Saturday, February 24, 2007

Division in the U.S.?

The 1920's, known as the Roaring Twenties, was a period that consisted of significant inventions and cultural innovations. Harlem was the center of attention during this time. African American creativity was expressed, a new means of transportation was created, and America was introduced to a more contemporary lifestyle. However, divisions within the U.S. existed due to certain changes that occurred. The 1920's was a representation of social and cultural discord amongst Americans because many people's comfort zones were invaded which caused them to observe an aspect of life that wasn't their own. Rural versus urban areas, religion versus science, and natives versus immigrants were all examples of how the U.S. experienced domestic divisions.

The distribution, sale, and consumption of alcohol was made illegal by the 18th Amendment and enforced by the Volstead Act. The fundamentalists, or the "drys", supported this new law because they believed this product caused broken families, poor health, and other negative effects. However, the "wets", or the urban area residents, perceived drinking as a provocative lifestyle. Protestants opposed their way of living because they were so used to their own way. Urban women, known as "flappers", defied rural women's principle of a woman's behavior. Therefore, a disagreement divided the two areas due to their perception of how life should be lived.

A wide separation of religion and science existed during the 1920's and still exists in the new millennium. The Scopes Monkey trial in 1925 was an example of the conflict that arose between the two. John Scopes, a Tennessee teacher, was arrested for teaching his students about evolution. William Jennings Bryan was the prosecutor and Darrow was Scopes's attorney. The court ruled against Scopes, but the verdict was later overturned. Christians saw this case as a method to prevent people from questioning how creation began according to the book of Genesis in the Holy Bible. Not only was Scopes's actions illegal, but they went against someone else's belief. Once again, a conflict between two distinct groups has been given rise to because their own perceptions of life.

The natives of the U.S. and immigrants possessed a major division during the Roaring Twenties. The 100 percenters were those who considered themselves a 100% American. They attempted to protect the U.S. from all foreign influences. An isolationist policy was their goal for America. Several legislations were passed in order to limit immigration. The Literacy Test Act (1917) required all foreigners to take an exam consisting of the English language or their native tongue. The Emergency Quota Act (1921) limited southern and eastern European immigrants. The Immigration Act (1924) restricted immigrants by receiving only 2% of each nationality in the 1890 census. The Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) limited Asian immigration. Nativists were so concerned about American life being interrupted by strangers. So, they took drastic actions to assure that this would not occur. Nativist anxiety gave rise to another major conflict between two different walks of life.

To conclude, the fear of change for many Americans during the 1920's was the main reason why this country experienced such discord and chaos. When a group of people are immune to a specific way of living for a great period of time, transitions are difficult . Spiritual, political, and moral beliefs were the central points within these divisions. Therefore, these distinct groups involuntarily defended them.


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