Thirty-seven years ago, 2 million people protested against the illegal and unjust Vietnam War. They marched in what was the largest demonstration in the history of the United States because they had been lied to. Their government, which most grew up with great faith in, had deceived them into a war that was taking the lives of thousands of their young friends and millions of innocent people they knew nothing of. The Vietnam War had successfully torn America apart, making our country the most divided it h been since the Civil War.
The corrupt, the elite and the powerful had drastically transformed the United States into a land filled with propaganda and fear over the illusion of communism. It was perceived as a virus and the mark of evil in the world; it needed to be eliminated at any cost. The government made statements that everyone believed: America wasn’t safe, we could be attacked at any moment and drastic measures need to be taken to protect us.
Finally, people started to wake up and with tremendous resistance they spoke out. They marched, they wrote, they refused to fight. In the era of McCarthy and the Red Scare, they risked their jobs, their way of life and (for the many that were arrested) their liberties.
More than 50,000 young U.S. soldiers and 3 million Vietnamese civilians died in the Vietnam War, but without the millions of protesters and activists this war of ignorance would have continued.
Those 2 million American heroes that spoke out against what was then the corrupt state of our government are needed yet again. Once again we are living in a state of created fear issued by, yet again, the corrupt, the elite and the powerful.
As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” We must no longer be silent. As we continue not to speak out and the American war machine grows, we lose more lives and more liberty. Since Sept. 11 was constructed as a tool of fear, our democracy has, over the past five years, been transformed into what can be called nothing less than a fascist government. Run by corporations that stay in power by continually inciting fear, our Congress has, with little debate, passed bill after bill giving even more power to the Bush regime while taking away liberty after liberty.
If for just one moment we would stop and reflect on our history, we would be appalled by our country’s actions. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
To date, we have given up our liberties, including just recently, habeas corpus, the right of a fair trial and freedom from torture in the new Military Commissions Act.
We have spent $335 billion on the Iraq War, which in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is enough money to have built over 3 million housing units. We have lost more than 2,800 young and brave U.S. soldiers, and we have made ourselves responsible for the deaths of approximately 655,000 innocent Iraqi civilians.
Like Vietnam, we have yet again been lied into committing ourselves to an illegal and unjust war. However, unlike Vietnam, we have the opportunity to stop it.
The most patriotic action a citizen can take is to speak out against his government. We speak out because we love our country. We love the freedoms that our past protesters have risked their lives protecting for us. We must once again organize, march, write and refuse to fight.
So today let’s add yet another comparison from what is occurring now to what occurred 37 years ago: as the youth of America came together to tell our government to end the war then, we must once again do the same. So for today let us not consider the glaring similiarities between the two wars, but instead the true freedom fighters that protested to stop them both.