As the Vietnam war dragged on into its second decade with no perceptible end in sight, and American casualties mounted along with its atrocities, young men who had received deferments because of their student status found themselves increasingly in jeopardy as graduation approached, and the promised end to hostilities failed to materialize. Atrocities mounted with indiscriminate massive bombing with both explosives and napalm reaching new heights. The hatred for the authority of national leaders whose platitudes and slogans had proved false spread to a distrust of students for all traditional authority figures, causing students to question the authority of all those in positions of power and/or dominance. From the President and Joint Chief s of staff to college and university administrations and parents, students began to question the way things were done, and to demand the "real" reasons behind collective and individual behavior patterns. Students, now being called on to kill and die, wanted to know the truth, free of cant, platitudes, and propaganda.

Once the traditional arguments were dismissed as meaningless, hope would be born for a new world free of tradition's savage competition, hatred for others and desire for power. Free of materialistic enslavement we would see the error of the old ways and people everywhere could live in peace. The idea encompassed every sort of freedom, beginning with freedom from racial, and sexual, and religious biases, from the arrogance of power, and stupidity, and from disregard for the environment and life. The Calvinist idea that power, and money were synonymous with righteousness was challenged by students who were its potential victims by being inculcated into the system's meanness of spirit.

That such ideas were greeted by administrative repression against anything but "business as usual" on campus, and in the White Houses of both Johnson, and ultimately Nixon and divided a country grown increasingly querulous as our own corpses and maimed returned from the battlefields of Viet Nam. Finally, when Hai Phong Harbor was mined, Cambodia invaded and the heaviest bombing of civilians since World War II unleashed, campuses erupted and unarmed students were fired on and killed at Jackson State and Kent State by police, on one hand, and the National Guard on the other.

  World War2
  Beats & counterculture
  Civil Rights
  Student Unrest
  Gender Issues
  The Age of Aquarius
  Urban Riots


University of Miami    English Department    History Department    Otto G. Richter Library    Comments