21 thoughts on “Beyond Vietnam”

  1. Thank you for sharing your personal story. It is very true that the US government sends troops outside its borders to fight wars and calls it “peace.” This is the reason why the US is globally viewed as the nation most barring international peace. What stood out to me in your story was the part that you saw the American soldiers and were shocked that a black man was serving the American “empire.” While you had previously felt a kinship with African Americans, this experience made you realize that you weren’t aware of the full African American experience in the US.

    1. I agree with Sofia, thank you for sharing your story. For me, it was Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” having grown up around those pizza parlor folk, feeling horrified by how cruel they were about Mookie and his buddies. I can see how confused you might have been, why would this Black soldier stand side by side with these white men, knowing that if it weren’t for being in the trenches, there’d be this great divide, this chasm of racism.

    2. Thank you! there is indeed a big gap between how people see the role of the US in the world and how Americans perceive it.
      that was such a shocking moment, not just to me but to many people in the Middle East who don’t know much about America, and see Black people on TV either in Hollywood movies or in clash with the police.

  2. I agree that MLK’s depth of politics is washed out and hidden from public knowledge, his views clearly extend far beyond solely the civil rights movement. It is also true that the U.S. often gets involved with international affairs which is often motivated by a want to reaffirm the worldview that the U.S. is a leading global power. However, through entering both the Vietnam and Iraq wars, the U.S. saw many lives lost and trillions of dollars spent on a fight that was not necessarily theirs to begin with. It’s also interesting the manner in which such wars are often presented to the public, the U.S. tends to claim that they are in a state of emergency themselves and entering the war is a must in order to ensure their own survival. There’s always two sides to every coin and when it comes to war, MLK is not so far off in saying that war can do nothing but hurt everyone involved. Now, the main inquiry is usually is it worth the pain and sacrifice? For the Vietnam War, the U.S. wanted to ensure the end of communism. For the Iraq War, it was presented as equivalent to a war against terrorism because of alleged terrorist links and Iraq’s possession of deadly weapons. Would not having become involved earlier lead to a larger war simply later on? It’s hard to say what the genuine outcome would have been had the U.S. not gotten involved. I’m more inclined to believe that the Vietnam War absolutely unnecessary and that the Iraq War could have been withheld until genuinely necessary, if even. Overall, I don’t find that for either war there was enough cause and harm presented to the U.S. at the time in which they got involved.
    – Simran Sharda

    1. Thank you! though I slightly disagree over the Iraq war. they knew that there was no WMD, and the evidence was fabricated.Also there was no evidence of any sort of link between Iraq and 9/11. if they cared about terrorism they would have talked to their ally Saudi Arabia, where the main funders and supporters and perpetrators of 9/11 lived. the Iraq war was all about oil, and about G W Bush proving his manhood to his father.

  3. The speech is considered a turning point in the public opinion of the Vietnam War. Exactly a year later, King was assassinated. Arguably the most prominent motif in King’s speech is silence. At the beginning of his speech, King says “there comes a time when silence is betrayal.” He berates the American public for failing to act or speak up about their concerns regarding martial involvement in southeast Asia and cites the government as an impetus for street violence. He ultimately says that this silence must be broken if a change is to occur and that a course of compassion rather than violence if the Americans are to restore order.

    1. Thank you! I love what you say: “the most prominent motif in King’s speech is silence.” this is a speech as much about him speaking up on what was unfolding as about him reflecting on his own silence up to that point

  4. Hello again. There is another critical movement that occurred in the period of 1965-1975 and that was the advent of the Second Wave of Feminism. From the mid-sixties, when Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, through the mid-seventies, with the ERA not being ratified, feminists protested, a liberation women were advocating, from their oppressive paradigm of housewifery, they too fought for equal rights, they fought against discrimination in the work place, their rally cries spanning from “the problem with no name,” to “the personal is political.” With the first three waves of Feminism, (the Suffragettes chasing the right to vote, being the First Wave) tended to coincide with the civil rights movements: the Abolitionists and the Suffragettes were on their paths at the same time, the civil rights movement of the ’60s coincided with the women’s movement, and in the 90’s, the civil unrest sparked by the Rodney King riots coincided with the Third Wave.

    So yeah, so much was going on in that decade.

    1. Thank you! a very important point. and to whoever sees this comment, PLEASE read Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. It’s the ultimate book on how patriarchy works, and like other great books of history, it never loses its relevance.

  5. I was all ears when you were recounting your experience in Iraq as a journalist. I am always fascinated and interested in listening to these sorts of personal experiences, because you earn a different perspective of the topic from what you are accustomed too. (If we were in class, I would have probably asked you a few questions). Going back to the lecture, something that the professor made me ponder was the comparison between protests from Dr. King’s time and the protests occurring today. The former with their protests were fighting against a broader range of issues, especially the waste of human and financial resources during the Vietnam war. The latter are protesting for justice, education, the end of police brutality and systematic racism. But why is everyone leaving out the matter of war? Many of the resources invested in war and the army in the last fifteen years could have been invested in the well-being of our country and communities. (This is just me thinking aloud)
    Lastly since we are discussing the Vietnam war, I would like to share a personal insight. The perception of communism is very different between United States and Europe. Often, I see communism being described in the US as an evil form of government, comparable to German Nazis. Whereas in Europe communism and socialism is recognized just as another political party but not as existential threat.

    1. Thank you! this is a really important point. it’s not just about the resources. A lot of the military equipment the police have today are in fact brought back from Iraq and now are being used domestically. Imperialism and domestic oppression are more closely tied than people realize.

  6. Hearing what you experienced first hand of being in the presence of American soldiers is the unfortunate reality of many countries in the Middle East. As a Muslim these stories of innocent people being killed by American soldiers in “defense” are ever so common. But also your experience very much reminds me of how parallel it is to the perspective of black peoples in America. So many unarmed and non threatening black people have been killed by police and justified as defense. Again and again we end up with proof that the army and police force in America needs drastic regulation but it being so beloved by so many Americans, whenever regulation is demanded any of those against it start to be question the ones demanding it about their patriotism for this country. Thus making it a critical subject to discuss.

  7. I think one of the reasons why Dr. King was able to identify the issue with the war overseas is that he’s able to see it from multiple angles. Dr. King looked into it and commented that Americans were cruel towards Vietnam, and they should stop waging war against another country for profit. And one thing I appreciate about Dr. King is his sense of priority. He pointed out in this speech that instead of going to war with another country, America should focus on issues such as racial inequality and poverty at home.

  8. The United States has long been known as the “policeman of the world,” but the phrase is in inverted commas, meaning it may not be a compliment. The United States has always seemed keen to meddle in the affairs of other countries in order to consolidate its position as a world power. The U.S. government sent troops to Vietnam to help France re-colonize Vietnam on the grounds that Vietnam was not ready for independence. The United States has invested a lot of manpower, material resources and financial resources, but what was the result? The United States merely delayed Vietnam’s independence for nine years, but it did not prevent Vietnam from achieving independence. The casualties in Vietnam could have been avoided, and the war costs could have been used to help the poor at home.
    In this speech, the content of racial equality touched me very much. Black and white people do the same thing in the battlefield, but at home, black and white people can’t enjoy equal treatment and can’t have equal rights, which is really ironic.

    1. Thank you! the fact that some people take Policeman of the world or the sheriff of the world as complementary phrases shows how deep the problem runs.

  9. A lot of soldiers come back with PTSD and now we are beginning to have the conversations and helping veterans, but I think that what is lost in all of this is the reason WHY they have PTSD. I have a friend that was a Medic in Iraq and he told me about one time when he was patrolling, a child came out and scared him with a gun. He almost responded with fire, but then realized that the child had a water gun and stopped himself. He is also black by the way. The call to serve your country is the belief that you are protecting your people which is what I thought and why I joined the Air Force. I wanted to be part of the change. There is a law that you must disobey and unlawful orders. I thought that by putting myself in the room, I could see first hand what was happening and I’d be there to intervene, or at least my presence would mean something like people would be more hesitant around me. I never had any field experiences like my friend or other soldiers with PTSD and I’m grateful that I was never put into a position like that. A lot of them come back questioning themselves and the world (which is a good thing overall ) But, I also know there are plenty of people that joined the military just so they can kill the taliban, black and white.

  10. As you mentioned, I never knew much about the political views of Dr. King. Obviously his view on social constructs and hierarchy are famous – he’s become a messiah of some sorts for his views on race. It seems as when he died, so did his views on class and how its not just a plight for blacks; its the plight of the poor.

    Your experiences in Iraq were interesting, especially in how everything clicked once it happened. The George W. Bush comments as well, one I never thought of. So true how short memories are, where we have GWB being “preferred” to over Trump. I remember being in middle school during the Invasion of Iraq, watching a seemingly endless stream of Blackhawk helicopters flood the country. A very weird time and my first experience with the atrocities of war. The media almost celebrated this invasion as revenge for 9/11 but failed to see the hypocrisies involved. As the argument raised by Dr. King goes, it seems as for most, the problem has to hit directly at home for most people to care.

  11. One of my favorite things that MLK referred to in his speech was the investment into peace. He expressed how we misallocated our funds, time, and mindfulness into aggression while that could have gone into betterment. I love how MLK speaks, it is hard to find a way to disagree with him. He is so knowledgeable and well-spoken, and he also has the ability to say what he needs to say while appeasing most other sides. He makes his solution to better the treatment of our own people the solution to the communist issue as well. “Our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seeks to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity, and injustice, which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.” He is saying that if the people in our country are happy there would be no reason to become communist. If we make the system we have work for us in the way it should than people would be represented fairly, and our way of government could stay intact.

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