America's Uncivil Wars

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Lytle, Mark Hamilton. America’s Uncivil Wars, New York: Oxford University Press. 2006.

America’s Uncivil Wars is a book written about the sixties era that captures that provides understanding of how and why events occurred during this period, as well as their historical roots from the time since the Second World War. The author, Mark Hamilton Lytle, used a chronological approach to explain the era by dividing the sixties into three separate phases. The first is the era of consensus, which starts approximately around 1954 and includes the years up to the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. From there, Lytle talks about events in the second phase: the years from 1964 to 1968. These are the years after Kennedy’s death until the election of Richard Nixon as president that “popularizes” the sixties. This is also the phase in which Lytle claims the uncivil wars begin. Lastly, in the third phase, are the ascension, reign, and fall of Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1974, which is described as the era of essentialist politics. The reason Lytle framed the era this way, he explained, is for “Those who lived through the sixties know they did not simply begin with the election of John F. Kennedy and end with the ringing in of the New Yea on January 1, 1970” (6). He believes the sixties are better understood as a collection of events that span those twenty years, from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s. It is not safe assuming that the period of the sixties, or any decade for that matter, starts on New Years of the first year and ends on New Years Eve of the last. The sixties, as further described by Lytle, involved time beyond its decade and had influence well past January 1, 1970. America’s uncivil wars got its roots in the first phase before it began to take shape during the second. In the first phase, the cold war consensus was at its climax. This was the period of McCarthyism where the nation had a mission to halt Communism’s expansion in the World and made absolute sure that it did not make its way into the boarders of the United States. There was also great wealth and prosperity during this time from the increase in wages. This may have been aided by the children of the baby boom generation getting older and becoming late teenagers or young adults. However, this brought fear to some authorities, as they did not want the culture of these teenagers and young adults to threaten the cold war consensus. Many authority figures believed that teens were becoming involved in areas that that were deemed rebellious and threatened the United States. To these authorities, doing anything rebellious meant that you were involved in communism and were a menace to society. The 1960 election race seemed to endorse the cold war consensus with Kennedy and Nixon both being candidates. With the election of Kennedy came events that inspired social and political movements, such as the Cuban missile crisis and the civil rights movement. Then Kennedy’s death brought the United States to the beginning of its uncivil wars. During the era of consensus in the 1950s, many schools were more concerned about raising good citizens instead of intelligent and capable students. Many lessons in school “emphasized that proper manners were as important as grades” and that popularity was equally more important than a student’s classroom abilities (13). Lytle also states that in school, students and faculty often practiced air raid drills so that they would be “safe” in the event of a nuclear attack from the Russians, which were described as evil to American children by their teachers. Just like the custom is today, or at least while I was in elementary and middle school, the students would stand up from their chairs and recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. One thing Lytle notes that was different from the Pledge then as it is now is that the phrase “under God” was not in the original version. The phrase was added later by Congress in order to help the consensus...
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