Looking at photos of the demonstrations in Chicago reminds me a little of the Democratic National Convention in 1968. During that steamy summer, Chicago exploded as protesters gathered there to show solidarity against the war in Vietnam.
Once again, we the people are pissed off about our money being spent on wars abroad instead of people in need both here and abroad. Many of us see this as a gathering of warmongers. Veterans marched to return their medals and people by the tens of thousands supported them.
While news outlets were describing the “hundreds” who came out to protests, we see pictures of tens of thousands filling the streets.
We see photos of unruly crowds, just as we did in 1968, but we also see people who are peaceful, who want nothing more than to express their thoughts in a land that boasts freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.
I have been to many demonstrations in my time. I wish I could be in Chicago today.
In 1968, we were told we couldn’t leave Vietnam because the Communists would overrun South Vietnam and then all the neighboring countries and then go on to conquer the world, known as the “Domino Theory.” It was “fight ‘em there or fight ‘em here.” Today that same argument is being used to keep us in Afghanistan for 11 years and counting. Terrorists will come and kill us in our sleep.
Well, the Commies didn’t show up on our shores, and if we stop meddling with the governments of the Middle East, the terrorists will have no reason to come after us.
War is a very profitable endeavor when it’s not your country that’s being shot up or bombed back to the stone age.
The most important difference between our most recent wars and the war in Vietnam is the lack of information Americans today receive about what’s really happening. Correspondents in Afghanistan have to fight to get any stories on the evening news. Reporters are “embedded” rather than allowed to go in search of the truth.
During the Vietnam war, we saw the horrors every night on the news. We watched as American soldiers torched villages where they suspected Vietcong soldiers were hiding. We saw a man executed by a gunshot to the head, we saw children lit afire with napalm. We saw our own gravely wounded soldiers loaded up into helicopters.
We aren’t allowed to see that now, because if we did, we would demand this slaughter in our name be stopped immediately. This war isn’t as unpopular at home as the Vietnam war was because we’re not seeing the destruction being wrought in our name. That’s how NATO wants it, and that’s why we have to stop it.
Average Americans aren’t being asked to contribute anything to the war effort except our sons and daughters, who may be deployed three, four or five times before they are too broken to be deployed again, unless, of course, they die.
Like Vietnam, it isn’t the wealthy whose children are going to fight. During Vietnam, the wealthy could buy spots for their children in the National Guard after they had run out their college deferments. Back then, the Guard didn’t deploy overseas; we had the draft to fill the ranks of the regular military services. But the draft is so unpopular politically we now recruit poor kids out of high school and promise them a college education when they get back — if they get back.
In Vietnam, the majority of draftees were from the working class. The wealthier you were, the better your chances for avoiding the draft, either through college deferments or medical deferments (I’m thinking of Rush Limbaugh’s anal cysts). It’s no coincidence that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the rest of the chicken hawks never served in the military (well, George’s daddy got him into the National Guard, where we all know his record of not showing up).
Meanwhile, military contractors are lining their pockets with billions of our tax dollars. The rich are getting richer while the rest of us are getting screwed.
Is it any wonder Americans are crowding into the streets of Chicago to protest?
Leslie Boyd, a former newspaper reporter, is president of the health care advocacy nonprofit, WNC Health Advocates, founded in memory of her son, who died in 2008 because he couldn't access health care. E-mail her at leslie at lettersfromtheleft dot com or follow her on Twitter @leftyletters1, visit Letters from the Left on Facebook. For more information about WNC Health Advocates or to read Boyd's health care blog, visit wncha.org.