Rootsie, a young teen hippie coming of age during in the mid-1960s, saw the evils of the Vietnam War, which included the unnecessary deaths of fellow Americans who fought a war that could have been avoided, as many may argue. Hence, she overlooked the superficialities of the Vietnam War that the government imposed upon America to gain a deeper truth about the hippies: “these people were saying that spiritual enlightenment can save the world, bring an end to war and injustice” (Roostie). Like Rootsie’s beliefs, the hippies sought to express their opinions about the Vietnam War through protests and communal gatherings, resulting in a nationwide influence of fighting for a specific cause.Prior to the Vietnam War, American propaganda was used to gain increased support for World War II through all various forms of media, which included posters, advertising, comic books, radios, movies and more, ultimately resulting in over a million American casualties. It wasn’t until the hippie movement, beginning in the early 1960s, that sparked the uprising of political activism through organizations and citizens that pursued similar interests and goals. Instead of conforming to the western American ideals that sought to make peace through war, the hippies rebelled by forming anti-war marches and protests. In protest to the Vietnam War, US citizens banded together through the principles of the Hippie culture, creating a powerful yet peaceful anti-war movement that the US government could not simply ignore, ultimately bringing an end to the war.
During the early 1960s, when the ethics of the hippie culture arose, hippies were associated with the countercultural movement that was against the mores of mainstream American life. The origins of hippies rest in the Beatniks of earlier eras, mainly the 1950s. This “hippie” movement originated on college campuses, eventually spreading to other countries, including Britain and Canada. Like the Beatniks, Hippies often felt alienated from middle-class America, which they saw as dominated by materialism and repression. Most importantly, hippies abided by the message of “make love, not war,” which remains as a prevalent ideal of the hippie culture. Hippies never sought to resolve war through militant actions, but instead believed that peace was the best route to undertake. As the Vietnam War approached, many Americans voiced their concerns and opposition of the war, believing that war was the wrong solution to conflict between North and South Vietnam. A lot of the beginning protesters were college students, where a majority of them protested on college campuses that concerned their beliefs about the Vietnam War. Students joined the antiwar movement because they did not want to fight in a foreign war that they believed did not concern them or because they were morally opposed to all war. Others disliked the war because it diverted funds and attention away from problems in the U.S. Intellectual growth and gaining a liberal perspective at college caused many students to become active in the antiwar movement. Much like hippies, these students advocated non-violence through protests, which allowed them to express their thoughts while gaining local and national attention from the media.
College students expressed their disrelish for the war mainly through protests and gatherings, vocalizing their frustrated feelings towards the war. Within colleges, students had formed groups around an organization called Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). SDS was an antiwar organization which organized protests and marches throughout the Vietnam War. On November 27, 1965 there was a major anti-war demonstration in Washington, D.C. at which Carl Oglesby, the new SDS president, made a very successful speech, addressed to the liberal crowd and in circuitous terms alleged that the United States government wasimperialistin nature. While receiving a standing ovation, the speech resulted in an extensive press coverage and increased national reputation for SDS. This creation of an anti-war movement organization portrays the banding of students coming together, fighting for a specific cause through one of the ideals of the hippie culture: non-violence. Additionally, instead of rioting to convey one’s message to the nation, Oglesby displays a powerful and moving act by peacefully voicing his thoughts about the American government and its involvement with the Vietnam War. An example of a protest organized by Students for a Democratic Society occurred at the prestigious Harvard University. One tutor in Government sympathetic to SDS went on to say, “As soon as you start to talk about Vietnam, you begin to have doubts about your government” (Singal).
As protests against the Vietnam War began to amass, not just students, but also citizens of the US, began to question the credibility of the government. The supporters were educated about the goals of the gathering, and the protest went into effect. Over 200 students amassed in the main university building and protested until police arrived to control the rally. Many students were injured or arrested after SDS called for a strike. For the first time, Harvard was shut down for a short period of time due to injuries that resulted from this protest. It is through spreading of these non-violent protests against the war that helped anti-war supporters gain national recognition. The spike in support in 1968 was mostly due in part to the successful Tet Offensive by North Vietnamese troops against US and South Vietnamese troops. This period of time sent many Americans into feelings of discontent towards the government, and shock, to say the least. A survey asking many Americans about the actions of the President showed that more than half of the American society disproved of Johnson’s actions towards war: “Lyndon B. Johnson, [declined] to run for re-election as his approval rating slumped from 48 to 36 percent” (Wikipedians). As proven by Johnson’s decline in approval rating, many more supporters believed that entering the Vietnam War was a wrongdoing. This goes on to prove that the government could not ignore the voice of the people, which was heavily influenced through formations of organizations and protestors. Before 1965, there were little to no protests against the war in Vietnam, even after America declared its open involvement.
This was due in part to the American society and its positive stand on the commander-in-chief’s decisions. The government assured Americans that intervention in South Vietnam would be for the good of United States and the rest of the world. Without America halting the events to just Vietnam, the government believed similar events and the spread of communism would transpire elsewhere, calling it the Domino Theory. Even if protests were to happen, Congress was in full support of President Johnson and his decisions of US involution, which would later have a negative view by society as protests across the nation disapproved of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The late sixties and early seventies paved way for a time named the hippy movement where people of this time were conflicted with the events of foreign intervention. “Hippies” preached love, not war. Consisting of mostly the youth of American society, many of the supporters stood together and contravened what was thought to be ‘right’. Additionally, media added to the reasons to back the hippies up. The Vietnam War was the first war to be broadcasted to the public, turning many of the population against it. Broadcasts could show things like death tolls and real footage of combat, fortifying much of the American society’s opinion. Television assuredly publicized why the US shouldn’t be intervening in Vietnam. Without the numerous protests against the war, national recognition of the wrongdoings of America’s placement in the war would later become nationally popular. The TV made people realize that war was not what it was believed as. Scenes of real combat showed a lot of death and blood portraying how gruesome the war actually was. Many “hippie gatherings” took place in the US and had large effects. One in particular was the “Flower Power” incident. In Berkeley, California, land designated for a building was isolated, where it became overgrown with plant-life and polluted. Hippies took this as an opportunity and began planting gardens in the lot of land to show a symbol of tranquility.
This symbol of tranquility conveys the sign of peace, and can be metaphorically seen as the hope of removing American troops from Vietnam; however, this act was illegal due to the rights of land ownership, but hippies continued to express their emotions through non-violent acts. Eventually, the National Guard intervened, but occurred after hippies began planting in numerous Berkeley locations. Another, very famous hippie gathering was known as Woodstock. Woodstock was a music festival where many musicians performed in front of over 500,000 hippies. The musicians personified the culture and the anti-war, pro-peace feelings. This gathering displayed the real effect of the time period; no one really expected the large audience, but Woodstock immediately became known as a symbol for the time period and the movement they came to embrace. These gatherings illustrated a sense of unity that arose through people with similarities banding together to represent the hippie ideals of love and human fellowship, which would later seem to have gained real-world expression. These two instances exemplify a prevailing moment in history in which the ideals of love and peace were expressed most evidently that would entail the nearing of the end of the Vietnam War. The protesting caused by the Vietnam War was one of the most pervasive displays of opposition towards governmental action. All throughout the United States, groups, young and old, were brought together for one common goal. That goal was to end the involvement in a war that was believed to unnecessary considering the circumstances. From small park lawns, to the lawns of the White House, people were vocal and their goal to be heard was eventually met. In a 1971 survey about the public opinion supporting the Vietnam War, conducted by William Lunch and Peter Sperlich, 28 percent of Americans favored the war. As opposed to over half of the country favoring the war in 1961, the decline in support for US involvement goes on to show that organizations and forming of citizens did indeed make an impact on the public opinion about the war.
Surprisingly, through the ideals of the hippie culture, which involves peace, US citizens were able to effectively implement a powerful anti-war movement that would have a major influence on the government’s withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam. The 30-year antiwar movement had its positive and influential effect that would later be marked down as a historical moment in American history. Through the nation-wide development of anti-war organizations and citizens, the government would later acknowledge the opinions about the people, eventually leading to the end of the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War was a milestone for the United States as it demonstrated to the world that in a democracy, citizens do have a voice that can make an impact on the world. Through numerous non-violent protests that were organized by citizens uniting to fight for a specific cause that they believed was immoral, protestors, along with the exposure of the brutality of the Vietnam War, eventually brought an end to the Vietnam War. As many hippies and citizens with similar ideals would argue, the United States had produced an event that was shameful to American society, yet the people of America responded by expressing their beliefs. With determination to end what was wrong, and by preaching what was right, an admirable accomplishment of the antiwar movement had took its toll, and the events of this time period still effect American society today.
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