Pre-Vietnam war time in the United States has already showed signs that some people were in major opposition judging the actions of the government. The time of the war confirmed that many Americans were against it and this could be evident from the great number of protests that took place. Some people were willing to go great distances in the movement against violent action.
Overall, usually strong American social unity was divided into two, those who supported the war and those who were against, but with the passage of time and acquisition of true understanding, the number of supporters drastically decreased.
During the 1960’s and more particularly during the Vietnam War, United States has experienced a social movement that was a large scale separation between those who thought that military action against Vietnam was justified and those who made strong points that America had no place in Vietnam.
In the year 1965, more than half of American citizens believed that United States must take active part in the Vietnam Conflict. These Americans supported their government and this was enough for the authorities to rely on. But it is very concerning that the other half either were against or had no opinion.
Next year the number of supporters started to decline steadily but this was not enough and not a reason for the American troops to get withdrawn from Vietnam. A closer look at people’s reasoning in the opposition to the war shows a differentiation between classes within society, occupations and age groups. Those who were in support were mostly younger population. One of the possible explanations is that younger people are not as rational as the older population and do not have as much life experience.
But, at the same time, there was a very significant amount of younger population that was against the war. One of the reasons is the opposition to the drafting process. Even in the state of peace there are many people who oppose war and any violent conflict, even if there are good reasons for it. For example, pacifists believe that humanity, civilized people, should never resort to violence when resolving a conflict.
Many of the younger population were pacifists, as they were opposed to any violence. Those who did not want to get drafted realized that they would face harsh conditions and very possibly death. In comparison to those who supported the war, it is clear that the obvious majority were those who did not get drafted or were volunteers to participate in the military violent action. This created a great separation within the society in the younger population (Gilbert 23).
One of the strong points that came out of the drafting process was the separation between classes. It was those in the lower and middle socio economic class that would get drafted, with anyone in the higher class having a greater ability to avoid any unwanted participation in the matter. The fact that people started to take part in demonstrations and openly protest any drafting and involvement of the United States in the war, created even more attention towards the Vietnam Conflict.
People started to question the reasons and their views began to change. As they found out more of the details, the opposition grew and by April of 1968, the amount of supporters of the war was 40 per cent. In October of 1969, only 32 per cent of American citizens supported the war (Robbins 28).
The steady decline shows that people became educated about the reasons and the toll that was taking away lives of both Untied States soldiers and Vietnamese fighters for freedom, as well as a great number of civilians. Students were another great part of the protest to the Vietnam War. Very many colleges and universities, as well as teachers and professors, took part in active demonstrations, demanding the American government to withdraw the troops.
The gradual separation between the citizens and the American government began to emerge. People started finding out that justifications were false and fabricated. The explanation that the communist Vietnam would spread its influence around, causing other countries to join with the communists was exaggerated.
These fears came mostly from example of the Soviet Union and the fall of communism there (Hall 118). American citizens started to protest and the government did notice. Even those who were supportive of the war, started to change their views, as is evident from the polls that were taken. People started to realize that the war was causing more casualties and that Americans had no place in Vietnam. It was the conflict that Vietnamese people had to resolve for themselves, in the building of a better and more liberal future.
The older population was also being drafted but their opposing views were mostly due to humanity and understanding that an armed conflict, so far away from home and in another country with traditions and ways of life so different, would not end in success. Another great contributor to how the war was perceived and viewed by many Americans was the media.
An increase in the development of technology, more particularly television and videotaping, has played a key role in the transference of information. The events that took place so far away, were not really understood and “felt” by many people but televised coverage brought the war to people’s homes. The casualties, horror of aimless bombing and lack of reasoning were viewed by many and so, the outrage increased drastically (Hallin 110).
The graphic nature and content of the televised footage was experienced by many people and they were able to realize what their government and soldiers were doing to a culture that has been fighting for its own freedom. Then, the news emerged that the borders with other countries, who were not participating in the conflict, were also affected. The bombing of close-by sites and villages was pointless and illegal but nonetheless, happened.
The proof of this lies in many letters and reports of people from the villages in the region (Robbins 17). People have started to realize how far the actions of Americans and United States’ government have gone and that this needs to be stopped. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke very precisely of the war and the views that people had about it:
“If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. It will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony…The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to life of her people” (“Landmark Speeches on the Vietnam War” 105).
These words very truly state what United States has accomplished and how people felt about the Vietnam War. The atmosphere within the American society became extremely heated and it was clear that some changes will have to be made. At the time, the president of the United States was Lyndon Johnson and he was an avid supporter of the war, starting such a movement of the American citizens against the government.
The book “Against the Vietnam War: Writings by Activists”, demonstrates people’s outrage by the following: “His popularity was at an all-time low; he could not appear publicly without a demonstration against him and the war. The chant ‘LBJ, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?’ was heard in demonstrations throughout the country” (Robbins 19).
It is clearly evident that people started to get outraged by the United States’ involvement in the war and wanted it to stop. In the end, this has had a significant effect on the withdrawal of troops. The proof of this is that Lyndon Johnson declared that he is not going to run for presidency and people gave their votes to Richard Nixon who promised to remove the troops from Vietnam.
The movement against Vietnam War was so great and historically significant that it lead to women’s rights movement and an increase in the demand for their acknowledgement of equality and freedoms. Even though they have been fighting for their own rights and freedoms throughout decades, their movement was very significant and primary, at that time. There were numerous committees that were formed, one of which was Women Strike for Peace.
Their slogans were in support of men who were against the war (Hall 43). Numerous groups of students, educators, racial minorities and classes have been forming committees and this has become a clear representation of the way people viewed the war. United States have become divided; one side was the minority that has kept their uneducated and blind hopes in the outcome of the war and the need for military presence and action.
It is as if the only reason they were supporting violence was the momentum they have gained in the beginning years of the war. The other side, the majority, has now understood that a great mistake was made and that it was very much an echo of the brutality and horrors that the world has already experienced during the two World Wars.
It would seem that people would try to never repeat such dehumanizing and pointless acts but examples of the breakage of the promise continue to the day. The anti-war movement has finally dominated the minds and hearts of Americans and Richard Nixon supported the nation and citizens. His policy, called “Vietnamization” was the beginning of an end for the US involvement in Vietnam (Wyatt 197).
The anti-war movement that Americans have demonstrated in relation to the Vietnam War illustrates an optimistic hope that it is people, their majority that believes in peace and goodness. Even though there are wars and armed conflicts, people will always voice their opinions against it, while governments, sometimes, follow a wrong path.
Gilbert, Marc. The Vietnam War on Campus: other voices, more distant drums. Westport, United States: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001. Print.
Hall, Di Mitchell. The Vietnam War: Second Edition. Harlow, United Kingdom: Pearson Education, 2007. Print.
Hallin, Daniel. The Uncensored War: The Media and Vietnam. Los Angeles, United States: University of California Press, 1989. Print
Landmark Speeches on the Vietnam War. Texas, United States: Texas A&M University Press, 2010. Print.
Robbins, Mary. Against the Vietnam War: Writings by Activists. Maryland, United States: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007. Print.
Wyatt, Clarence. Paper Soldiers: The American Press and the Vietnam War. Chicago, Untied States: University of Chicago Press, 1995. Print.