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American Culture on the 4th of July

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By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom

I am never sure whether it is our American culture that shapes our TV, movies and other media or whether our media shapes our thinking to such an extent that it changes culture.

Probably a little bit of both.

What is culture? One very good online dictionary calls it “The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought. These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population.”

On July 4, 1963, as a young lad, I was fortunate enough to be at Gettysburg, PA. The Centennial of the greatest land battle in the history of North America had just concluded. That centennial event was marked with religious services, re-enactors in uniforms and period clothing from the 1860s, and my Dad’s gigantic Ford “Country Squire.”

Just as a reminder, on July 4, 1863, some 50,000 Americans lay dead on the fields and in the town of Gettysburg. The slaves had been freed but the issue of one or two nations sharing this part of the continent was still undecided.

In 1963 at that Centennial, America had a vastly different culture than it has today. JFK was president and the Republican Party largely cooperated with the government called “Camelot.”

In 1963, at Gettysburg, there were no protesters, many men wore a “crew cut,” homosexuality was not discussed, girls wore skirts to the knee, and the Beatles were still hot.

In 1963 there was no Paris Hilton (whom we admire for what? I forget.), no Brittany Spears, and our sex lives and drug use and times in rehab were private matters.

In 1963 there was no internet, no chat rooms, no U-Tube, no talk radio, no Jerry Springer and no Oprah. And Vietnam had not yet become a common word in America.

In 1963, a survey said the most valued and cherished thing about a marriage was children. Abortion was illegal and people went to worship their own God in their own way on Sunday – in droves.

In 1963, movie giants like John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Jimmy Stuart and Robert Mitchum were still on the silver screen or in re-runs on TV. The stars where big and tough, Hollywood filmed epics, and the themes were often based in history. In 1962 and 1963 movies like “Cleopatra,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” Birdman of Alcatraz,” and “H.M.S. Defiant” were made.

It seems to me, but I could be wrong, in 1963, most adult Americans were married and not divorced, people didn’t live together in “alternative life styles,” families ate dinner together (and Mom actually cooked — she didn’t bring home pre-made food from the grocery) and we Americans were not so preoccupied with money, big houses and whiz bang cars.

In 1963 America was an industrial powerhouse, we made most of the cars in the world, and the auto workers and steel men were protected by powerful unions.

A woman born in Japan who has lived here in the United States most of her life reflected on all this to me just yesterday. She recalled to me the human sacrifices made during World War II but reminded me that we might be living in a Nazi and Japanese warlord world had it not been for D-Day, Stalingrad, and Iwo Jima.

Think of that: a Japanese American stood telling me how import it was that her homeland lost World War II.Then she went on to bemoan our current culture, born in the protests and LSD of the late 1960s.

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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.
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