can hear our principal at CV raging away, telling us to cease our
protests. A little thing called the Vietnam War had caught our
attention, and it began to occur to some of us that our country might
soon be asking us to lay down our lives in a conflict, and for a
cause, that we did not understand.
We had the right to protest then, and these kids are entitled to
the same in the present conflict.
A society that asks its teenagers to be prepared to make the
ultimate sacrifice and then tells them to ask no questions, make no
protest, and somehow trust to the wisdom and the foresight of its
leaders, asks much. It asks for blind acceptance even while it
teaches independent thought. It asks for unquestioned adherence even
while it extols democratic virtues -- like the right of dissent.
The critics of these kids conspicuously omit Vietnam in their
history lessons to us all. Even the staunchest supporters of Vietnam
now recognize how wrong we were. Were the protesters back then also
wrong? Were they unpatriotic, cowardly, traitorous, blind to the
truth, too inexperienced to be so strident, too young to have an
opinion?. Was there some moral obligation to curtail all dissent once
hostilities had begun? Were they aiding the enemy with their
In hindsight, these questions are easy to answer. Vietnam was a
tragic mistake that, if it has any lasting value, reminds us that
those who purport to lead us may in fact be leading us astray. If
there be some among us who see parallels in the present conflict to
Vietnam, who can say with assurance that they are wrong?
Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara wrote, in retrospect,
that our nation should have forced a "knock-down, drag-out debate
over the loose assumptions, unasked questions, and thin analyses
underlying our presence in Vietnam."
When the Vietnam war widened into Cambodia, the protests against
the war escalated, as well. Presently, as our great leaders seem to
want to flex our muscles elsewhere in the Middle East, they, and any
who support them, should stand ready to answer the critics, be they
70 or 17.