Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Vietnam War Era America in 2020

        The year of 2020 has shown relentless negativity towards all around the world who are living through it. However, recent events uncover just how similar America in 2020 is to the sociopolitical climate in America during the Vietnam War. Upon Martin Luther King Jr. assassination in the spring of 1968, protests erupted across 100 cities in the United States that resulted in the deaths of almost 50 Americans. Similarly, George Floyd's death at the hands of law enforcement in the summer of 2020 saw protests spread across 200 cities in the United State Undoubtedly, the vigor for racial justice is still alive throughout America. Furthermore, disclosed interviews with Bob Woodward revealed to the American public that President Donald Trump understood early on the seriousness of the Coronavirus Pandemic that has left over 200,000 citizens dead. Equally as relevant, were the Pentagon Paper’s, which became leaked to the New York Times in 1971, and publicized to the American public that previous administrations had acknowledged early on during the Vietnam War that the United States could not achieve victory.

            To be sure, there are several stark contrasts in the events during the 1960s and 70s to those occurring today. The American public was astray for almost three decades on the United States involvement in Vietnam and on the motivations for being there. The timeline for the Covid-19 pandemic cover-up is sped up with the outbreak beginning in January of 2020 and the released interview of President Trump, which was recorded in March of this same year, saying that he “wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down” regarding the virus. Many American’s, who were already hesitant in believing that the Trump administration had been honest about the seriousness Covid-19, were now convinced that if the president been forthcoming about the urgency of the virus, tens of thousands people might still be alive. Regardless of the timeframe differences, multiple administrations in the past eighty years have been discovered lying to the American people during times of crisis and are ultimately responsible for the deaths which occurred because of their negligence. Still, another aspect of daily life differs in 2020 than it did fifty years ago. That is, the advent of social media.

            While the immediate reactions to Dr. King's assassination and the murder of George Floyd were similar, the long-term effects were immensely different largely due to social media. The King assassination riots gripped America for 4 days in the late spring of 1968 when black Americans released their frustrations about the death of their beloved leader of civil rights. The Floyd protests, which lasted throughout the entire summer of 2020, at times evolved into riots. This was largely due, however, to increased and aggressive local, state, and federal law enforcement. Indeed, both instances of mass movements resulted in the deaths of people involved. 43 people died during the Dr. King riots while 19 were recorded to have died from the Floyd protests. While the United States public unified and sympathized with the loss of Dr. King and Floyd, the reactions from executive leadership differed greatly on the issues. Unlike Lyndon B. Johnson, who exalted caution to mayors and governors who were bolstering their military and law enforcement presence in reaction to social unrest, Trump consistently vilified the protest movements and disregarded the message they were trying to evoke. That is, racial injustice is still occurring. Further, Trump sent federal officials into various American cities where protests had, at times, become violent. Ironically, the presence of heavily armed federal agents did not quell the unrest.

       The Pentagon Papers are unquestionably linked to the origin of when modern America began to distrust its government. Previous administrations had misled the American public on the Vietnam War and therefore stained their presidencies. Trump continues this trend of dishonesty with his own Vietnam War. A conflict that is costing the lives of over three times as many American deaths in Vietnam. Additionally, even though the civil rights movement lost steam with the death of Dr. King in 1968, the civil rights movement in 2020 will undoubtedly continue to be a major social issue during this decade thanks to the connectedness of social media. Trump is unfortunate to have been president while failing to alleviate both monumental issues. If there is anything that history has taught about the outcomes of the public unrest in late 1960s and the reaction to the Pentagon Paper’s, it is that November 3rd will introduce a new president.



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