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James Turnage Sees the Changes in the World

Courtesy of James Turnage

Born in 1946, James Turnage witnessed many changes, many inventions, and many advancements for mankind’s future. As a young boy in the 1950s, he watched the automobile industry flourish. There was a great deal of interest in nuclear energy after the use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Little did Turnage know that the “industrial revolution,” would soon be surpassed by the “electronic revolution.”

In 1955 Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California. In 1956 the electronic age began to grow, and he received His first “transistor radio.” His interest in politics began in 1956 as he watched “Ike’s” second convention.

Turnage began high school in 1960, the same year Ike’s successor would become John Fitzgerald Kennedy. This young man, with a young family, had captured the interest and imagination of Turnage’s generation, although they were too young to vote.

On November 22, 1963, America’s hopes were snuffed out as the man they admired was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

Turnage graduated high school in June of 1964 and enlisted in the United States Air Force in September. In 1965 the evening news was filled with films and stories of the escalating war in South Vietnam. Protests from mostly younger Americans began to grow across the United States. The “draft” was still in force, and Turnage’s age group would be forced to fight a war created by old, white men in Washington.

Courtesy of JeromeG111 (Flickr CC0)

After returning from Vietnam, one broadcast from Walter Cronkite convinced President Lyndon Baines Johnson that he could not win reelection in 1968. He withdrew his name. The 1968 election was the first presidential election in which Turnage was able to vote. He would not have voted for Johnson.

In 1964, the first Civil Rights legislation was signed into law by President Johnson. In 1969, the first man walked on the moon, and the largest anti-Vietnam protest was held at “Yasgur’s Farm,” beginning on August 15, 1969. Named “Woodstock,” because of its location just 30 miles away from the event, it was the largest music festival in history. The three-day event will forever be known as the beginning of a great change in America.

The 1970s was a decade remembered for social change. The “birth control pill” helped women find sexual freedom and was partly responsible for the sexual revolution. The LGBTQ community became a force in America as homosexuals, lesbians, and transexuals came out of the shadows and into the streets. Although illegal, the use of marijuana became popular and is legal in many states today.

As protests against the war continued and grew in size, support for ending the war became more popular. In 1975, the United States Military withdrew all of its forces from Southeast Asia. Turnage watched the last days on television. It was undoubtedly the most embarrassing defeat in the nation’s history. Women were fighting for equal rights. The ERA was presented to congress but defeated. This was just the first big battle for women’s equality, and they continue their struggle today.

The biggest change during the 1970s was the development of electronics only dreamed of by science fiction nerds growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. “Cellular phones” became a reality. Televisions were becoming larger, thinner, and less expensive. Satellites had been launched allowing instant communication from any place in the world.

The 1980s brought changes so quickly, Turnage could barely keep up with them. Then in his 40s, America was becoming younger, and everything was changing from the types of vehicles people drove, to the way they watched television news. Nothing from Turnage’s youth existed in mainstream society. The “Concorde” began flights in 1976, and in the 1980s air travel from the United States to Europe took about one-half the time as standard aircraft. The supersonic age had arrived.

One thing never changed throughout his life: America’s willingness to engage in unwinnable wars. Refusing to learn from America’s failures in South Vietnam, George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 after the tragic and cowardly events of September 11, 2001. Under false pretenses and an atmosphere of blatant falsehoods, Bush invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq. Afghanistan became the country’s longest war. The last of American forces were eventually withdrawn in August of 2021. America had accomplished nothing with the exception of losing the lives of many of the nation’s finest men and women and wasting billions of dollars.

Just 12 days ago, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, decided to invade Ukraine, which brings him to his reason for writing this article.

The changes Turnage listed were just details of larger events. There were many more. No generation will experience the number, importance, or speed at which great change happened in the United States over the last half of the 20th century and the first two decades of the 21st.

What could become the final reality for Turnage’s generation is in the hands of one egomaniacal man.

Will he have experienced the greatest changes in history, and the end of the world?

Putin is willing to do anything to win his war against the people of Ukraine, and that includes the use of nuclear weapons. If he proves to be that insane, the world as everyone knows it will cease to exist. Those who will suffer the most would be the survivors if there are any.

Turnage’s question is simple: will more than seven billion people allow one man to destroy the future?

Op-ed by James Turnage


History: September 11 Attacks; by Drew Angerer
Britannica: The 1970s
The Washington Post: Did the news media, led by Walter Cronkite, lose the war in Vietnam?; by Joel Achenbach

Top and Featured Image Courtesy of James Turnage – Used with Permission

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