[Marxism] the role of anti Vietnam war GI coffee houses must not be forgotten!
dmozart1756 at gmail.com
Tue Jan 16 08:29:37 MST 2018
Though their numbers dwindled as the war drew to a close in the mid-1970s,
G.I. coffeehouses left an indelible mark on the Vietnam era. While popular
mythology often places the antiwar movement at odds with American troops,
the history of G.I. coffeehouses, and the G.I. movement of which they were
a part, paints a very different picture. Over the course of the war,
thousands of military service members from every branch — active-duty
G.I.s, veterans, nurses and even officers — expressed their opposition to
American policy in Vietnam. They joined forces with civilian antiwar
organizations that, particularly after 1968, focused significant energy and
resources on developing social and political bonds with American service
Hoping to build the resistance that was already taking shape in the Army,
activists at G.I. coffeehouses worked directly with service members on
hundreds of political projects and demonstrations, despite relentless
government surveillance, infiltration and harassment.
The unprecedented eruption of resistance and activism by American troops is
critical to understanding the history of the Vietnam War. The G.I. movement
and related phenomenon created a significant crisis for the American
military, which feared exactly the kind of alliance between civilians and
soldiers that Fred Gardner had in mind when he opened the first G.I.
coffeehouse in 1968. Despite the extraordinary political and cultural
impact that dissenting soldiers made throughout the Vietnam era, their
voices have been nearly erased from history, replaced by a stereotypical
image of loyal, patriotic soldiers antagonized and spat upon by ungrateful
antiwar activists. In the decades since the war’s end, countless Hollywood
movies, books, political speeches and celebrated documentaries have
repeated this image, obscuring the war’s deep unpopularity among the ranks
and the countless ways that American troops expressed their opposition.
This historical erasure serves a distinct purpose, casting dissent — from
wearing an antiwar T-shirt to kneeling during the national anthem — as
inherently disrespectful, even abusive, to American soldiers. A fuller
reckoning with the era’s history would begin by acknowledging the countless
G.I.s and civilians who stood together against the war. G.I. coffeehouses
are a vital window onto this history, showing us places where men and women
came together to share their common revulsion at the war in Vietnam, and to
begin organizing a collective effort to make it stop.
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