(1971 - the brief respite between the World's Longest Party and Our Great National Nervous Breakdown)
Hard to imagine that 1971 was a sort of resting point in our rather skewed history. At the time of course, it didn't seem that way - in 1971 Campuses were still hotbeds of disturbance, Vietnam was still grinding on, cities were falling apart. But we were optimistic all was going to be okay with the world and prosperity was just around the corner.
This documentary, part of the NBC Radio series "Second Sunday", aired in April 1971 was concerned about our place in the world. A reassessment of who we were as a society - the old "who am I, what am I doing and where am I going" mantra that was so popular during those years.
And questions are posed to a number of people - Ralph Nader, newly elected Governor Jimmy Carter, Senator Howard Baker, Gunnar Myrdal, Jean-Francois Revel, John Gardner (founder of Common Cause) and Dr. Milton Eisenhower who offers this interesting observation:
Dr. Milton Eisenhower: “We do seem to have a new kind of violence in this country, we have some people who are actively advocating revolution, which I think is relatively new in America.”
Question: Where do think this will lead? Do you think this is a self-defeating thing?
Eisenhower: “ First let me say that there are nihilists, there are revolutionaries; most of them young. Many of them, in our colleges and universities. But it’s terribly important that the American people understand that they constitute a very small minority. They make a lot of noise and I may say the mass media give them a great exposure to the American people, but they can’t be more than one, two or three percent of the total. Yes, this is something new.”
Question: “How do you answer the argument that we engage in violence in Vietnam, so violence is warranted here in America. And those who argue that the system is so rotten and has such basic defects that the system itself is not worth preserving and hence you need revolution in this country to purify the government.”
Eisenhower: “Well I think that’s a terribly specious argument. If we lived in a dictatorship, and the dictatorship had proclaimed and carried on the war, and therefore citizens could do little if anything about it, one could well argue that in these circumstances revolution, internal revolution would be the corrective measure to take. But once the people themselves have taken possession of the basic social power, which is the situation in our free democratic society, and we exercise this power through a representative form of government, then the only way, the only reasonable way to get action is to work through these political procedures. All other methods are illegitimate and are self-defeating. Margaret Chase-Smith made a speech in the Senate that was worth the attention of the American people, in which she said that, if the left-wing extremists, who are causing a good share of the trouble don’t look out, they are going to drive America to the right. The danger in America is not going too far to the left – the danger in America is going too far to the right.”
That last quote is particularly telling considering where the country would wind up in the next decade.
Of course, at the time no one suspected a thing . . . .