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GAY RIGHTS: FROM STONEWALL TO SAN FRANCISCO 

The vignette below describes the gay-rights movement of the 1970s. 

            The emergence of a gay life-style triggered a demand for homosexual rights. Activists dated the beginning of gay militancy to a hot June day in 1969 when New York City police invaded a homosexual bar, the Stonewall Inn, and angry patrons fought back.  In subsequent years, numerous municipalities enacted ordinances extending equal protection to homosexuals, and a gay-rights bill lingered in Congress.  Gay lobbyists met with [President] Carter's aide Margaret Constanza to seek the right to serve in the military, FBI, CIA, and the State Department... Though Carter rejected the pressure, he acknowledged the legal rights of gays. "I don't feel that society, through its laws, ought to abuse or harass the homosexual," he stated on Father's Day, 1977.

            These assertions of gay rights...prompted a powerful backlash that swept the nation in 1977.  The issue coalesced first in Miami, Florida, soon after the city adopted a law prohibiting discrimination against homosexuals.  "The ordinance condones immorality, and discriminates against my children's rights to grow up in a healthy, decent community," charged singer Anita Bryan, who quickly launched a Save Our Children movement to overthrow this measure...   

            Fighting back, gay activists defined the issue as a defense of civil rights. "Miami is our Selma," claimed one gay activist, alluding to the black crusade of the sixties... What if the people of Selma, Alabama, had been asked to vote on equal rights for blacks in 1964?"

            In June 1977, Miami voters spoke--by a two-to-one margin rejecting the antidiscrimination ordinance.  The outcome outraged liberals through the nation. "Terribly wrong," commented San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, as five thousand of his city's homosexuals marched in protest.  In New York City, angry gays paraded the streets chanting, "Gay rights now!"

            Division within the homosexual communities--distrust between lesbians and gay men, disagreements between homosexuals who urged anonymity and exhibitionists who flaunted their preferences--left this group vulnerable to further attack... In the spring of 1978, the spirit of Miami spread to St. Paul, Minnesota, Wichita, Kansas and Eugene, Oregon [where] popular referenda repealed existing antidiscrimination laws... But in a hotly contested municipal election in Seattle, voters overwhelmingly rejected an attempt to repeal a law protecting civil rights regardless of sexual orientation.

            San Francisco, with one of the largest homosexual communities in the country, boasted a gay supervisor, Harvey Milk, first elected in 1977, and a gay rights ordinance signed by Mayor Moscone in 1978. [Yet even here] a substantial constituency criticized gay rights and a conservative police department resented the mayor's prohibition of the harassment of homosexuals.  The only supervisor to vote against the antidiscrimination measure was a former policeman named Dan White who had campaigned against "splinter groups of radicals, social deviates, incorrigibles."  Unable to influence municipal policy, White overcame his political impotence with the help of a police special .38 and a dozen hollowed bullets, assassinating Moscone and Milk in their offices in November 1978.  "If a bullet should enter my brain," Milk had prophetically tape-recorded his own eulogy, "let that bullet destroy every closet door." 

Source: Peter N. Carroll, It Seemed Like Nothing Happened: The Tragedy and Promise of America in the 1970s (New York, 1982), pp. 290-293. 

 

OPEC, THE WEST, AND THE POLITICS OF OIL 



During the 1970s the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) dramatically, if temporarily, changed the world balance of power by first embargoing and then raising the price of oil sold to the West.  Those years of change are described in this excerpt from David Halberstam's book, The Reckoning.  

            For twenty years the companies were able to stabilize the posted price of oil─in effect, the price at which they chose to sell (vastly above the cheap price at which they bought)...  From about 1948 to 1971 the price was remarkably even, staying near $2 a barrel.  But beneath the seeming stability there was volatility.  For the first time the Arab nations began to talk of unity...  In 1967 the Egyptians and the Syrians attacked Israel in what became known as the Six Day War.  The speed and completeness with which the Israelis defeated their Arab opponents only made the Arabs more aware of their weakness and deepened their rage...  The impotence of the Arabs simply created more contempt for them in the West.  But it was this demonstration of their own ineffectuality that prompted real change, at last compelling the Arab nations to cooperate with one another.

            At the same time the buyer's market in oil was beginning to become a seller's market.  The Six Day War took place twenty two years after the end of World War II.  By then Western Europe had become a full fledged member of the oil culture....From 1950 to 1965 the six Common Market countries' reliance on oil as an energy source increased from 10 to 45 percent...  Japan's economy, a scaled down replica of the American model, became ever more oil based, and countless smaller countries were also beginning to demand oil...

            The first substantial break came in 1969 in Libya.  In September of that year, King Idris was overthrown by a group of radical officers headed by a young army colonel named Muammar Qaddafi, bitterly anti Israel, fiercely anti Western...  Unlike other Arab countries, where the government dealt with only one main concessionaire, Libya had opened itself up to a variety of companies, and its fields were allotted among them.  Thus someone like Qaddafi could exert considerable leverage on a single firm he chose to isolate.  Advised by experts that his oil was under priced, he sought an increase; the companies rejected his request.  In May 1970, his patience exhausted, he took on Occidental Petroleum, an independent and, among the many companies doing business in Libya, the weakest link...

            It was probably the first time one of the oil countries did to a company what the companies had been doing to them.  Occidental quickly offered a modest increase in price, but it was too late...

            At a meeting of OPEC in December 1970, the new Arab confidence was obvious.  Not just the leaders of the radical countries but even supposedly moderate leaders like the Shah were behaving in a new way..."The oil-producing countries know they are being cheated," he declared.  "Otherwise you would not have the common front...  The all powerful seven sisters [the international oil companies] have got to open their eyes and see that they are living in 1971 and not in 1948 or 1949."

            The negotiations between the companies and the Iranians became intense.  The Iranians wanted 54 cents more a barrel, and the Americans offered 15 cents.  They finally settled on 30 cents, increasing to 50 by 1975...

            In March the companies doing business with Libyans agreed on a posted price of $3, an increase of 76 cents.  Word of that price spread swiftly through the Arab world.  The Shah, hearing the news, was furious; he realized how much more he could have gotten...

            In June 1973 there was another OPEC meeting, at which the countries announced an additional 12 percent increase...  Sheik Yamani [the Saudi oil Minister] told reporters that this was the last time the countries would negotiate with the companies on price; from now on they would meet, work out the price, and announce it unilaterally to the companies...

            Now two powerful currents came together─a changing market value for oil and an enraged Arab sensibility over American support of Israel.  Four Arab foreign ministers flew to Washington to warn the Americans of the possibility of a boycott.  The most important of them was Omar Saqquaf, the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia.  On the day that Saqquaf hoped to see President Nixon, the President pleaded too busy a schedule, and that angered the Saudis.  A press conference an American reporter suggested to Saqquaf that the Saudis might have to drink their oil, and Saqquaf retorted, "All right, we will."

            On October 21 the boycott, aimed primarily at the Americans, began.  The embargo helped drive the price per barrel skyward, for those allowed to buy.  It seemed a particularly cruel irony that only a few weeks earlier the companies had sneered at Yamani's request for a $5 price...

            On December 16, 1973, the Iranian State Oil Company for the first time conducted an auction of its oil.  The highest bid was $17 a barrel.  Shell was said to have bid at $12.  Another auction in Algeria produced bids of $22.  It was clear that the posted price and the market price no longer had anything to do with each other... 

            The American economy and the American people were completely unprepared for the change.  The squandering of oil was built into the very structure of American life.  Everyone had become dependent upon cheap energy.  Almost all American cars, for example, had automatic transmissions, which used 25 percent more gas than manual transmissions...  Eighty-five percent of the job holders in America drove to work every day─and as a result, public transportation had atrophied.  Suddenly gas was expensive and scarce.  In a short time it went from 36 cents a gallon to 60.  People lined up for hours at every service station.  There were fights as drivers tried to jump the line, reports of bribes, and even one murder committed in a struggle for gas.  In the neurosis created by the boycott there was a new craze called "topping off," which was an attempt to keep one's tank perpetually filled.  At one service station in Pittsburgh a motorist came in and bought 11 cents worth and the attendant spit in his face...

            In March 1974, just five months after it began, the boycott was over.  The Arabs had flexed their new muscles, had made both their political and economic points, and were now being richly rewarded by the high price of oil.  The oil began flowing again, though much more expensively... 



Source: David Halberstam, The Reckoning, (New York, 1986), pp. 452 459. 

 

HOSTAGE CRISIS IN IRAN 



The following account describes the 444 day Iranian hostage crisis which of 1979-1981. 

            Like Richard Nixon, President Carter valued Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi of Iran, whom the United States had been supporting since 1953, when the CIA helped pave his way to power, as an instrument of American interests in the Persian Gulf region.  On a visit to Tehran in 1977, Carter complimented the shah on "the admiration and love which your people give to you."  In fact, the shah had long been violating his subjects' human rights--his secret police, which had close times to the CIA, had tortured and imprisoned some 50,000 people and had been spending unprecedented amounts of Iranian wealth on arms from the United States instead of investing it in economic development.  Opposition to his regime was bitter and widening, especially among the country's religious leaders, who strongly disliked the Westernizing trends the shah supported. 

            In January 1979, a revolution led by Shiite fundamentalists forced the shah to flee to Europe.  The new head of Iran was Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, seventy-nine years old...who rapidly turned the government into a theocracy that condemned modernization and preached hatred of the West.

            In early November, Carter admitted the shah to the United States for cancer treatment, despite warning that the action would jeopardize American diplomats in Iran.  On November 4, 1979, armed students broke into the American embassy compound in Tehran and held fifty Americans hostage...  The crisis increasingly frustrated and angered Americans as television carried nightly clips from Tehran of anti-American mobs demonstrating at the embassy and shouting "Death to America."  Carter immediately froze Iranian assets in the United States and prohibited the importation of Iranian oil.  A mission to rescue the hostages in 1980 fell apart when two American aircraft crashed into each other in the desert.  The attempt had been pushed by the White House over the misgivings of the military...  But after being invaded by Iraq in September, the Ayatollah Khomeini's government decided it did not want to deal with two enemies at once.  It released the hostages on Carter's last day in office, having held them for 444 days. 



Source: Pauline Maier, Inventing America: A History of the United States (New York, 2003) pp. 997-998 ,1101 

 

THE CHALLENGE TO FEMINISM: PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY AND REV. JERRY FALWELL



In the following vignettes we see the views of Phyllis Schlafly, a lawyer, author and political activist who emerged in the 1970s as the principal opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment and Rev. Jerry Falwell, a Baptist Minister from Lynchburg, Virginia and the founder of the Moral Majority.

    Schlafly: The first requirement for the acquisition of power by the Positive Woman is to understand the differences between men and women.  Your outlook on life, your faith, your behavior, your potential for fulfillment, all are determined by the parameters of your original premise.  The Positive Woman starts with the assumption that the world is her oyster.  She rejoices in the creative capability within her body and the power potential of her mind and spirit.  She understands that men and women are different, and that those very differences provide the key to her success as a person an fulfillment as a woman.

    The women's liberationist, on the other hand, is imprisoned by her own negative view of herself and of her place in the world around her.  This view of women was most succinctly expressed in an advertisement designed by...the National Organization for Women (NOW), and seen in many magazines and newspapers... The advertisement showed a darling curly headed girl with the caption: "This healthy, normal baby has a handicap. She was born female."

    This is the self-articulated dog-in-the manger, chip-on-the-shoulder, fundamental dogma of the women's liberation movement.  Someone--it is not clear who, perhaps God, perhaps the "Establishment," perhaps a conspiracy of male chauvinist pigs--dealt women a foul blow by making them female.  It become necessary, therefore, for women to agitate and demonstrate and hurl demands on society in order to wrest from an oppressive male-dominated social structure the status that has been wrongfully denied to women through the centuries... Confrontation replaces cooperation as the watchword of all relationships.  Women and men become adversaries instead of partners...

    The second dogma of the women's liberationists is that, of all the injustices perpetuated upon women through the centuries, the most oppressive is the cruel fact that women have babies and men do not... Women must be made equal to men in their ability not to become pregnant and not to be expected to care for babies they may bring into this world...

    The Positive Woman will never travel that dead-end road.  It is self-evident...that the female body with its baby-producing organs was not designed by a conspiracy of men but by the Divine Architect of the human race.  Those who think it is unfair that women have babies, whereas men cannot, will have to take up their complaint with God because no other power is capable of changing that fundamental fact...

    The new generation can brag all it wants about the new liberation of the new morality, but it is still the woman who is hurt the most.  The new morality isn't just a "fad"--it is a cheat and a thief.  It robs the woman of her virtue, her youth, her beauty, and her love--for nothing, just nothing.  It has produced a generation of young women searching for their identity, bored with sexual freedom, and despondent from the loneliness of living a life without commitment.  They have abandoned the old commandments, but they can't find any new rules that work...

    The differences between men and women are...emotional and psychological.  Without woman's innate maternal instinct, the human race would have died out centuries ago.. Caring for a baby serves the natural maternal need of a woman.  Although not nearly so total as the baby's need, the woman's need is nonetheless real... The overriding psychological need of a woman is to love something alive.  A baby fulfills this need in the lives of must women.  If a baby is not available to fill that need, women search for a baby-substitute.  This is the reason why women have traditionally gone into teaching and nursing careers. They are doing what come naturally to the female psyche.  The schoolchild or the patient of any age provides an outlet for a woman to express her natural maternal need...

    Finally, women are different from men in dealing with the fundamentals of life itself.  Men are philosophers, women are practical, and 'twas ever thus.  Men may philosophize about how life began and where we are heading; women are concerned about feeding the kids today.  No woman would ever, as Karl Marx did, spend years reading political philosophy in the British Museum while her child starved to death.  Women don't take naturally to a search for the intangible and abstract.  The Positive Woman knows who she is and where she is going, and she will reach her goal because the longest journey starts with a very practical first step.

    Falwell: I believe that at the foundation of the women's liberation movement there is a minority core of women who were once bored with life, whose real problems are spiritual problems.  Many women have never accepted their God-given roles.  They live in disobedience to God's laws and have promoted their godless philosophy throughout our society.  God Almighty created men and women biologically different and with differing needs and roles.  He made men and women to complement each other and to love each other.  Not all the women involved in the feminist movement are radicals.  Some are misinformed, and some are lonely women who like being housewives and helpmates and mothers, but whose husbands spend little time at home and who take no interest in their wives and children.  Sometimes the full load of rearing a family becomes a great burden to a woman who is not supported by a man.  Women who work should be respected and accorded dignity and equal rewards for equal work.  But this is not what the present feminist movement and the equal rights movement are all about.

    The Equal Rights Amendment is a delusion.  I believe that women deserve more than equal rights.  And, in families and in nations where the Bible is believed, Christian women are honored above men.  Only in places were the Bible is believed and practiced do women receive more than equal rights.  Men and women have differing strengths.  The Equal Rights Amendment can never do for women what needs to be done for them.  Women need to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and be under His Lordship.  They need a man who knows Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, and they need to be part of a home where their husband is a godly leader and where there is a Christian family... ERA defied the mandate that "the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church" (Ep. 5:23). In 1 Peter 3:7 we read that husbands are to give their wives honor as unto the weaker vessel, that they are both heirs together of the grace of life.  Because a woman is weaker does not mean that she is less important.

Source: Mary Beth Norton, Major Problems in American Women's History (Lexington, Ma., 1989), pp. 429-433.   .

 

"GREED IS GOOD": THE 1980s 



Historian Pauline Maier, in this vignette, provides one description of the 1980s. 

            The Reagan years reminded some observers of the 1920s, not only in the ebullience of the prosperity but in the unevenness of it, and in the naked materialism of the culture associated with it. Between 1982 and 1988, the gross domestic product grew at an average annual rate of about 4 percent, generating more than 630,000 new businesses, 11 million jobs, and a drop in the unemployment rate from 7.4 percent to 5.5 percent. By 1988, mortgage rates had plummeted roughly 40 percent, and by 1989 median family income corrected for inflation had shot up 12.5 percent.

            Corporate profits broke records, and so did the stock market- at least until October 19, 1987, when the Dow Jones industrial average (an indicator of stock market value) plummeted 508 points, losing almost a quarter of its worth wiping out $750 billion in paper wealth, and generating fears that the country might be headed for another Depression. But the jitters were short lived. By 1989, the Dow Jones had more than doubled its level in 1982.

            The decade produced a new group called "yuppies," a derivative acronym for "young urban professionals," upwardly mobile men and women with degrees in law or business, dressed for success and exuding the ambitions of an unrestrained materialism. Americans of all sorts became absorbed with celebrities professional athletes, television newscasters, entertainers, clothing designers, even chefs, most of whom were admired for their professional skills but also for their opulent incomes.  Among the heroes of Wall Street ere manipulators of junk bonds, loans issued to finance the purchase of corporations for prices far higher than the corporations were worth. Some of the heroes, who received several hundred million dollars a year in commissions, were later exposed as crooked and went to jail.

            Tom Wolfe's best selling novel Bonfire of the Vanities relentlessly explored the culture of avarice, but reality outdid fiction. Amid the weakened oversight of Reaganite deregulation, a number of savings and loan institutions were looted by white collar thieves, some of whom bought yachts and threw lavish entertainments. Ivan Boesky, one of the financial buccaneers of the decade he later went to jail for fraudulent manipulations proclaimed, "Greed is all right...everybody should be a little greedy," a sentiment that pervaded the popular film Wall Street. 

Source: Pauline Maier, Inventing America: A History of the United States, vol. 2 (New York, 2003), pp. 1026-1027. 

 

THE COMPUTER AGE ARRIVES 



The vignette below describes the emergence of the personal computer and ironically its debt to the counterculture generation. 

            One of the most significant technical developments of the 1970s was the personal computer.  Personal computers (PCs) sprang from several sources, notably the military's patronage of microelectronics and the interests of hobbyists in democratizing the use of computers.  An essential component of the PC was the integrated circuit, which formed all its electrical parts out of a flat piece of silicon, photo etching the connections between them. It was devised independently at Texas Instruments and at Fairchild Semiconductor Laboratories, in Palo Alto, California, which was an incubator for many of the engineers who would develop the computing industry in what came to be known as Silicon Valley, the region heavy with computer firms on the peninsula south of San Francisco.  Although integrated circuits were not developed with military patronage, the Defense Department and NASA provided a sizable fraction of the early market for them.  One Minuteman II missile used 2,000; the Apollo guidance system, 5,000.  By the late 1960s, engineers in Silicon Valley were creating an integrated circuit on a small chip containing the calculating circuits equivalent to all those in a mainframe computer of the 1950s.  In 1973, the Intel Corporation, founded by several veterans of Fairchild, announced that it had produced such a chip: the 8080.

            The development of the personal computer was encouraged by the abundant technical resources of Silicon Valley notably the electronics graduates from nearby Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley and the engineering innovations from local firms such as Hewlett-Packard -and by the inspiration that hobbyists drew from time sharing computers.  Built around a central computer that automatically allocated processing time to different individuals, time sharing gave users in their offices access to their personal files and encouraged them to think they could have interactive access to their own computers at any time for any purpose.  Computer hobbyists, some of them in tune with the countercultural ambience of the San Francisco Bay Peninsula, called for bringing computing power to the people by, for example, providing the public with free access to timeshared terminals.  One enthusiast recalled the "strong feeling that we were subversives.  We were subverting the way the giant corporations had run things."

            In 1974, a small firm that three hobbyists had founded in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to sell radio transmitters for model airplanes went beyond the dream of universal terminal access to put computers themselves into everyone's hands.  They started marketing a personal computer kit called the Altair.  Selling for $397, the Altair ran on the Intel 8080 chip and was an instant hit with hobbyists, even though it had no keyboard or monitor. It spurred Bill Gates, a twenty year old Harvard student, and his high school friend Paul Allen, twenty two, to write a software program for it that they licensed to the Albuquerque firm. Gates dropped out of Harvard to develop the Microsoft Corporation, a software firm he and Allen founded in 1975 for the Altair venture.  In 1976, Steve Wozniak, twenty five, and Steve Jobs, twenty, began marketing a comparable personal computer, the Apple.  Both were T shirts and jeans devotees of the hobbyist electronics culture in Silicon Valley, where they grew up; Jobs, with long hair and sandals, was an acolyte of vegetarianism, the Beatles, and transcendental meditation.  They built the first Apples in the home garage of Jobs's parents.

            Eager to expand the business, Jobs and Wozniak relinquished their T shirts for suits, obtained venture capital, and in 1977 brought out the Apple II, which included a keyboard, a monitor, and a floppy disk drive for storage.  A later version, introduced in 00 operated with a mouse and pull-down menus, both of which had been originally developed under contracts the Defense Department and NASA.  By this time, several other companies were selling personal compute software for them was initially confined to educational programs and games such as the wildly popular "Pacman," but in 1979 VisiCalc, a spreadsheet program, came on the market and demonstrated the value of the PC for business.

            Bill Gates had already warned the hobbyists that he would consider free sharing of the software that Microsoft had produced for the Altair a form of piracy.  By the late 1970s, personal computing was rapidly turning away from its countercultural origins into a lucrative for profit enterprise.  In 1981, IBM entered the PC market, enlisting Microsoft to provide the operating software for its machines.  In response, Microsoft bought a software package that had been devised at Seattle Computer Products by Tim Paterson, a recent college graduate, and provided it to IBM as MS DOS (short for "Microsoft Disk Operating System").  Gates sold IBM the right to use the system but maintained Microsoft's ownership, an arrangement that permitted the company eventually to earn billions of dollars by selling the right to use the system, which soon became an industry standard, to other makers of personal computers. The PC caught on so fast that two years later Time magazine designated the personal computer its "Man of the Year." 



Source: Pauline Maier, Inventing America: A History of the United States, vol. 2 (New York, 2003), pp. 991-993. 

 

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