The 1970s were a turbulent period in the relationship between the American government and the people. The President that they so relied on and trusted was found out to be covering up for a break-in into Democratic headquarters that was executed by his re-election team. This event became known as the Watergate Scandal as it took place in the Watergate building. The chaos and distrust that resulted made for a tough time for the everyday American person.
The government was not the only thing creating waves of distrust in society. When the happenings in Watergate were exposed, the CIA and FBI were put in a bad light. Which created “a need to satisfy a disillusioned public that the system was criticizing and correcting itself” (554). The government worked fast to reassure the people that the clearly flawed system was on it’s way to fixing itself. To do this, investigations of the CIA and the FBI were initiated.
With these investigations, it was discovered that the CIA and FBI were keeping quite a few, alarming secrets of their own. “The investigation of the FBI disclosed many years of illegal actions to disrupt and destroy radical groups and left-wing groups of all kinds” (554-555). But even when all of this new, valuable information came out, the government was very careful to limit the amount of media coverage it would receive. The suspicion and cynicism that is represented in characters like Travis in Taxi Driver is a reflection of the hidden instability in American society at the time that can be seen with events like the investigation of agencies like the CIA and FBI and the further omission of information from these inquires.
Mary E. Lease, The Money Question, (1892)
Mary E. Lease was an activist who often made speeches in support of Populism. Living at a time when men, for the most part, dominated, put Lease fairly low on the totem pole of power in society. Thus, with the emergence of the Populist movement, she jumped at the opportunity to fight for change as well as for rights that she believed she deserved. In her speech, “The Money Question,” she criticized the nation as being inconsistent. More importantly, she provided an insight into how the economy during the industrial 1890’s was operating and what it meant to the more agricultural parts of the country. It was a speech meant to motivate farmers, and other Populist movement supporters, and open their eyes to the fact that change must be sought with the way the nation was functioning at the time. In it she said, “The great common people of this country are slaves, and monopoly is the master. The West and South are bound and prostrate before the manufacturing East.” With statements like these, she argued that money had taken control of the country, which put the common people, like farmers, on the back burner. The nation was beginning to revolve around monopolies and Wall Street, which led to “the people” being mistreated, and a faulty society of the overly rich and the desperately poor. She likens farmers, who worked strenuously to grow crops, to slaves because they were cheated out of the money they deserved by a system where they had relatively no say on how much they could sell their crops for. Ultimately, it seems as though the Gilded Age and industrialization brought much growth to parts of the East, but left the agriculture-based South struggling and underrepresented, thus the development of the Populist movement.