He didn't have the courage to go against what was expected. He instead was complicit and didn't fight against the system that was sending him to a war he did not want to go to. He would go and face the bullets that would come his way rather than face the looks on people's faces that would be given at him and think he's a coward for not fighting for his country. His family would look at him and think that they did not raise a "man". They would think he ran away and hid rather than do his duty.
He was too brainwashed to be able to live with the humiliation that he did not fight. He wasn't strong enough to be able to live that down. He wasn't strong enough to stand up against the system, not courageous enough to be an activist, he didn't have enough will to defy his country. He would do what he was told like a good little sheep, and for that, he believed himself a coward.
Personally, I would consider myself a different type of coward, I would not go to war unless I fundamentally believed in the cause, but I would be an activist, I would stay and protest. I wish he would have swam.
The biggest similarity I see between these two readings by Plato and Griggs, is "alternative facts". We are all getting our information from Facebook more and more than any other sources these days. Before the internet, it seemed like we had access to more credible news stories, and understood that anything in "The Enquire" was made up of conspiracy theories or outright lies.
We live in a capitalist society, and so the thing we are taught to respect most, above compassion, decency, intelligence, and truth; is money. With money, you can buy the "truth", which will make you even more money. Advertisements are made to look like trusted articles, news networks are ruthlessly biased in politics, skewing everything to the left or far right and every truth has a spin.
Politicians are the shadows, and the puppets are the lobbyists, put there by corporations to feed us our reality. We don't dig deeper into the articles to look for the source to see if it's credible or not. We don't dig deeper into understanding why a new law is being introduced, we simply go by the soundbites thrown into commercials to persuade us to vote in certain ways - even when it is against our own interests. The more we are exposed to the soundbites, the more we believe them, and whomever can afford the most airtime for their soundbites wins.
During our last presidential election, propaganda was all over our news feeds and so were last minute diversions to swing votes in important states, possibly orchestrated by foreign countries. It worked because some of us like it in our safe warm cave. Even now that promises are broken, and true intentions are revealed, people choose to stay in their caves, completely dedicated to their reality.
These cave dwellers don't belong to a single group of people though, blind devotion happens everywhere. Looking into the light is painful, and no one likes pain. Our own shadows on the wall are our echo-chambers that reinforce our reality and our unbreakable devotion.
Taking a step back, however (I get carried away when it comes to politics), Facebook is also a cave, put in place by the users themselves. The selfies are there as their shadow, telling us what life is supposed to look like, though these are only snippets of our reality. They're props and advertisements to the life they want others to think they have; and we buy it. We want to be just like you, and with every courtesy "like", we fall deep into the darkness. We become intellectually, mentally and emotionally stumped. By seeing how "happy" everyone else is, we feel like we are falling behind. We skip going above, because then I won't be the first to know, when the cave tells me that Nik will "Be skipping this movie" [Actual status update].
The Vietnam War was not justified and not popular.
The Vietnam War has been a highly controversial war on the subject of whether or not fighting it was worth it, as far as the men who were drafted, and the many lives that were lost in the loosely given truth that we were fighting against communism. First, we will explore the argument against the war from a veteran who was there to witness the war firsthand in his testimony. Next we will look at Richard Nixon’s speech he gave, urging for the war, to the American people via television entitled “Silent Majority” (Nixon). Lastly, we see how Nixon’s claim to be speaking for the silent majority, compared to Kerry’s information from fellow soldiers and his testimony.
John Kerry was the leader of the veterans’ organization and opposed the war in Vietnam who testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Kerry stated that we had gone to war under false pretenses. Although North Vietnam was a communist party, the people he came across could not tell the difference between a Democratic or Communist party who wanted nothing to do with the war and wished that the Americans would leave their country so they can go on living their lives in peace. The Southern Vietnamese “practiced the art of survival by siding with whichever military force was present at a particular time, be it Vietcong, North Vietnamese, or American” (Vietnam War Veteran John Kerry’s Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee). Vietnam was a country who was in the middle of a civil war that had fought from the colonization from France, and the number of lives lost would have been significantly lower, and the war period perhaps shorter had we simply stayed out of it. Instead of protecting, and helping the Vietnamese people, he and other soldiers had witnessed or had taken part of savage and immoral acts such as decapitation, rape, humiliation, and other war crimes. American presence in Vietnam had only made the lives of the Vietnamese people worse, and it had taken the lives of thousands of Vietnamese and American men, in a war that had already been lost, but we refused to concede.
Former president Richard Nixon was composed and seated in a position of power when he delivered his speech “The Silent Minority” (Nixon) via television. Nixon explained that we were keeping communism from spreading, at first with aide, and then with troops to Southern Vietnam because China and Russia – powerful communist countries – were assisting Northern Vietnam in the war and that the freedom of those people was “everybody’s business” (Nixon). Nixon claimed that South Vietnam was gaining ground, and we would be withdrawing more of our troops through Vietnamization. Nixon also suggested that the people opposed to the war were far lower in number than those for the war, they were simply more vocal. He suggested that what he was doing was not going against popular opinion; he was making decisions in the interest of the silent majority.
Kerry pointed out that “[t]here is no threat. The Communists are not about to take over our McDonald hamburger stands” (Vietnam War Veteran John Kerry’s Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee), and that we were not liberating the Vietnamese, we were, in fact, suppressing and killing them. He stated how he “saw firsthand how money from American taxes was used for a corrupt dictatorial regime” (Vietnam War Veteran John Kerry’s Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee). Kerry addressed Nixon’s plan of Vietnamization, when he says “[n]ow we are told that the men who fought there must watch quietly while American lives are lost so that we can exercise the incredible arrogance of Vietnamizing the Vietnamese…” (Vietnam War Veteran John Kerry’s Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee), and suggests that the real reason we don’t withdraw is simply because Nixon doesn’t want to be the first American president to lose a war, despite what Nixon has said. Kerry also refutes Nixon’s claim of the silent majority, by mentioning many people who oppose the war who also aren’t speaking up, by presenting a survey and being accompanied by fellow members of the VVAW. The weight of a testimony from a soldier who has paid the price with sweat, tears, and blood, is heavier than that of a man who all he has to loose, is face. Though Kerry had time to prepare for his testimony, not having a speech written ahead of time gives him more credibility in his version of events that has helped me come to the conclusion that the war in Vietnam was not worth the cost in lives and in currency.
Vietnam War and Democracy
Before America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, Vietnam had been involved in a war with the French for decades and China for centuries for their independence. During the US war with Vietnam, North Vietnam was supported by communist countries, while South Vietnam was supported by countries against communism- which was the reason given to Americans as to why we were joining the battle. This proxy war ended in 1975 when Nixon finally pulled the US out due to its unpopularity and the turmoil it caused on American soil. Thanks in part of its first of a kind media coverage which was broadcasted on the television, ordinary Americans who first supported the war joined intellectuals and students in anti-war marches and protests that escalated and cost the lives of students, and ultimately, convinced the president of the United States to end the war in Vietnam.
The French occupied Vietnam to exploit them for cheap labor, but eventually Vietnam nationalists were able to take back their country thanks Ho Chi Minh who was a communist and loved by the people. The French government left Vietnam and free elections were to be held in two years. The US was concerned that Ho Chi Minh would be victorious and would bring the south and north parts of Vietnam together as a communist country. Despite Ho being a Nationalist and having the support of the Vietnam people, the US set up their own puppet in South Vietnam by providing Ngo Dinh Diem with financial and public relations support because of their concerns of communism spreading.
What I have learned from this, is that we meddled in their election, instead of helping Vietnam become democratic, we rigged their system and placed someone in power that, had we not meddled, may have not been elected. Our American ideals clouded our judgement, and instead of truly being the world’s peacekeeper, we have been the world’s Grim Reaper. If the majority of people want a communist leader, have they not democratically made their choice? Do we only support democracy when people make the choice we want them to make? Placing Dinh in power failed because it was not organic, and appointing yourself as a referee, you need to be sure that you are honest enough to not have favorites, and not help your favorite team win. This war was not about doing the right thing for Vietnam, this was a power-struggle between big countries using Vietnam soil. China and the Soviet Union were supportive to Ho Chi Mingh, and the US did not care that the people supported Ho, they were simply against Vietnam becoming a communist country.
Government was free to report war news to its citizens as they chose before the Vietnam War. Television stations now had the capacity to broadcast coverage on their news channels to show its audience what was actually happening. Though some soldiers were told to tell their stories differently than how they truly happened, Americans were now getting more pieces of the truth than they had before. War was now “real” and the glory of war had now been unmasked, showing the horror that it truly is. Television showed the soldiers behaving in the same ways that the enemy behaved, doing the same atrocities that we looked down on our enemy for.
For those married to, or parents of someone in combat, seeing these images of war was especially stressful, though that coverage was also stressful for men who fell into the age bracket who were eligible to be drafted. This coverage gave citizens the reason to protest an unwinnable and costly war.
The war being televised is important because it gave people a glimpse of the truth. Freedom of the press is crucial in keeping citizens informed, and is crucial to our checks and balances to keep Government honest. Despite Government trying to spin the war and hide the fact that not only were we not winning, but there seemed no end in sight. The images gave men who were drafted a glimpse of what was waiting for them, and the rest of the country what we were exposing our youth to.
The antiwar movement originally started with a small group of intellectuals in college campuses, but grew in size when the war escalated and seemed unwinnable. College students, who are encouraged to rationalize scrutinize everything and think for themselves, did not agree to a war that had no clear objectives, had taken many lives on all sides, and men were being recruited to die for something they did not believe in.
When the movement first happened, these protesters were seen as un-American, communists, and cowards. “Kids” were supposed to listen to authority, they were supposed to do as they were told, they were expected to follow orders, and they were expected to be soldiers off the field in their mentality. Finally, the war took too long, the coverage you saw on the television became too real, and the draft threatened your safety, or the safety of someone you cared for. Some men fled to Canada to avoid going to Vietnam, others burned their draft cards and risked being imprisoned. The draft became a social issue since men from wealthy families could get deferments; most of the men that were drafted were working class and poor. “American forces in Vietnam included twenty-five percent poor, fifty-five percent working-class, twenty percent middle-class men, but very few came from upper-classes families” (Valentine). Finally, when enough people protested and marched, democracy finally won and Nixon formally ended the war in Vietnam.
The freedom of assembly was violated then and it continues to be now. Activists is what has made America the country that it is today. We have power in protests, we must make our voices heard, and changes need to be made when the majority have spoken. That is what a democracy is. Allowing something to happen simply because it is the law is cowardly, in order to live in a country we can be proud of, we must keep it accountable, and we must not be afraid to face harm for speaking our mind. While the United States intervened in making Vietnam a democratic country, we failed to keep our standards of democracy on our own land. We brought war onto our schools, and made the draft-eligible students our enemy.
War, unfortunately, is a necessary evil, however it must be used only when there isn’t any other way, once diplomacy has been exhausted and sanctions have proven to be useless. We must allow countries to rise up and find their voice, and help where needed, but we cannot and should not interfere and rig their elections. If the United States has placed itself as an example of a democratic Nation, we must hold ourselves to a much higher standard. Shooting at those who protest is a violation to our rights. Peacefully and even slightly aggressively protesting should not end in death, it is our civic right, duty and our responsibility as American citizens. Maurice Zeitlin (Kenner) said it best:
I have only respect for the men who fought in that war, because they didn’t make the war, they didn’t choose to fight in that war, but they accepted a responsibility that they thought was theirs as an American citizen, okay? They carried the burden of being an American citizen. When they were sent to war, they fought. And I carried the burden, not at all comparable, of being an American citizen by opposing that war. And I had the choice and they didn’t. And, for that, I was privileged and they weren’t, but we were both doing our duty.
Cause and Effect; The Fall of Neighborhoods
For many generations, the American Dream didn’t need to include any education higher than a high-school diploma. In what was the backbone to our economy, blue-collar jobs had almost always been there, providing a comfortable living for a single-income family. Neighborhoods thrived thanks to social involvement, and pride of the town over individualism. Deregulation of corporations, advancement in technology and profit-driven mentality is driving jobs away, and keeping wages low. The killers of the “American Dream” are corporations that automate and outsource blue collar jobs, which widens income inequality, removes our commitment to society and erodes our once-safe neighborhoods.
For the past generations since the Great Depression, a person who did not want higher education, could find a well-paying skilled job. What that single-income household provided, was the opportunity for their children to go to college had they wanted to, for the mother to stay home with the kids, and a picket fence home in a friendly neighborhood. The men all worked at the same plant and enjoyed healthcare and pensions, stay-at-home moms in need of social interaction, would get to know the rest of their neighbors. This rapport made neighborhoods safe enough for their children to go out and play.
Corporations have become too big to fail, and their focus is solely on their profit margins. Technology has made it easy to outsource and automate jobs, and free trade allows these companies to get cheaper labor from people living in countries with lower standards of living, and “[y]ou cannot compete with poverty unless you are poor” (LeDuff and Frazier). Many factories have moved or closed, leaving towns thirsting for jobs. People from these town must decide between moving to metropolitan cities, where the jobs are- but cost of living is higher- or take on much lower paying positions. Some may stay in their neighborhood, but will downgrade their living arrangements to match their income.
The middle class has been most affected by this, “Middle-income neighborhoods as a proportion of all metropolitan neighborhoods declined from 58 percent in 1970 to 41 percent in 2000” (Booza, Cutsinger, and Galster). Those who are college-educated and in a higher income bracket, have not had their lives change as drastically – at least not yet. Those who are the top once percent have only increased their wealth, as they tend to own shares in the corporations shipping out what were once, exclusively American jobs. Americans now live in social echo chambers and similar financial status communities, where college educated individuals will pair off, with the weight of student debt keeping them in the city, waiting longer to start a family. In contrast, low-income individuals will pair off and even with their two low-income jobs, cannot afford to gain higher income status.
“As individualism, selfishness, and greed in the United States have grown, civic commitment and a sense of responsibility to society have declined” (“Neighborhood – Loss of The Neighborhood”). People will spend time on social sites while choosing to ignore their responsibility to their immediate environment. We no longer take the time to know the person living next door to us, people no longer have the interest, or time to go to community gatherings, voice their opinions, or even make up their opinion on the direction of their town, city, or state.
In a capitalist society, only those who have the most capital win, because if you don’t have it, you will work yourself to the grave making those above you richer. This is exhausting when you fall into the low-income bracket, and those who once held middle-income jobs are quickly falling into it. With workers working hard not to fall into poverty, or are already in it, it’s easy to see how this can negatively affect them as individuals, and then indirectly, the neighborhoods they live in. There is no longer trust, confidence, or a sense of security in their lives and neighborhoods. Streets once were alive with children playing together, but “Children, like an endangered species, now find refuge behind screens in the safety of their homes and through participation in organized sports and activities” (Playworld).