Negligence and Consequences

“… it’s inevitable that we’ve got to bring out the question of the tragic mix-up in priorities. We are spending all of this money for death and destruction, and not nearly enough money for life and constructive development… when the guns of war become a national obsession, social needs inevitably suffer.” – Dr. Martin Luther King

During the era of the Civil Rights movement, another troubling issue was at hand that wasn’t just equality for Americans. The Vietnam War also occupied much of America’s mind. These two significant issues, however, were not being dealt properly by the United State’s government. Part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 included that the government was able to put anyone in prison for up to five years if they are related in some way to a riot (which was defined as “three or more people involving threats of violence”). This shows the government’s feeble attempt to quell civilian unrest while still not directly dealing with it. Much of the focus was instead shifted towards the war. With King’s quote, it demonstrates how much the domestic problems that were not being prioritized were affecting the people. Zinn talks about this because of how much inner turmoil the country was going through and how little it was being focused upon by the government. In a way, it links to the title of the whole chapter, “Or Does it Explode?” There’s only so much something can put pushed to the backseat, or suppress an issue without really focusing on it, before it bursts. With this, Zinn shows the government’s neglect on the matter and its consequences.