As the government’s
power continues to make a large impact on the country, it only seems right to reflect
on how public opinion has changed since the 1870s. Many events in history have affected
the minds of Americans. Every good relationship needs equal effort from both
sides as well as trust. War, the Great Depression, and government distrust were
just a few of the reasons that the relationship between Americans and the
government changed so much from the 1870s to the late 20th century.

The Civil War had just come to an end
a few years prior leaving more than 620,000 Americans dead. After the war
ended in 1865, entrepreneurs began to take over the industrializing economy
with the goal of acquiring power. These men wanted to control the market,
dominate the competition, and create a monopoly. The pay for this work was very
low and offered no benefits. Many immigrants came to the United States for
better opportunities. Industrialists would not increase wages because they had
a monopoly on work. Since many American’s were unhappy with their wages,
companies hired immigrants who would be happy to have jobs. The newly
immigrated cities could not provide basic necessities. The government did not
provide a good environment for people. The large companies were making millions
of dollars but were not paying enough for workers to live properly. Many were forced
to live without water and electricity. The government was catering to the
businesses instead of its people, causing Americans to feel underappreciated.

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On October 29,
1929, the New York Stock Exchange crashed. Subsequently, banks closed and
accounts disappeared and many lost all of their money. 25% of American households
were unemployed. The distribution of wealth was very uneven and families could
barely afford to live. The Great Depression seemed inevitable after years of a
weak economy. Struggling Americans were convinced that the government and the
President did not care about them. Obviously, many were upset with the economy
and blamed this on the government. Thousands did not even have clean water to
drink. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs intent were to rescue
the United States from the Great Depression. Some of the programs were the
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
These programs were created to gain the trust of the American people after the
collapse of the banks and loss of individual’s savings that occurred in the
Great Depression. The government needed to do something for people to believe
in them once again. Many of the other programs were made to build up America,
physically and mentally. The relief programs employed millions of Americans and
distributed money to those in need. The government earned back the public’s
trust and respect. Because of these programs, millions of Americans had the
necessities to live. The Great Depression ended because WWII created a demand
for so many jobs.

            After
World War II ended, the Cold War began. This war was caused by the United
States not wanting communists controlling Eastern Europe. Americans did not
want Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union trying to control the world. It was referred
as the Cold War because there wasn’t any actual fighting going on. Instead, the
two countries exchanged threats of nuclear weapons. Many Americans were scared
that something was going to happen and the government even distributed public
service announcements. Duck and Cover and Atomic Alert were made with the
intent to bring awareness to the dangers of nuclear weapons. Duck and Cover was
directed towards children and schools telling them to duck and cover in case of
a nuclear attack. Atomic Alert advised individuals to hide behind concrete walls.
The films were made to help people feel more at ease and more prepared in case
of an attack. The films didn’t offer legitimate advice since neither of those
things would help if a nuclear attack were to really happen. Though this was a
scary time for all, years before, women were brave enough to fight their own
battle.

For many years,
women had been fighting for the right to vote. Women were tired of being
treated unfairly and not having the same rights as men. This was the Women’s
Suffrage Movement. Women were supposed to be reliant on men and independent
acts were not considered to be “feminine”. They did not want to be treated
differently, only equal. The Constitution had to be amended to say that women
could vote in order for it to happen. Women fought with the government until
the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920. Another rights movement, the
Civil Rights Movement started gaining recognition in the late 1940s. The United
States finally realized while criticizing Nazi racism that racism of black
people in America was similar. The Jim Crow laws segregated blacks and white in
public places. The change started with the desegregation of all public schools.
Some Americans agreed with the decision, and others decided to resist. The
Supreme Court wasn’t specific with its instructions on when to segregate.
Schools were told to segregate “with all deliberate speed” which was left to
the discretion of the schools. Those who were against desegregation lashed out
on government officials. There were many government officials who were against
integration as well. The wild thing was that law enforcement was not supposed
to enforce integration. Many people in the government were not supportive of desegregation
and this did not set a good example for the rest of Americans. Another aspect
of Jim Crow laws that people had an issue with was that African Americans were
forced to sit in the back of the bus and if the bus was full they would have to
give up their seat to a white person even though they were on the bus first.
Rosa Parks is one of the most prominent Civil Rights Activists who was arrested
for refusing to give her seat up to a white man. This led to the Bus Boycott,
which lasted over a year. After standing up for themselves, the black people
were able to get public transportation desegregation. Things were starting to
go in the right direction for African Americans and the government was starting
to respect them. The relationship between black people and the government was
improving, as they were beginning to be treated as equals in the eye of the
law. Many events led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act would make any
kind of discrimination illegal. This was the biggest victory for African
Americans during the Civil Rights Movement and it made all of the fighting well
worth it. Though victorious in this matter, Americans were not done fighting.

The Vietnam War
should have never occurred. The United States first became involved when
Eisenhower sent military advisors and $1 billion to South Vietnam. South
Vietnam was fighting with North Vietnam in order to stay separate from North
Vietnam. No ground troops were supposed to be sent over. At first supportive, Americans
grew opposed to United States’ involvement in the war because they saw how
vicious it had been. The government no longer had the support of its people,
and lying didn’t make it any better. Watergate was a notorious scandal that
shook the White House. Five men who were all associated with President Nixon
were caught snooping around Watergate, where the Democratic National Committee
headquarters was. Richard Nixon swore up and down that he had no involvement in
the illegal activity. Americans lost trust in the President and the government.
Many people thought, “How could the President of the United States break the
law and lie about it.” Watergate uncovered corruption in President Nixon’s
administration and left many thinking about what else there could be that they don’t
know about. This trying time led to a divide between the government and Americans.

The relationship
between the individual American and the government from the 1870s through the
late 20th century was ever-changing. There were many events that
caused the relationship to flip flop. Sometimes, the government would help the
people and other times, the government would leave its citizens high and dry.
These events are pivotal moments in history that caused a lot of issues to
arise. As we continue to move forward, we can only hope that we learn from our
mistakes as a country and not let history repeat itself.

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