Inside America: The Rise and Fall of An Empire

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Yet, America life for many was getting hard. A new generation was coming of age. Generation X born between 1966-80. For this generation economic life seemed bleak. Broken-up families, unstable employment, and increasingly costly higher education made the future of Generation X uncertain and unsafe. Generation X hid its fears with an attitude of indifference. The balancing of marriage, family, and career seemed almost impossible. Many Generation X children were the children of early Boomers and many began putting off marriage until their early thirties if they thought of marrying at all. Many Xers continued living at home because of the new high cost of living. The Xers were forced into taking poor paying service jobs, called " McJobs. "

The Xers also were only 13 million in number and could not possibly create the kind of cultural revolution that the Boomers had achieved, nor could they, even if they wanted to. The economic environment was now worse, casual sex was difficult with a new sexual disease called AIDS spreading rapidly throughout America. Also American culture was now more culturally fragmented than in earlier times. Family life was weak as divorces continued to sky-rocket as more and more divorced mothers were forced to work outside the home simply to survive now.

A feeling of failure was gripping America's industrial heartland. Signs of collapse were everywhere. Roads and bridges were closed because there were no local taxes to keep them repaired. Factories and steel mills were closed and stores along the main streets of small towns were boarded up. Downtown areas of industrial cities became ghost-towns. Unemployment was in double-digits in America's rust-belt. More and more people became displaced and the gap between the rich and the poorest grew wider and wider.

While heavy industry was declining, small farm bankruptcies accelerated as well. Land and food prices plummeted in America's agricultural heartland. By 1989, the farm population in America was less than five million as huge agribusinesses bought up family farms and forced more and more small farmers off their land.

Drugs, divorce, and family displacement had a growing effect on children as the Eighties wore on. The number of Americans living in poverty increased to 33 million and by 1989 half of all African American children were living in poverty. African American gains made in the Sixties and Seventies had now suddenly reversed. Crime in African American ghettos sky-rocketed. A new and cheap form of cocaine called " crack " became big business for many inner city African American gangs and gangland activity soon began to spread to many other American cities. Soon America's prison population began to grow to over two million people. Many of them were disproportionately, African and Hispanic Americans.

Also during the Eighties the sight of people living on America's streets became more and more common. Many Americans wondered how this could be happening in the world's richest nation. But it was really no mystery. Throughout the Eighties, the cost of housing continued to rise. Many street people could no longer afford to pay rent and many were incapable of working. Drugs, mental illness, and loss of government support created a homeless population that began to number in the millions.

America's schools began to mirror America's accelerating social problems. More and more American children began to drop out of school and test scores in all subjects continued to fall during the Eighties. Violence in American schools continued to also increase at a time when the American federal government began to withdraw more and more support from public schools leaving states and regional counties with school bills they could no longer pay.

In an equally disturbing trend, support for America's environmental laws was becoming more lax under the Reagan administration. Clean air and water laws were enforced with less vigor even as ecological warnings made during the Sixties and Seventies began to reflect the dangers of over-reliance on technologies that could damage the planet's delicate life support system.

In the Soviet Union, the explosion of a nuclear power plant in Chernobyl scattered radioactive material over an area of thirty-two thousand miles. In Bhopal, India, a gas leak at an American insecticide plant soon killed thousands of people with little warning. And in Alaska, a huge American oil tanker spilled eleven million gallons of oil into the waters of one of America's most sensitive wildlife areas killing untold numbers of fish, birds, and mammals. The ecological crisis now facing the planet was becoming harder and harder to ignore, yet during the Eighties little action was taken by the American government to come to grips with this new reality.


The Eighties saw the true birth of Hip-hop music. Out of the African American inner city a new kind of music emerged that quickly became commercialized and spread like a raging virus across the entire planet. The shooting death of John Lennon in 1980 seemed to signal the end of an era and new musicians like Bruce Springsteen became popular in the rock world. But it was Rap and Hip-hop that became the true new art of the Eighties.

Rap music was a form of poetry set to an often angry and rapid rhythm. It gave young African Americans an artistic means of expressing their outrage at the many injustices experienced by ghetto youth, Rap music, which started in the late Seventies became popular with both black and white young people in the Eighties. MTV led the way for Rap. DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, Ice Cube, and NWA, all became run-away super-stars.

Break dancing and Graffiti art carried the message of Rap further on a visual level. Graffiti art began as a kind of artistic vandalism as painters with colored spray cans sprayed intricate designs on walls of public buildings and on the sides of subway cars in many urban areas. This art became so popular that it even began appearing in other countries even on the Berlin wall. Generation X was attacking the very symbols of Second Wave culture by creating new colorful symbols on top of them. Ultimately, these symbols would become part of media history as CNN documented the fall of the Berlin wall complete with all its graffiti that had been sprayed on in an earlier time.

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All contents of this site copyright by Michael Arthur Finberg