Vietnam War protests essentially became mainstream, will Occupy Wall Street?

It occurs to me that there is some similarity between the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Vietnam War protest movement of the 60s, that is beyond what I first realized:

Back then college-aged young people resented being subject the military draft to risk being killed or maimed for life in the jungles of Southeast Asia in a fight that seemed to have nothing at all to do with the defense of the United States and everything to do with basically a civil war, albeit with some outside influence, in a far off country — no one had attacked America (there was some murky incident about a couple of our ships supposedly taking some bullet hits on a foggy night — and all that was never sorted out, really — the Gulf of Tonkin incident which led to a resolution to allow the president to wage war). Worse yet, there seemed no clear plan to attain anything that might be called a victory — just send young men over there as cannon fodder (to use a term more appropriate to World War I).

There were both peaceful and not peaceful anti-war demonstrations and those bent on public insurrection mixed with those simply wanting to voice their protest as was their right in a democratic society.

While originally the protest movement was primarily made up of young people, the message over time caught on with the public in general, but it took a decade or more for the voters to pressure their representatives to say enough. They cut off the funding (war fans call that not supporting the troops, but that is semantics — it was the only way I guess to rescind the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution; I’ll have to look that up some time. I mean why couldn’t have that absurd resolution have been rescinded? What about the one or one‘s we use now?). Oh, and although I am getting off track here a little, the reason we had no declaration of war in Vietnam, as I recall, is that there was no support for an all-out land war in Asia, but we snuck into it through that resolution and through the fantasy that we were just stepping up our support for the South Vietnamese with no intention of committing large numbers of American troops.

Okay, now to Occupy Wall Street:

Young college-aged people are protesting the fact that they seem to have no future because Wall Street has ruined the economy and rigged the game so it always wins and everyone else loses. OWS is taking a lot of heat from those who support the status quo, but polls indicate the message of the inherent unfairness of the economic system in which big time financiers ruin the economy by making bad loans and using questionable business practices and then get bailed out by the taxpayers and then use that money to reward themselves with bonuses is catching on among the general public.

The right-wing Tea Party has similar gripes, but it sees OWS as wild-eyed anarchists (and there are extremists in both OWS and the Tea Party).

So I will be interested to see how long OWS’s message will take to become a mainstream one or which group, OWS or the Tea Party, will be dominant.

During Vietnam there was no equivalent to the Tea Party on the right, but we did have the mythical “silent majority” that supported the war for so long and called for law and order at home.


The reason we don’t see large anti-war protests today is because there is no military draft. And it is strange that the right wing seems to be solidly in support of foreign wars when their man is running them and less committal when the other guy is (even though they are the same conflicts). Stranger still, the Democrats were largely the ones who got us into Vietnam and then they turned against themselves on the whole issue. More irony here: many an anti-establishment demonstrator of the 60s evaded or got by the draft and became a solid member of that same establishment.


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