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Have you ever wondered if the effects of the Vietnam War Movement help shape and influence the generation we are today? The Civil War Activist’s during the Vietnam war protests played a significant part in America’s history. The Activists banded together to stop the social injustices that were happening in America and in Vietnam. There were a variety of social activists such as Black Panther Party, Feminism Movement, Anti-War Veterans, College Students, and the rising of the Hippie movement culture. My personal question is that; how did Civil Rights Activists and the Anti-Vietnam War Protests, play a part in shaping and influencing the generation that I am in today? During the next few paragraphs, I will be discussing how the Vietnam War Protests influenced culture, human rights, and spread the idea of drugs.
On May 8, 1970, a group of young New York City college students held an anti-Vietnam war protest on Wall Street. This demonstration will end up to be known as the “hard hat riots” because the young students were brutally attacked by construction workers and businessmen but mainly the construction workers. These workers were mainly the working class of Americans and they were angry due to the belief that these college students were privileged and they dared to demonstrate protest against the American government and its traditional ideals. These students displayed with what they believed was the “new notions of manhood” which was to oppose the war by not joining it and to grow out their hair. This new ideal of “manhood” displayed from these college students were indicating that there was a rise of rebellion against the traditional American look and gave rise to what’s known as the counterculture. Americans saw freedom of style as part of self-expression and the right to express one’s own political view. Other Americans saw this as an act of rebellion against the traditional norm and feared it will erode the traditional established social and gender norms.This expression of freedom of style represented self-expression, sexual freedom, and equality for women and minorities. The men at the time not only grow out their hair, but they adapted new fashion trends that embodied a unisex look. The main symbolism for the Hippie was the flower. The flower represents peace and love and were usually everywhere on the hippie look. The most popular color design for the hippie was tie-dye or psychedelic design. They wanted to show that were free spirited as possible and did not conform to the government. The unisex look where you cannot distinguish male from female became the iconic Hippie look. Members of the Black Panther Party also embodied this look. They will usually grow out their afros, and wear traditional African clothing as a way to represent their politics. Feminist’s will try to dress more men like and usually will not conform to the traditional lady look. Feminist will also cut their own hair very short as a way to oppose the traditional standards of feminine beauty. Music has also been a large influence during the Vietnam war, particularly rock and roll. Rock & Roll came up about the same time these movements started, but it was no coincidence. The music was made often to express the social anxieties caused by the Civil Rights Movements. The tone, instrumentation, production style, and lyric content reflected the changes in the social political changes that were happening. The blues, jazz, rhythm, and country all contributed to Rock & Roll. Rock & Roll also served as a gateway for teenagers who were isolated from the movements, gain understanding of the struggles that were happening during that time.
The Vietnam War protests was a shaky time for America’s history. The country was at a turmoil as the people did not trust the government and its ideals. The people wanted to fight for their equality and it led the country in a direction that will forever change its views and its people. Feminists were such a party that seeked liberation of the female traditional gender role. In the 1960s, women were considered to only have one path in life, which is to be married in her early 20s, start a family, and devote her life to that home. This all changed when author, Betty Friedan, released her book “The Feminine Mystique” opened the eyes of all repressed women and made them realized that the situation they were in did not lead to happiness. This book was the catalyst to the start of the feminist movement of the 1960s and 70s. These feminists made up a contributing factor to protesting the war. Not only did they protest the war, they fought for equality for all humans. Without feminism, women would still be in the traditional gender role of being a housewife, and not have the freedom they have now. The Black Power Movement was a political and social movement that believed in racial pride, self-sufficiency and equality for all African American or Black descendants. Unlike Martin Luther Kings Jr peaceful approach to social reform, this group were tired of being pacifist and settled on a more militant tactical approach. The movement believed that nonviolent protests were not working to fight against racism. The Black Panthers believed the only way to give voice to the Blacks of America was to tear down and deconstruct the white power. They did this by structuring as a military and often patrolled neighborhoods to protect other blacks from police brutality and racism. Their ideology was to end capitalism and establish a socialist society. The Black Power Panthers organization was such an intimidating threat to the American state that head of the F.B.I, J. Edgar Hoover, declared them the number threat to the internal security of United States. The Black Panthers definitely influenced my generation by helping alleviate repressed African Americans and helping them stand against racial discrimination and protecting one another from police harassment and brutality. This definitely shaped our generations culture. They successfully reduced the amount of hate in America because racism is very taboo now a days and if you are racist then you will be seen in a negative light.
During the 1960s and 70s emerged the famous “drug movement”. These drugs ranged from psychedelic such as LSD, to more natural drugs such as marijuana. LSD or “lysergic acid diethylamide” is particularly famous for its role during the “counterculture” movement. LSD was founded by the chemist scientist Albert Hofmann after studying the medicinal properties of the plant Squill and fungus ergot. He unknowingly absorbed the drug through his fingertips and experienced a dreamlike state and perceived to see visuals of pictures, shapes, and a play of different colors. Days later he consumed about 25 milligrams of LSD and had a trip for several hours. He had to have an assistant help him ride his bike home and they dubbed that day “Bicycle Day”, a day that is celebrated during the hippies movements. In 1947, the drug was released to the public sector laboratory. They believed LSD could cure psychological disorders and even control minds. The use of LSD gain acceptance and was used by many psychologist as a way to treat patients. It was the drug of choice used by the Hippies. Acid was also used by many college students as well to find “spiritual awakenings”. Although most traditional American culture viewed drug use as dangerous, hippies believed that drugs such as LSD and marijuana were valuable tools for spiritual growth. This lead to Hippies incorporating drug use in their meditation of yoga. The Hippie movement had a strong influence to young teens, as they were attracted by their kind gentleness, and pacifist ways. LSD was not the only drug used in the counterculture movement. Marijuana played a big role as it was gaining popularity in the 60s. The culture during the time was to change and this included partaking the use of marijuana. Rastafarian groups were also known to use marijuana and they were a big influence. One such popular singer was Bob Marley and just the symbol of him was peace, love, and freedom. He was famously known for smoking pot everyday. Bob Marley would spread messages of love and peace and it attracted a large amount of followers. The other drug was the infamous heroin. They used heroin to help deal with the harshness of war and the painful emotions they endured. Most returning vets displayed anger and bitterness towards the American government for drafting them into a fight they did not want to be in. One in six of the these war vets were addicted to heroin, refusing to engage in the war, and even killed some of their commanding officers if they commanded them to fight. More examples of these anti war vets involve publishing antiwar newsletters and throwing their combat medals over a fence surrounding the Capital. Drugs had a significant part of shaping my generation as marijuana is now seen as a use for medicinal purposes, LSD helped the mind of the American people break free from traditional social norms, and heroin is seen used as a harmful opiate and is not touched by our generation.
The Civil Rights Activist during the Vietnam war protest help shaped the people we are today. Through their actions, they helped us break free from the our shell and pursue our own individuality. The generation we have today is the result of the Civil Rights Activists fighting for our human rights, embracing counterculture, and even reaching spiritual enlightenment through the use of drugs. The generation we have today is so free that we have the power to do as we please without the risk of social consequences as oppose the 60s and 70s. If the Civil Rights Activists have not fought for our rights, would America have citizens that act like they have been through a cookie cutter and not have their own unique individuality?
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