What was happening in the 1960s that created so much anxiety?

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There are two main things that were happening in the 1960s that caused anxiety in the United States.  One of these was the Cold War.  The other was widespread, fundamental change in society.

Particularly in the early 1960s, the Cold War was a major source of anxiety for people in...

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There are two main things that were happening in the 1960s that caused anxiety in the United States.  One of these was the Cold War.  The other was widespread, fundamental change in society.

Particularly in the early 1960s, the Cold War was a major source of anxiety for people in the United States.  As the decade opened, Cuba was just becoming communist.  By 1962, it was firmly in the Soviet camp and the Soviets placed nuclear missiles on the island.  This led to the Cuban Missile Crisis.  At roughly the same time, a crisis was brewing over the status of Berlin.  This eventually led to the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961.  Later in the decade, the Cold War caused the Vietnam War to come about.  Though this war did not seem to pose as much of a threat to the US as the missiles in Cuba or the possibility of direct war against the Soviets over Berlin, it still caused anxiety.  Throughout the 1960s, there was anxiety in the United States about the Cold War and the potential spread of communism.

In American social history, the 1960s are known as a decade of great change.  This change, too, brought anxiety to many Americans.  In 1960, sit-ins were springing up around the South as African Americans protested racial segregation.  In the next few years there would be violence surrounding voter registration drives and attempts at school desegregation.  New laws would be passed, ending the system of segregation in the South and giving African Americans equal rights.  This was a major change in American society, particularly in the South.

During this time, there was also change in attitudes among women.  Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique in 1963, giving a voice to the women in the United States who felt trapped by the gender expectations of the time.  Some women started to push for an expanded role in society.  This was seen, for example, in the creation of the National Organization for Women in 1966.  Relations between the two sexes are part of the foundation of any society and a major change in this relationship, not surprisingly, caused some people to become anxious.

The 1960s were also a time when adults were worrying about the morals and values of young people.  The early 1960s saw the birth of rock-n-roll music.  Many adults felt this music was too wild and too sexual to be proper.  In 1960, “The Pill” was introduced, making it easier for women to engage in sexual behaviors without fear of pregnancy.  This helped bring about a change in morals that some people called the “Sexual Revolution.”  Particularly towards the end of the decade, drugs like marijuana and LSD became popular among young people.  Older Americans felt anxiety about the new culture of “sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll.  This sort of anxiety grew as the decade wore on and young people started dressing in what would have been seen as messy, sloppy ways, as young men wore their hair long, and as the hippie culture started to appear.

Finally, the Vietnam War brought about cultural change as well.  In part because of the war, young Americans started to lose their respect for traditional authority.  They started to criticize the government.  They started to criticize teachers and school officials.  They started to criticize their parents.  They stopped being as patriotic as they had once been.  This, too, was a startling breakdown in the way things had traditionally been.

In these ways, the 1960s brought about anxiety in two major ways.  On the one hand, there was anxiety because of the Cold War and the fear of spreading communism (and/or nuclear war).  On the other hand, there was anxiety as American society drifted away from traditional values and towards a new, more liberal culture that was worrisome to many.

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