[sixties-l] Critique of Bruce Franklin

From: Sorrento95@aol.com
Date: 10/22/00

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    NOTE: Disregard my earlier post on this. It was sent by
               accident before it was completed.
    In a message dated 20 Oct 2000 2:08:30 PM EST, 
    <epm2@lehigh.edu> writes:  
      [Forwarding Bruce Franklin's article in The Chronicle
       of Higher Education]  
    <Visualize the movement against the Vietnam War. What  
    <do you see? Hippies with daisies in their long,  
    <unwashed hair yelling "Baby killers!" as they spit  
    <on clean-cut, bemedaled veterans just back from  
    <Vietnam? College students in tattered jeans 
    <(their pockets bulging with credit cards) staging a  
    <sit-in to avoid the draft?   
    Oh, please, Bruce. Credit cards did not even become available to
    the general public until 1970, when standards were established for
    the magnetic strip. It is extremely doubtful that very many college 
    students even had them in the early 70s. 
    (See www.didyouknow.com/creditcards.htm).  
    >We are thus depriving ourselves -- or being deprived --
    >of one legitimate source of great national pride  
    >about American culture and behavior during the war.  
    >In most wars, a nation dehumanizes and demonizes  
    >the people on the other side. Almost the opposite 
    >happened during the Vietnam War.   
    Rubbish. Franklin makes it appear as though there was 
    a vast consensus all along that the U.S was wrong and that 
    the NLF and North Vietnamese were good guys. More realistic 
    historians have observed that the polarization within the American 
    public during that time had never been greater since the Civil War. 
    There were plenty of people who demonized the Vietnamese. 
    Mass public opinion didn't start to turn against the war until the 
    US body count started to become intolerably high, and many began
    to perceive that the US was not going to win.  
    >One would never be able to guess from public  
    >discourse that for every American veteran of  
    >combat in Vietnam, there must be 20 veterans  
    >of the antiwar movement. 
    The above statement is very dubious. I don't know how many 
    combat veterans there are from the Vietnam war.  I recall that 
    U.S. ground troops were engaged there in significant numbers 
    for roughly eight years, and that peak troop strength was about 
    half a million. Tours of duty were 13 months.  Let's estimate a 
    million combat veterans. Who are the 20 million antiwar movement 
    veterans, and how  does one qualify for the status  of movement 
    "veteran"? Can one claim this status by merely having signed one 
    petition against the war at some time?   
    <Who opposed the war? Contrary to the impression 
    <promulgated by the media then, and overwhelmingly 
    <prevalent today, opposition to the war was not 
    <concentrated among affluent college students. 
    <In fact, opposition to the war was inversely 
    <proportional to both wealth and education. 
    <Blue-collar workers generally considered themselves 
    <"doves" and tended to favor withdrawal from Vietnam, 
    <while those who considered themselves "hawks" and 
    <supported participation in the war were  
    <concentrated among the college-educated, high-income
    <strata. For example, a Gallup poll in January 1971 
    <showed that 60 percent of those with a college 
    <education favored withdrawal of U.S. troops 
    <from Vietnam, 75 percent of those with a high-school 
    <education favored withdrawal, and 80 percent of those 
    <with only a grade-school education favored withdrawal.  
    More rubbish. Franklin mentions the Gallup poll. Let's
    investigate to see exactly what the Gallup organization
    said on this question. The data were published in the March 
    1971 issue of The Gallup Opinion Index. It does not disclose 
    the percentage of "college students" who favored withdrawal. 
    It presents this data for "college-educated" persons of all ages. 
    Thus, there is no basis for the comparison which Franklin 
    presumes to make.
    Further, from the data Franklin cites there is no basis to conclude 
    that blue-collar workers were generally "doves," if by "dove" we 
    mean someone who was opposed to the war on MORAL grounds, 
    as were antiwar activists. I can remember seeing bumper stickers 
    proclaiming "Win or Get Out" [of Vietnam]. Many of these types 
    began to favor withdrawal only after seeing that the U.S. was not 
    going to win and after the American body counts became intolerably 
    high. These folks clearly were not "doves."
    More realistic is the assessment of Jerome Skolnick, author of The 
    Politics of Protest, who writes (p. 58):
       The most striking fact about the movement, and its  
       most obvious handicap, is that it has had to rely 
       largely on middle-class professionals and 
       preprofessional students. ...With notable exceptions, 
       rank-and-file American workingmen have not supported 
       the peace movement...
    <Opposition to the war was especially intense among 
    <people of color, though they tended not to participate 
    <heavily in the demonstrations called by student and 
    <pacifist organizations.  One reason for their caution 
    <was that people of color often had to pay a heavy
    <price for protesting the war. 
    Oh, please, Bruce. Don't try to convince me I was spared the
    reprisals of political repression because of the alleged "privilege" 
    of my white skin. In the course of my activism I suffered libel, 
    slander, loss of employment, discrimination in educational and 
    job opportunity, imprisonment, FBI dirty tricks, and being disowned 
    by my father. And certainly, I am not claiming any unique 
    martyrdom here. Who were the defendants in the major trials of 
    antiwar demonstrators -- Chicago 7, Catonsville 9, Oakland 7, 
    Spock, Ellsberg, Gainesville 8 (and maybe some others which 
    don't come to mind at the moment)? Correct me if I am wrong, 
    but the only non-white known to me from this list was Bobby 
    Seale. Don't forget the four kids slaughtered at Kent State. They
    were all white.  Repression of dissent is truly color-blind.
    <For speaking out in 1966 against drafting black men to 
    <fight in Vietnam,  Julian Bond was denied his seat in 
    <the Georgia legislature.  Muhammad Ali was stripped of 
    <his title as heavyweight boxing  champion and was 
    <criminally prosecuted for draft resistance.  
    John Ratliff, my white SDS colleague and fellow student at 
    the University of Oklahoma, was punitively reclassified as I-A
    for the draft because of his SDS membership.  This episode is
    written up in Kirkpatrick Sale's book SDS.  Following much 
    expression of outrage his II-S deferment was restored.
    <There are three principal misconceptions about the 
    <college antiwar movement. First, it was not motivated 
    <by students' selfish desire to avoid the draft, which 
    <was relatively easy for most college men to do and 
    <automatic for women. 
    Excuse me, but I have absolutely no shame over the fact
    that one reason I opposed the war was that I did not want
    to die in it. On my own behalf, though, I will add that I was 
    involved in antiwar activity through the spring of 1974, even 
    though I luckily drew a high enough number (327) to insulate 
    me from the draft in the December 1969 lottery.
    I think Franklin glamorizes the movement a bit much. We 
    activists were as human as anyone else, and one reason I 
    joined the movement was because I had a vision of enjoying 
    a society better than the one in which I found myself. I don't 
    know where Franklin was in the 60s or what he was doing, 
    but in general it appears to me that sixties activism is being
    mythologized in academia by a people who just weren't there, 
    and don't know what they're talking about.  
    Someone whose name escapes me at the moment once said
    that "history is a bag of tricks the living play on the dead."  I'm
    not even dead yet, and the tricks are already happening.  I shudder
    at the thought of 60s activists having to depend upon English
    professors to record our role in history.
      ~ Michael Wright
         Norman, Oklahoma

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