Sometimes the news is shocking and even overwhelming. Wars, disasters, murder, environmental hazards, political scandals, unrest, and so forth innundate us and we feel that we're in a downward spiral. Sometimes however when I stop and look back, I see that perhaps it's my perspective that has changed more than anything.
In the 1970's, I was a kid. The news came to me from the television each evening, over the radio and in the newspapers each morning. My focus however was my own little world. The world of a kid in school. My classes, my friends, my family, and so forth were what absorbed most of my waking thoughts. But in looking back, I realize that life in the 1970's, the news of the nation and the world wasn't so vastly different even then.
In 1970 the Vietnam war was still in process. The image of civilians and soldiers being butchered were flashed across the TV screen on the evening news. People marched and in fact, in 1970, 4 students at Kent State Unversity were gunned down when protestors rallied against the US invasion into Cambodia. War was not unfamiliar even in the early 1970's.
In 1971, Idi Amin came to my attention. He was a General in the Ugandan military. I don't recall what precipitated his actions but he led a coup against the government. All that I can recall is that he wasn't a big believer in democracy and he ran a rather heavy handed dictatorship and was apparently quite willing to expel and execute those who opposed him. Again, fanatical leaders, violence, and unrest were alive and well even then.
When an airplane crashed in the Andean moutains in 1972, it was a catastrophe that had occurred before of course. But the shocking part of the story was that survivors discovered more than two months later admitted to having to resort to cannibalism to survive.
In 1973 the Arab - Israeli conflict resulted in a 70% increasing in oil prices for the US and western Europe. Rationing, long gas lines, and reduced speed limits became the norm. Soaring gas prices were news in the 1970's as well.
President Nixon visited China in an effort to thaw relations between the two countries but then later that year some of Nixon's aides were indicted for their role in breaking into the Democratic national headquarters some months prior to this. Soon, more details of the Watergrate break-in were known. Later, in 1974, after a drawn out process of hearings, Nixon resigned in shame to avoid possible impeachment for his part in attempting to coverup the affair. This was scandal at the uppermost level of government and his resignation was certainly unprecedented.
Spiro Agnew, the vice president under Richard Nixon, had been forced to leave office for tax evasion I believe, and Gerald Ford had been appointed Vice President. Now with the Nixon resignation, the US had it's first, and hopefully last, appointed president.
There was fighting in Belfast, Cyprus, Greece, and Chile. A Basque separatist bomb killed Spain's premier in 1973 and Alexander Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the Soviet Union. With the end of the Vietnam war in 1973, the communist North eventually over ran South Vietnam and refugees sought out new homes, including the US. Muslims and Christians fought in Beirut during 1975. In 1976, violence erupted in South Africa as protestors began the movement to end the white minority rule.
In 1974, publisher Randoph Hearst's daughter, Patty Hearst was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army and she later joined their effort. Americans and Soviet astronatus met together in space in July 1975, then in 1976, Viking sent 52,000 photos of the surface of Mars back to earth. The space shuttle made it's first flight in 1977.
A meeting between Egypt's Anwar Sedat, Israel's Menacham Begin, and US President Jimmy Carter ended with a ground breaking peace accord. In 1978 the first test tube baby, Louise Brown was born.
Also in 1978, the Reverend Jim Jones led his Disciples of Christ at Jonestown, Guyana and instructed them to drink a mixture of soda pop and cyanide, killing several hundred people. The Ayatolla Kohmeini returned to Iran after his exile ended and the country underwent an Islamic Revolution. Several months later, Iranian students seized the US embassy and took 90 hostages It would be more than a year before they were released.
At the end of the decade, a nuclear disaster near miss made the headlines. A bubble of hydrogen gas formed in a reactor but luckily things were brought under control so that minimal radiation leaked into the Pennsylvania atmosphere. The reactor building on the other hand, was contaminated.
Famines in Bangledesh and Ethiopia were among the disasters of the mid-1970's and oil disasters weren't in short supply either. There was a well blowout in the North sea in 1977 which was stopped only after several failed attempts. In 1978, the Amoco Cadiz supertanker ran aground off of the Brittany Coast and determining how to clean it up was up for debate. In the end, thousands of people were put to work sopping up the oil. Disasters both natural and manmade caused devastation in the 70's just as they do today.
The end of the decade also brought the news of devastating atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge under the reign of Pol Pot. Millions of Cambodian deaths were attributed to this brutal ruler. Genocide happened even 40 years ago.
As a kid I was certainly aware of these news stories, but now looking back on them, I realize that many of the issues of today are similar in both type and scope. I'm not completely certain if this is comforting or even more disconcerting, but at least it puts things into perspective.