Compare and contrast "The Age of Great Dreams" by David Farber and "The Sixties Unplugged" by Gerard DeGroot.
Both books are similar in that they acknowledge the major events and social developments of the 1960s; however, they differ in thematic focus. While The Sixties Unplugged focuses on the theme of perception versus reality, The Age of Great Dreams focuses on causative factors that led to major societal shifts in the 1960s.
In the fifteen chapters of his book The Sixties Unplugged, DeGroot debunks many of the myths that surrounded the 1960s. He argues that the idea of the Sixties as an era of peace, tolerance, and new beginnings was more idealistic naivety than reality. DeGroot's 65 separate vignettes may prove disjointed, but they powerfully debunk the widely held myths associated with the era. On the other hand, Farber chooses to focus on how events in the 1950s led to major social developments during the 1960s. The differing focus in both books can be seen most clearly in the authors' approach towards the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement.
In The Sixties Unplugged, the Vietnam War is a microcosmic representation of the social turbulence that encapsulated the 1960s; DeGroot uses the war as a basis for discussing Civil Rights issues, the anti-war movement, youthful discontent, economic instability, and the American music industry.
For example, DeGroot references Muhammad Ali's protest on being drafted. The famed pugilist eventually filed for CO (conscientious objector) status, arguing that he had been unfairly targeted because of his Muslim faith. DeGroot relates that Ali was exiled from boxing for three years for his refusal to fight in the Vietnam War. However, he also argues that Ali's plight brings to light two important issues: that the court ruling against Ali was harsh but indicative of the experiences of thousands who were forced to fight and that dismissing the justice system as corrupt demeaned the efforts of those whose conscientious objector status was genuine. Here, DeGroot chooses not to take sides but to focus on the conflicting arguments that surrounded the war draft.
Farber, on the other hand, devotes three chapters to discussing the Vietnam War. His first chapter on the subject, appropriately titled Vietnam, provides the reader with the causative factors that led to the Vietnam War. Farber relates that the Vietnam War actually began during WWII, when American OSS (Office of Strategic Services) agents joined forces with the Communist Vietminh against the Japanese. After Vietnam was liberated from Japanese control, President Truman began to modify his views regarding the South East Asian nation. In the aftermath of WWII, two powerful nations began to emerge as global power players: the United States and the USSR.
The United States began to fear that Russian hegemonic ambitions would deliver South East Asia to communist control. Farber argued that such a development would bode ill for American interests in the region. The United States had a vested interest in the resources and markets of the region, and Communist control would shut off its access to those regions. Essentially, in the 1950s, the United States began to view Ho Chih Minh's objective for an independent Vietnam as counterproductive to American economic and military interests.
Meanwhile, after the Geneva peace agreement in 1954, Vietnam was temporarily divided into two regions. The United States hoped that it could set up a South Vietnamese government (sympathetic to American interests) to challenge Ho Chih Minh's Communist North. The Cold War essentially began in the 1950s, with the United States on the side of South Vietnam and Russia (along with newly Communist China) on the side of the Viet Cong. Essentially, this 1950s power struggle between Russia and the United States propelled America into the Vietnam War in the 1960s. In A Nation At War, Farber discusses the anti-war sentiment fomenting across college campuses in light of the draft. Meanwhile, in the next chapter, aptly titled The War Within, Farber addresses how the Vietnam War birthed a national political divide that threatened the social stability of the United States in the late 60s and the 70s. Additionally, he discusses the emergence of a drug culture and a free love culture that descended on the United States in the aftermath of the Vietnamese War.
In his book, Farber also discusses the roots of the Civil Rights movement in the United States. He documents how the rise of moderate integrationist theories and the emergence of Black nationalism resulted in conflicts that haunted the Civil Rights Movement.
As can be seen, both books differ in thematic focus. While DeGroot chooses to debunk the myths of the 1960s, Farber focuses on discussing the causative factors that fueled major societal changes in the 1960s.