America has been subject to a continuous pattern of social permutations. It’s an integral part of the nature of man – to seek and to change. We have watched this country grow from a stoic, fundamentally religious society, struggling to find its footing with 13 new colonies, to a nation of seekers, explorers, inventors, and conquerors. In the process we have moved from an agricultural age, to an industrial age, and recently, to an electronic age.
Along the line we have seen major alterations in society, and more than anything, this has shaped the America to come. Our victory in the Revolutionary War gave Americans a new sense of confidence – clothing styles changed as we found a medium between European and practical American, and new religious movements were founded. We had become independent in many new ways. The Civil War gave us a new perspective on equality. The Westward movement created a brand new variety of Americans, for the first time, carrying it’s own music, idioms, and slang, and certainly creating a new varieties of American idols, from frontiersmen to gunfighters. We had began to accept the concept of the social epidemic, tolerating changes more readily, but it was nothing like what was to come.
The early 20th century brought a new feeling of freedom and independence to millions of people, especially young Americans. Soldiers returned from World War I with new ideas, hemlines rose on women’s dresses, and “The Roaring 20’s” brought us new styles and new tastes, ultimately opening the doors in America to speakeasies, alcohol, and for the first time, venerating the hoodlum, with the constant publicity on audacious gangsters. Also, music and dancing, for the first time, not only reflected the country’s penchant for grand scale acceptance of new social concepts, but how these elements could change society.
America struggled greatly through Word War II, then we floated peacefully into the 1950’s, when Rock ‘n Roll music made its first appearance. Although some were shocked with the new clothing and hairstyles, and the emphasis on fast cars and bebop, it was still a relatively innocent time. The late ‘60s and early ‘70s provided the first widespread social epidemic influenced by “culture music.” We converted a symbol of war into a symbol of peace that would be remembered for generations, and provided the first true blending of cultures in this country. We nurtured rock music and ardently participated in a garish, uninhibited, tambourine-accompanied symphony of communal living, drugs, and sex, all while undergoing a rebirth of faith that turned Jesus Christ into a superstar. It was a remarkably contradictory experience that provided the first true social epidemic.
While new, smaller counter cultures and their slang influenced America, like surfers, and motorcycle gangs, it wasn’t until the late ’80s that the next real revolution in music and culture appeared with the advent of “rap”. It happened at a time when America was at a crux, trying desperately to blend the disparate ethnicity in our nation, and the powers to be encouraged it. In the process it became the anthem for the dissatisfied and the easily influenced “me” generation, providing the latest social epidemic. Needless to say it has had its affect on our society, and I suppose only the historians will be able to weigh those results.
All in all, social epidemics are an inherent part of the freedom train. We are all onboard, taking the ride to wherever it goes. You can grit your teeth at each turn, or you can accept the process as a learning, sometimes interesting, experience. There is no other alternative.
Michael Reisig has been writing professionally for 15 years.
He is an award-winning newspaper columnist and a best-selling novelist.
You can see more of Michael’s work and a short biography at Amazon.com.
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