The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #26401   Message #325318
Posted By: catspaw49
23-Oct-00 - 11:56 AM
Thread Name: Need Help With 60's Protest Songs
Subject: RE: Need Help With 60's Protest Songs
You're right Mole, not much of a song, but the last two lines could bear a little dissection.

I know we're all fed up with useless war and racial strife,
But the next time there's a riot, you'd best stay out of sight.

The killings at Kent State and Jackson State resulted in a major change in the "Movement." Although many demonstrations and riots had occurred with much blood being shed in some, most campus activity had been comparatively mild from a violence standpoint. At Kent State/Jackson state, armed troops fired into a crowd and their shots killed not only the students, but fatally wounded the movement. I once heard the Kent State action described as an over-reation to an over-reaction. The National Guard troops involved were, for the most part, the same age as the KSU students and both were scared, so I am loathe to affix blame in the sense of intent on the part of the Guardsmen. I can affix blame to those who put these young and inexperienced troops in a position where what happened was almost inevitable.

However it happened, it marked the end of "casual support" that had been so much a part of the movement up until that time. I don't know what the popular belief is, but the fact is that many students and others involved in demonstrations then were not rabid in their belief, nor were they simply killing time and going out to watch the action and pick-up dates. An awful lot of them can be described as passive participants who were dissatisfied with the way things were and believed that protest was a reasonably accepted way of voicing their concern. Even within groups such as the SDS, there was a large contingent of that type and indeed they are necessary to bring about change. The idea that their own government would take the action that it did had really not occurred to many.

Now that's kind of odd when you think about it, since in the context of the times, that was exactly what was happening half a world away. Their own government was asking them to kill or be killed which is what governments do during a war. For a number of reasons, the American public had begun to take a different view of VietNam and question the whys of the war and what we were doing there. This was not a notion that had ever surfaced to any great degree before that time. Certainly there had been people objecting to wars in the past, but VietNam brought about a new thinking and though most had been raised to do their duty, what that duty was had become blurred in a miasma of half-truths and outright lies. In the aftermath we saw far more vets suffering from varying degrees of post traumatic shock than in any other war. They too saw, but they saw too late. When you have a gun and the other guy has a gun, only a fool will not try to kill the other first, and that was the position that a lot of good people found themselves in at the time. When they returned and began to add it all up, it didn't. No one can begin to understand what they went through to recapture their lives. Some didn't.

So some of those had begun that awakening back home and were willing to protest the war and other things. They believed that they could be a part of a mass movement to change the course of the government, and that their government would take notice and listen. What they had not counted on was that the government viewed the protests as a war and were willing to take the same measures here as they did overseas. Kent State/Jackson State thinned out the numbers considerably and left the movement to the more extreme and violent factions, such as the Weather Underground, that those who still worked toward a non-violent protest could not overcome. Just prior to KSU/JSU there had been an ever increasing groundswell of protesters and though some remained, there numbers were few and any semblance of non-violence was gone. It was a signal change.

I don't know what this has to do with the original topic, but the music had beuan to change too. The songs of protest became more violent and the general tone of the songs began to invoke more hatred. In the final analysis, these later songs actually made the process of healing much longer.