Vietnam Photo Analysis, Essay Example

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Essay

Safety in Numbers: Opposing Large Groups by Becoming One

According to our class lectures, in 1960 only thirty percent of American homes belonged in the middle class, but that was beginning to change. Jeans and tie-dyed flags peppered the scenery in the photograph taken from a 1968 Berkeley protest against the Vietnam War. Given the cultural trends of the day, this is unsurprising. However, these protestors formed a tight community; their influence upon popular culture probably indicated that there was some form of meaning behind the low-key fashions embraced during the mid-60’s. (”Consumer Culture”). After the baby boom of the WWII period, the  next generation’s coming-of-age faced an increased population and quickly-spreading consumer culture; its young people, such as the protesters, viewed most large system as corrupt, detached, and immoral, creating a backlash against consumer goods and spawning appreciation for a minimalist and arts and crafts movement.

Amidst the fervor of the crowd, the diversity of its participants stands out. Demonstrators appear to be Caucasian, Asian, and African American, men and women, shirtless and shirt-tucked-in traditional. There was even a man in a striped shirt which evokes memories of reading the Where’s Waldo? books. There are that many people, less noticeable in their shared diversity. The US already struggled with conflict on several social fronts, and many citizens did not want to become involved in a violent international conflict. The era emphasized the individual, which, in turn, created a greater respect for human rights and less support for the war in Vietnam. Benjamin Harrison writes that the increasing focus on the Vietnam War diverted public attention from the Civil Rights movement, essentially halting cultural reform. (261)

Even within the range of protestors at this one particular rally, the emotions shown in their faces shows the nature of American public opinion; there was none. The photograph frequently shows pride, hope, and anger, but the general tone seems to be one of disillusionment and activism. Popular opinion virtually disappeared, and factions gained power to influence and recruit believers in their specific philosophies. Despite the generations disdain for large systems, the culture of protesters inadvertently made the American military members of the Vietnam War a target of their oppositional stance. Looking at the picture, there is a poignant sense of the fine line between a large group and a mob, and many returning veterans of the Vietnam War would discover this first-hand.

In this sense, many Americans felt that dissenting was their patriotic duty. Every face looks forward—not back. In the photograph, there are clearly many peace signs and “fight the power” raised fists, but the flag which reads “LIBERTY OR DEATH” identifies that their goal was the same—even though their beliefs differed widely regarding law and order, peace and violence, and the method of securing equal rights for all humans. This particular flag gives a clear nod to Patrick Henry’s words during the American Revolution. In this famous speech, Henry asks his audience at the Virginia convention the following: “Has Great Britain any enemy in this quarter of the world, to call for this accumulation of navies and armies?” (“An Appeal” 345) Many of the protesters probably asked themselves the same question- except this time pointing the finger at the aggressive policies of the US. The flag raises these questions and more, as it ironically emphasizes the occasional necessity of violence to resolve international conflict, illustrates that Americans were more preoccupied with their own rights than those of foreign peoples, reiterating the importance of the effects which the baby boom effected on the American economy during that time, and supports the arguments of other citizens who believed that communism was a universal threat to liberty. Presidents Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Johnson still watched the Soviet Union and other Communist countries with a wary eye. (Harrison 262)

Works Cited

“‘An Appeal To Arms And To The God Of Hosts’. (Cover Story).” American Bar Association Journal 61.3 (1975): 345. Academic Search Complete. Web. 1 June 2012.

“Consumer Culture: The Effect of the Baby Boom.” U.S. News and World Report. (Jan. 1957).

“The Vietnam War: Letters from Vietnam.” Anonymous.

Picture Option 5 [Title Unknown]. (1968). <http://www.csupomona.edu/~cgbates/202/antiwarprotest.jpg>. Web. 30 May 2012.

Harrison, Benjamin T. “Impact Of The Vietnam War On The Civil Rights Movement In The Midsixties.” Studies In Conflict & Terrorism 19.3 (1996): 261-278. Academic Search Complete. Web. 1 June 2012.

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