The Vets Clash in Peace at Vietnam Event

Allison McNeese speaks about the protest movement against the Vietnam War.

Allison McNeese speaks about the protest movement against the Vietnam War.

Well, Liz has an interesting writing challenge. The MMU Times reporter attended a faculty forum tonight presented by Allison McNeese, assistant professor of history.

She spoke on the theme “There’s Something Happening Here”: Anti-War Protests in the Vietnam Era. About 40 people showed up, including a handful of Vietnam veterans.

The information McNeese gave was fascinating. She traced the anti-war movement to the countercultural spirit of the times, and noted how many of the prominent protest groups actually began their activities before U.S. combat troops landed in Vietnam.

After describing these early movements, she went on to detail how the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago and the shooting of four students at Kent State University in 1970 fit into the trend of increasingly strident anti-war demonstrations.

When she was done, a Vietnam veteran who has attended a number of events stood up and gave his own short speech, mostly about what it was like for veterans returning from the war to face the anger of the anti-war movement. “You could feel their hatred,” he said.

Then, a second veteran, with a different point of view, stood up and even showed his web site, which has lots of information, some of it indicating how destructive the U.S. intervention in Vietnam was.

Karl Knutson, Vietnam ventera who speaks out against war, shows his web site.

Karl Knutson, Vietnam venteran who speaks out against war, shows his web site.

It was a bit surprising, being in the room and being younger than the Vietnam generation. Once the issue of anti-war protests was raised, clashing ideas from veteran’s in attendance were raised. Tempers didn’t exactly flare, but the emotional temperature in the room went up a few notches.

Still, despite the intense and sometimes in-your-face nature of the commentary, for the most part, everyone stayed polite and calm. Partly, I think Allison did a good job of anticipating the potential reactions to her presentation, and giving the audience ample opportunity to dive in. And in the end, she remained quite calm and engaged in exchanges with the audience.

As I said, Liz has her work cut out for her. She is a good writer, but also a 20-something kid. I know her work well enough to trust the story will be well done—but the event certainly took some unexpected twists.

On the other hand, the fact that discussion got heated is not a negative. This big conversation about Vietnam is bound to get touchy at times, and I feel it’s important to allow it to happen now and then.

Well, something like 11 down, three more events to go. I’ve just started trying to recruit student speakers for the final event, which is just a bit over a fortnight away. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

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Filed under History, Mount Mercy

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