B1 Intermediate 12 Folder Collection
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- [Instructor] From our first lesson
focusing on the migration of indigenous people
to the landmass that today comprises the United States,
we've made it all the way to the present,
a journey in time of more than 15,000 years.
We've looked most closely at the last 500 years
starting with the arrival of Europeans in the Americas.
Now, in this last unit we're focused
just on the last 40 years of American history
from 1980 until the present.
How can we examine something
that's so close to us in time?
We're still in this era.
It doesn't have a name,
not like the Gilded Age or the Revolutionary Era,
at least not yet.
Maybe this is the post-Cold War era
or the post-9/11 era?
Maybe it will be defined by the changes
brought by technology
and we'll call it the Information Age.
Trying to think historically about the present
gives us a better understanding
of what it was like to live in the past,
to not know what was coming next
or how to interpret all the complex threads
of politics, society, and culture
weaving together around you.
Life is messy and confusing.
We don't know if we're living in a tragic era
or a triumphant one,
neither did the people who lived in 1940
or 1860 or 1770.
So years from now when historians
write about the period from 1980 to 2020
in the United States
what will they say?
Well, let's pretend for a few minutes
that we are those historians from the future.
Maybe we're living on a space station
a few hundred years from now
enjoying a Raktajino by the Replicator
and discussing the United States
at the turn of the 21st century.
Would we be discussing a golden age or a dark period?
Let's apply some of our historical
thinking skills to this era
and see if we can determine
what effects changes in this period had
on American national identity.
First, let's talk about America's role in the world.
In 1980, the United States was still locked
in a Cold War with the Soviet Union,
and when Ronald Reagan took over as president
he moved the country away from the policy of Detente,
or relaxation of tension,
kind of live and let live with the soviets
that was pursued in the 1970s
towards a more active, anticommunist stance.
The end of the decade saw the collapse of the Soviet Union.
So after more then 40 years of foreign policy
that was aimed at containing communism
and the influence of the Soviet Union,
capitalism and democracy were now
the dominant economic and political systems,
and the United States was the world's lone superpower.
After the Cold War ended
it wasn't immediately clear
what the new US role in the world should be.
Should it return to an isolationist stance
like it had before World War II.
Should it serve as the world's police officer
keeping the peace and countering the actions
of hostile powers that might try to arise.
During the 1990s, the United States had
a few limited engagements abroad
and the Gulf War, the United States defended Kuwait
from an Iraqi invasion,
and it sent troops to Kosovo
as part of a NATO peacekeeping force.
But the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001
on the World Trade Center in New York City
and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
began a new era of American foreign policy.
US President George W. Bush articulated
what's been called the Bush Doctrine
which asserted that the United States
has the right to secure itself against countries
that harbor or give aid to terrorist groups.
So under this doctrine, the United States
went to war with Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003
after those countries refused to surrender
Osama bin Laden and the terrorists responsible
for September 11th.
The war in Afghanistan became the longest war
in US history continuing through 2019.
At the end of this era from 1980 to 2020,
Americans were continuing to debate
the proper US role in the world.
Should the United States withdraw from wars abroad
to save the lives of American troops
and the massive budget expenditures of war?
Or would leaving the Middle East
further destabilize the region
and lead to even bigger problems in the future?
Some questions that we might think about
in the broader scope of US history,
how does the Bush doctrine compare to
earlier presidential doctrines on foreign policy
like the Nixon Doctrine, the Truman Doctrine,
or even the Monroe Doctrine?
And how does the war in Afghanistan
compare to the United States' second longest war,
the war in Vietnam.
The end of the Cold War
and the rise of the war on terror
weren't the only major changes in this time period.
There were also far-reaching social changes.
How work was done,
how much people were paid for it,
and who did that work.
In the late 20th century,
the emergence of the personal computer and the internet
made it possible to communicate
and to do business all over the world in an instant.
At the same time, barriers to trade fell between countries.
In 1994, the United States signed
the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA
to reduce or eliminate tariffs on trade goods
between the United States, Mexico and Canada.
The growing international interdependence of business
and the mixing of cultures that business
carries along with it is called globalization.
But the availability of cheap goods and cheap labor
that globalization made possible
also had some economic consequences for American workers.
Manufacturing generally moved overseas
to take advantage of lower wages and regulations
and union membership fell to a record low.
Meanwhile, the share of Americans
working in service-oriented jobs rose.
The largest employer in the United States
in 2019 was Walmart.
Wages have stagnated for low
and middle class American workers
while wages have soared for the richest Americans.
A study by the federal reserve found that
although the total net worth of US households
more than quadrupled between 1989 and 2018,
most of those gains were for the wealthy,
with the top 10% of households controlling
64% of overall wealth.
The top 1% alone controlled 32%.
Another social change of the late 20th
and early 21st century was the growth of immigration.
The 1965 immigration act ended
national quotas in immigration
which had barred immigration for most countries
other than Western Europe.
As a result, immigration from Latin America,
Asia and Africa grew
changing the racial demographics of the United States.
Some of the biggest questions of American politics
at the end of this era
concerned the effects of globalization and immigration.
Putting this in a broader historical context
we might ask how did the developments
in this time period compare with
say the Second Industrial Revolution in the Gilded Age
when new manufacturing technology opened up
many new factory jobs,
and lured many immigrants to American cities,
but also bred great inequality of wealth.
Politics in this period also differed sharply
from the era that came before it.
From 1932 to 1980,
liberal ideas had dominated American politics
that government should be active
in securing the welfare of people,
and that taxation should pay for those initiatives.
But there was a growing conservative movement
starting in the 1960s
and Ronald Reagan's election in 1980
began a period of limiting government regulation
and lowering taxes.
And when democrat Bill Clinton took office in 1993,
he largely adopted that same stance.
He declared that the era of big government is over
and reduced welfare benefits significantly.
The 1990s saw the emergence of the culture wars.
Battles over the growing multiculturalism,
secularism, and cultural acceptance
of non-traditional marriage and family relationships.
Many conservative Christians feared that
the traditional American nuclear family
with Christian, heterosexual married parents
was disappearing.
Meanwhile, liberal progressive celebrated
the growing acceptance of LGBTQ citizens
in diversity and public life.
This was also a time of bitter partisan divisions
with citizens not only more strongly
identifying with one party
but increasingly vilifying members of the other party
is immoral or unpatriotic.
To put this in a broader historical context
we might ask, do these partisan divisions
suggest that American national identity
was fractured beyond repair
or that a party realignment was underway?
How does this period compare with the 1850s
when the beliefs of the north and south diverged
sharply over the institution of slavery?
These are very difficult question
and I'm glad we're here in the 23rd century
enjoying the benefits of hindsight
to assess that strange period from 1980 to 2020.
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Causation from 1980-2020

12 Folder Collection
林宜悉 published on March 28, 2020
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