The Eve of Destruction by James T. Patterson takes its title from Barry McGuire’s song that surfaced in 1965.
In some ways the author feels the 60s ended in 1965. And his book points out many things put in motion during that year that changed America forever; some for good and some not so good.
I was there but not paying much attention; I was 12.
We were at the nadir of economic boom times and low unemployment.
Music was transitioning; bringing us not only the Beatles but the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan moved to electric folk – there’s a long list of music that comes out of that time that was very different than what had come before.
1965 was a banner year for legislation (If the Tea Party had been around back then they’d be apoplectic or if in office, they’d have vetoed 90+ % of the things Pres. LBJ proposed.)
Instead we got Medicare, Medicaid, the EEOC, major civil rights legislation and LBJ’s Great Society programs, the war on poverty, HUD (the Govt. program, not the movie with Paul Newman), the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – when the Govt. got into financing general education and much much more.
LBJ’s goal was to “out-Roosevelt FDR” in terms of legislation. 1965 marked his first inauguration as an elected President after taking over following JFK’s assassination late in 1963.
1965 was also the year of Bloody Sunday (the Selma Alabama one – not the Irish one U2 sings about) and of course the rioting in the Watts area of Los Angeles. Malcolm X was killed this year as were quite a number of folks involved in marches, protests and African-Americans trying to vote in southern states. But the Voting Rights act was signed in 1965 (even if it took many years for it to be widely accepted.)
But quite possibly the single biggest thing that happened was the escalation of the war in Vietnam. In 1965, the U.S could have pulled out but the fear of the so-called “domino effect” whereby communism would spread rapidly throughout Southeast Asia was so strong, LBJ couldn’t bring himself to stop the expansion and end up being called the one who lost Vietnam.
Hard to believe but most Americans and the media supported this war at this time. It wasn’t until 1966 and later that students, the media and many elected folks began to oppose the war. But by then it was too late.
Bottom line if you like history, this is worth a read. It reads more like a textbook and is clunky at times but it still covers so much that we need to remember as we find ourselves embroiled in debates over taxes, government expansion, two wars (I guess Iraq is still a war. Has anybody said it’s over yet?) and if you substitute immigration for civil rights (not saying they are equal), there are many parallels and things we can learn from.