What is Natalia Zaretsky’s view of the Vietnam era in No Direction Home
Natasha Zaretsky's 2007 monograph No Direction Home: The American Family and the Fear of National Decline 1968–1980 indicates the scope of the work and, to some extent, the thesis in the subtitle. Zaretsky argues that the breakdown of the nuclear family in America coincided with economic recession and public anxieties about military defeat in Vietnam to create a national crisis of confidence in the 1970s, which had long-lasting repercussions.
Although this is an academic work (the author is a professor of history at the University of Alabama at Birmingham), Zaretsky uses her own background and the attitudes of her parents to illustrate the way in which the confidence of American nationalism broke down in the Vietnam era, to the point where her parents and their friends "thought that a revolution was coming very soon, within a few years." In a sense, Zaretsky argues, they were right. The revolution began with the election of Ronald Reagan as President in 1981. Reagan's rise was made possible by the sense that America was losing not only its internal social cohesion but also its place in the world as a political and economic leader.
Zaretsky explores various aspects of 1970s political life, including the OPEC oil embargo of 1973–74 and controversies around servicemen missing in action in Vietnam, showing how the cumulative affect of such events marked a turning point in American history.
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