The year 2016 will be forever known as the moment everything shifted. From politics to social issues to climate, nothing is or will ever be the same. This kind of shift happens in each generation to one degree or another, but for those of us born between the 1950’s and 1970’s it has been exponential. And this particular shift comes with a move toward a great balancing.
I was born in 1960, the year when much of what we are now experiencing as Americans was also being birthed. Consider the following list of important happenings in and around 1960, and the comparison to today:
- Four African-American men sat down at a Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina and were refused service. This sparked a peaceful protest and ignited a movement to end racial inequality across the South. Though we have a long way to go, we have achieved laws that protect every American from discrimination and are soon to pass more. We have seen in just the past decade LGBTQ rights come to pass, right to die became a legal choice in some states, progress in equal pay…and etc.
- Official United States involvement began in the Vietnam War. Today, our Vietnam Veterans are aging and some, after experiencing years of neglect by the country have spent much of their lives in mental and physical agony or homeless. According to the Vietnam Veterans of America, vva.org, Veterans Advocacy, Government Relations, two-thirds of the some twenty-one-and-a-half-million veterans in our country do not interact with the Veterans Administration. Though progress has been made, we are still far from where we should be in caring for our nation’s veterans. Yet, even with the analysis of the purpose and outcome of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, we engaged in a similar situation in the Middle East. Another generation of young people are forever changed by a never-ending war and its repercussions.
- The U.S. launched the first Weather Satellite and the first Navigation Satellite Each day we take for granted the technological advances in communication and global positioning systems while our once giant computer that filled the basement of a building is now a wristwatch, and global positioning satellites can pinpoint our location to within as close as 1 meter or better.
- The Civil Rights Act of 1960 was signed by Dwight Eisenhower ensuring voting rights for African-Americans. Voting rights continue to be a source of battle for opposing political sides. The fact that gerrymandering has been allowed to run wild with the specific goal of limiting the votes of one party is finally being discussed and changed, with the true motive exposed.
- Oral Contraception (the “Pill”) was approved by the FDA. Advances in medicine and the understanding of human biology have produced a variety of methods of birth control. Since the approval of “the Pill” and the rise of other types of birth control, coupled with media campaigns and public schools teaching sex education, the total number of teen pregnancies dropped 44% between 1990 and 2009.
- Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) won his first professional boxing match, later converted to Islam and refused the draft based on religious beliefs. When I was six months old in September of 1960, Cassius Clay won the Olympic Gold Medal in boxing. As political tensions rise in the 2016 Presidential campaigns, the subject of Islam and the Muslim faith seem to be at the center of discussion, and the passing of the converted champ now known as Muhammad Ali seems all the more poignant given his devotion to humanitarian efforts.
- The approval of oral contraceptive was a shot of adrenaline for the Women’s Movement. In 1960 the Women’s Movement shot into overdrive. Now, in 2016 we are on the verge of making history in the United States with the highest seat in the land potentially being handed over to a woman, and not just any woman, Hillary Clinton is a woman who epitomizes the strength of American spirit (more on that later).
- Charles David Keeling’s publishing of his findings describing the seasonal pattern of CO2 variations led to the study of Global Warming. Air pollution in Los Angeles, California was so bad in the 1960’s that people could not continue with daily activities outdoors due to the physical effects of the rise in ozone concentration. Children were kept home from school, athletes worked out in doors and farmers stood by helplessly as crops withered. The combined pollutants stood at 100 parts per billion in volume in 1960, but with an aggressive campaign to reduce, limit or outlaw certain types of pollutants the result has been a declining factor of 4 in nitrogen oxides, 50 in volatile organic compounds (which produce ozone and particulate matter) and 130 in peroxyacetyl nitrate (which causes eye irritation). While these changes are encouraging, without the cooperation of the entire country and a global effort, our human habits have contributed to the natural rise in temperature of the earth thus resulting in an earlier and more rapid climate change than normal.
- American Socialism had become unpopular due to improved living for the middle class and the negative influences of McCarthyism among other things. There is no question that America’s form of capitalism and democracy is a successful example of growing a country from birth to dominance in a short period of time. Two hundred and forty years is a blip of existence compared to the rise of other countries, many which have fallen or changed drastically since their inception. That being said, there is room for improvement. The United States of America has been an experiment in freedom that began with a simple set of assumptions. Today, with increasing complications that are inherent in a free society, we are facing difficult choices that challenge the original plan. Socialism became a dirty word to many in the 1960’s, but with examples of success in parts of the globe, some young people are looking at the system with fresh eyes.
- According to the 1960 U.S. Census, 85% of Americans were white. Our nation is on track for becoming the true melting pot we were labeled in 1908. According to the U.S. News & World Report, 2015, July 6, “It’s Official: The U.S. is Becoming a Minority-Majority Nation,” the 2014 census revealed that over 50% of the children born that year were classified as minorities. This tips the scale for the number of white versus non-white citizens and will forever change the face of America.
- According to a Pew Research report, in 1960 on 25% of households had Dual Income. A final comparison is that of the 1960 household income with today’s. Then only 25% of Americans had a dual income, by the year 2012 that number rose to 60%.
This data comparison leads to a conclusion that 2016 is a year of turning corners. A shift in the structure built by the “good ole boy club” who controlled everything. There are signs of a waning guard and a waxing new mindset with our future generations. The youth of today are the majority of tomorrow and they come in all gender configurations, colors and methods of communication.
The fact that a woman, Hillary Clinton, battled it out with an admitted Socialist, Bernie Sanders, for the Democratic nomination (as of this writing she is the presumptive nominee), and will most likely be competing against the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump, a wealthy man with no political experience who is being accused of misogyny and racism is ironic. I say that because Hillary represents the story of American spirit for women during a time when women have to fight just to be heard, Bernie is indicative of the new mindset that the younger generation is developing about what type of government system they see as effective, and Donald is the epitome of the old guard in his last spasms of life.
The status quo is no longer working for the youth of today, let alone tomorrow. The comparisons made are evidence of that. The interesting thing about it all is that I have witnessed such a shift in my lifetime. Everything we are currently debating from Civil Rights to Global Warming began and mutated during my life up to this point. Women are currently fighting for the right to breastfeed in public, we are fighting over what bathroom we can use and trying to justify the average citizen’s right to own a gun that can mow down 50 people in seconds.
There is a paradigm shift happening. A shift that the youth are bringing. The old ways are not going to work in this new world. Our Constitution needs to be seen as a living document if we are to develop beyond this first quarter of the 21st century. Religious and racial intolerance, gender bias and discrimination, hate and fear are all things that will hold us back or keep us in a perpetual battle with one another.
Bernie Sanders shook things up, he opened Pandora’s box for the youth of our country. The interest he generated in financial responsibility and economic fairness, gender equality and a win-win philosophy will most likely inspire many young people to further investigate public policy that will make positive changes for social reform.
Hillary Clinton showed women of all ages that even during times of oppression, developing a fortitude that will carry you to achieve your dreams is meaningful and effective. While the strength some women display may be offensive to some, their perception is not what matters, it is the individual woman’s personal goal that does. When the ignorant and small-minded were (and still are) critical of Hillary for staying with her husband in light of his transgressions, the confident and focused woman measured her options and made decisions strategically based on what would suit her future endeavors. Staying consistent in her attitude, method and mission, Hillary Clinton is a determined strong person with years of experience developed through the trials and tribulation of a navigating a man’s world.
Donald Trump is representative of the fading face of Andrew Jackson on an old $20 bill. He may be worth a lot down the road, but his true usefulness is outdated. The rhetoric, strange ideas and outlandish comments seem to be contrived in a purposeful way to make things easy for his Democratic opponent. It reminds me of a man playing at 50% assuming the woman will be easy to beat, but in this case wildly underestimating the talent and strength of his female competitor.
We are witnessing changing weather patterns, technological and medical miracles, scientific discoveries that rock our very foundation of belief and understanding, worldwide social upheaval…is it the end? No, I believe it is a turning, a re-balancing of masculine and feminine. A quickening in the womb of our existence before the birth of extraordinary change. Are you ready? This child of the 60’s is.