "put direct pressure on those who were conducting policy in an apparent disdain for the will expressed by the voters" (Spector 30).
In 1965, the United States started strategic bombings of North Vietnam, catalyzing the public opinion of what was happening in the region. These bombings helped sustain the antiwar prostests and spawned new ones, "and the growing cost of American lives coming home in body bags only intensified public opposition to the war" (Gettleman 54). The antiwar movemtn spread directly among the combat troops in Vietnam, who began to wear peace symbols and flash peace signs in movement salutes. Some units even organized their own demonstrations to link with the activity at home. Between 1965 and 1966, the American military effort in Vietnam accelerated from President Johnson's decisions. By 1967, America's military authority was breaking up.
Not only was it the worst year of Johnson's term, but also one of the most turbulent years in the nation's history. The war in Southeast Asia and the war at home dominated newspaper headlines and the attention of the White House. 1967 witnessed urban riots, like the deadly uproar in Detroit. Only a quarter of Americans approved of his handling of the war in 1968. The antiwar movement that began as a small trickle became a giant flood. Americans were soon shocked to learn about the communists' massive Tet Offensive on January 31, 1968.
The offensivedemonstrated that Johnson had been making the progress in the war seem greater than it really was; it appeared to have no end. Johnson withdrew from the election in 1968, and the communists planned to do battle with their new adversary, Richard Nixon. Besides the unsuccessful Vietnam campaign, the United States was also involved in another unsuccessful battle: the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1963. The story behind the invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs is one of mismanagemnt, overconfidence, and lack of security. The blame for the failure of the operation falls directly on the lap of the Central Intelligence Agency and a young president and his advisors. The fall out from the invasion created a rise in tension between the two great superpowers, and, ironically, 36 years later, the person that the invasion meant to topple, Fidel castro, is still in power.
However, not all events during the sixties hindered the country's progress. At the end of 1968, Americans became the first human beings to reach the moon. Seven months later, they were the first to actually walk on the moon. Their telecast gave earthbound viewers an unforgettable site. The austronauts looking at the moon were even more amazed. "The vast loneliness up here is awe-inspiring," said austronaut Lovell.
"It makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth" (http://www.ksc.nasa.gov, see appendix B). Advances were also made in medicine and health. The medical introduction of the "pill" changed the interaction between the sexes dramtically in 1964. Americans discovered that the freedom from fear of unwanted pregnancy went hand in hand with other kinds of sexual freedom. The sixties became an era in which pleasure was being considered as a constitutional right rather than a privalege, inwhich self-denial became increasingly seen as foolish rather than virtuous. Each pill contains one thirty-thousandth of an ouce of chemical, but it changed the sex and family lives of a large segment of the American population. Another type of chemical, chemical pestisides, were also important in the 1960s. A book written by Rachel Carson described for the first time the dangers of using pesticides. Carson believed that the poisonous chemicals were taking a dreadful toll, and that the only way to fix the situation was to "let the balance of nature take care of the number of insects" (Carson 17).
Another poisonous chemical was being used on humans. Mistakes made in the past caused a great deal of health problems to children around the world when it was discovered that using a tranquilizer called thalidomide caused severe birth defects. Babies were born with hands and feet like flippers, attached to the body with little or no arm or leg. Every compound drug containing the sedative was taken off the market. The 1960s began under the shadow of the Cold War and ended under the shado wo fthe Vietnam War. What happened inbetween was a series of dreams, failures, and realities that have made the sixties one of the most tumultuous decades in the history of the United States. From assassinations to Woodstock, the 1960s was an era of confusion in which every American tried to make his dream a reality.
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