Ever since, America has experimented with its society, seeking better options for all those who pledge their allegiance to the star spangled banner. Its government has experimented with the prohibition (and the people had successfully won their liquors, whiskies and wines back on their tables), they had survived a “Depression”, commercialized the method of mass production, and had been a role model for many countries whose path in history had been buried beneath countless wars and losses. It has served as the referee for many battles, which had taken place far beyond its borders, and has showed great power in unacceptable ways.
But of all these decades which had preceeded, the sixties were possibly the years in which America had felt the greatest changes in its society since the liberation of the 13 colonies in the early 18th century. America had seen most of its great changes, victories, and tragedies in a decade. The symbolic definition of the century had begun outside the borders of the United States, with the first brick which had been inlaid into Berlin’s ground, as it was the beginning of a physical separation between the two great blocks; the eastern socialistic, and western capitalistic.
Within its borders, on the other hand, it had started with fast food and mass production. Artists and bohemians had started to find understanding refuge in New York City’s Greenwich Village, the great revolution was slowly, but steadily beginning, and society’s leadership was to be given to America’s youth, rather than to the elderly. “Let the word go forth, from this time and place, to friend and foe alike; that the torch has been passed to a new generation of America. Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.
” With Kennedy’s words, a new age in America had begun. Unfortunately it had coincided with the first day at Little Rock High School, which welcomed its first African American students with chants such as “here come the niggers! “, and only the police standing between a so called “calm small town day” and a juvenile tragedy. It was the “black problem”, as the white people would say, which caused most of the issues in those days. For the racist white people, the “black problem” had reached its peak in the August of 1963.
This day was long awaited in the African American community, as the day on which a young, educated black man would finally gathered the courage to stand in front of 200,000 people, and speak of equality and freedom for all. It was informally known as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march itself was the largest civil rights movement in history. It was not only a time of great hopefulness, but was also the confirmation of the possibility of some hope becoming a reality. It was a moment of recognition of what people could do to change history.
“We sub opened the conscience of the nation”, said the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. , the man whose oratory made the day memorable across the globe. The speech which stands as a symbol for nonviolent struggle up until the present day. His were words which stirred a nation. Armed with only his voice, he fought to create a more just world. He was familiar with the sting of white hatred and black humiliation, and in 1963 he had finally stood in front of those 200,000 people, and refusing to be consumed by the bitterness, forcefully cried out, “I have a dream!
“. Unfortunately, only five years later, streamers of smoke twisted amongst the cherry blossoms, for the transcendent symbol of the civil rights movement had been assassinated by a frustrated white man; James Earl Gray. The importance of the march was that it went far beyond the black race. Many white singers and artists, from Joan Baez, Dave van Ronk, to the Clancy brothers supported the civil rights movement. However, a young Jewish poet and musician greatly contributed to Americas reasoning.
Robert Zimmerman, who took the performing name Bob Dylan, motivated the people with a simple type of music, which was palatable to everyone. Dylan’s words were born from a painful awareness of the tragedy that underlined the contemporary human condition. He lent an ear on his generation, and came at a time when things needed to be said, and spoke them freely. Strong lyrics in songs such as “Blowin’ in the wind” greatly influenced people of all generations, and had built a bridge between the black and the whites, thus becoming the unofficial anthem of the fight for racial redress.
Dylan himself became an icon of the civil rights movement, and did not only influence the course of American history, but also the course of something which has always had a strong position in society’s reforming; music. Songs such as “How Much is That Dog in the Window”, and artists like Johnny Ray, Webb Pierce and Gene Vincent were socially acceptable in the 40’s and 50’s, but ever since the nation had gained a consciousness of the situation surrounding them, music followed that path, making the 60’s a renaissance for music, art, and literature as well as society.
Writers such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, icons of Americas “beat generation”, who were already active in the pre-movement times, now crawled throughout the minds of America’s youth, forcing them to take rebellious actions for great causes which were described in their literary works. Jack Kerouac wrote once; “Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion. ” Ginsberg’s “America” was simple in the manner that he, in that particular poem, is neither an artist nor a poet, but a person, who talks to America, and shows off all the frustrations Americas youth had towards their country.
“America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing. /America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956. /I can’t stand my own mind. /America when will we end the human war? /Go f*** yourself with your atom bomb /I don’t feel good don’t bother me. /I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind. /America when will you be angelic? /When will you take off your clothes? /When will you look at yourself through the grave? ” wrote Ginsberg in his highly renowned poem. One truth had come to mind; time had obliterated the past with nothing more than the elementary reason of justice and freedom.
Unfortunately, the new and just ideas had not even settled, and a great tragedy had already struck the nation. The young and perspective president had been assassinated. In the words of America’s youth: “We were going to make this world a decent, better place, but J. F. K. ‘s loss had traumatized the nation terribly. ” Soon enough the times of great hope had been replaced with the 70’s, which, as most of the ages throughout history, contradicted in comparison to the 60’s. Watergate, computers, a cold war, and the legendary Beatles breaking up.
Even though all of these events foreshadowed the changes in society’s mentality, the 60’s were still entrapped in some of the music at the time. As a former member of the Beatles, John Lennon, using music as means of communication, published the song “Imagine”. Unfortunately, his days of preaching were ended too soon, as he was killed in 1980 by the hand of a fan, in search of an autograph. It can be said that he was the last of the “peace-preachers”. The traces of civil rights movements were left only in vague remnants.
The peoples, races and genders of America slowly gained absolute freedom and liberty, and most importantly, all were equal. Considering all the circumstances, America, as so many other countries which have large economies and a large number of citizens, can be divided into a small America and a big America. Big America, which is invincible in every manner, whether it be by military force or economical, stands on the shoulders of presidents, governors, mayors and congressmen, and all those who stand behind the law, which has shown to be unjust towards its citizens many times throughout history.
However, there is one force, which can triumph over big America’s unjust laws and decisions, and it is none other than small America. Small America consists of the people who are willing to change the course of history in nonviolent ways. Because of small America, the United States have become a country in which politicians cannot ignore society’s voice, and which is willing to constantly change in order to keep its economical and cultural situation stable.
It is a country built on blood and wars, and in the end cleansed by the words of its youth, which seeked nothing but what was promised to their ancestors a whole one hundred and eighty seven years ago. It is also in small America’s society where those to whom we refer as legends are born. The people who come with the dust, and are gone with the wind. The insane ones, the ones which seem not to fit into society’s structure. The rebellious and the active. Their negligence for the unjust rules and disrespect for the status quo forces the people to move on.
Because of their just view of the world and actions they are willing to commit to, they cannot be ignored, because they move the human race, and it is because of them, that we stand here and think the way we do. Therefore we must understand that there will always be something worth fighting for, as we slowly transcend into our inevitable evolution (or regression, respectively), aspects of our existence we accepted to be status quo rightfully become lime lit, and hence questioned, simultaneously revealing weapons obscured within us until then.