People's History: Away from Radicalism (Chap 20)

Thrill Is Gone, B.B. King

The seventies saw little change,
with business eager to arrange
connections with the government,
and military men intent
on showing their pre-eminence
in countries lacking self-defense.

The tumult of the sixties caused tremendous change.
The government and public tried to rearrange
their lives: less intervention, greater tolerance
for radical opinions; falling confidence
in leaders. Worst of all was Nixon's Watergate
fiasco: subterfuge and lies would decimate
the President, who risked impeachment. He resigned.
So Ford announced, "the nightmare's over." But behind
the scenes, no change. They "tossed the rotten apples, saved
the barrel." Lobbying by corporations paved
the way for influence, campaign chicanery,
and secret deals. The same for foreign policy,
no change. But public will was gone, and Vietnam
went communist. There followed a deceptive calm
at home, the honor of America at stake
as foreigners were quick to censure our mistake
in Vietnam, abuses by the CIA
in Cuba and in Chile, and the overplay
of FBI authority against the black
rebellions. Most insulting was the droll attack
on "paper tiger" USA. And our response?
To bomb Cambodia. With haughty nonchalance
State Secretary Kissinger explained our side:
our ship the Mayaguez had been detained. Our pride
and safety were at risk. The headlines would agree
with this -- in times of national security
we must display our strength! An understated theme
was present, though. The sixties had revealed extreme
resistance to authority. Democracy
was at a peak, with relative equality
as people organized. But to the government
this posed a problem: how, indeed, to implement
regimes abroad, and shape the world's economy?
The answer's clear -- we must exert authority.

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