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Blog Post 10/28

I really enjoyed this chapter in Zinn’s book, and I actually took a lot of different pieces of information away from it. First, I thought it was really interesting that Eisenhower wondered how the language of fear and anti-communism is more powerful than the language or morale of democracy. This really struck me because it seems like throughout history the government is always finding a way to exploit fear in the American public to divide them instead of actually upholding their outward reputation of unity. It is the opposite of how a country should be run and the highest powers should not have to scare the population into going along with their plans. This is a big red flag that the government isn’t making a right or just decision if they have to make up lies and scare the public. Further, this shows how the government doesn’t really care for the emotional well-being of the public and prioritized military and economic advancements. I found the anti-communist rhetoric to also be interesting in contrast to the language of love and religion from Dr. King and the “Catonsville Nine”. These differing strategies of recruiting a following and employing leadership is definitely worth exploring further, and I wonder which is more efficient.

The language of division is present in the past regarding slavery and how the government used threatening language to instill fear in the poor whites to continue the use of slavery in the states. Dividing the public and making the different classes or races feel like enemies is a continued strategy for the government to further their own desires. The government and media collectively used this same strategy regarding the Vietnam War and claimed that only privileged middle-class Americans disapproved of the war. This could create division among the citizens and hinder future change, but I think that was their intention. Although the government tried to separate the public, I think it is really notable and striking that the isolated protests and the pushback from the war actually made a difference in international policy about the war. I don’t know why the government hates to admit that they are listening to the public and pretends like it is a weakness to change course or decisions. Nixon continued to push anti-communist and pro-war rhetoric even though he was aware it wasn’t working and he in fact was doing the opposite of what he was saying to the public. This lack of transparency isn’t sustainable and is the reason why Nixon and the Vietnam War failed drastically.

Going off of this last point, another main takeaway I took from this reading is that it truly takes a bottom-up approach from the citizens themselves to make a change. Even though the government may be hesitant to admit it, the citizens from any and every social class and racial or religious background have the capacity to make a difference. This chapter showed me that although it may be hard to see sometimes, the public does have a strong voice and we need to acknowledge that more. We must give ourselves more credit and not think that citizens need some powerful leader or a huge movement to get the government to listen.

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  1. Delaney Demaret Delaney Demaret

    I really like your first observation on the power of language. I’d like to emphasize the idea that fear-mongering language will often have an extremely detrimental effect on the stability of democracy. The era of McCarthyism did some serious damage on ideals of democracy and how it can change to reflect times- in an era where justice and economic equality could have been strived for, the language of fear instead shaped the American framework for decades to come.

  2. Charley Blount Charley Blount

    Nixon’s Vietnamization position was crucial to his victory in the 1968 election. Not only was he competing with a fractured Democratic party (thanks in large part to Robert Kennedy pre-assassination and Senator McCarthy), but the anti-war riots were central to his campaign’s focus on law and order

  3. Alexander Barnett Alexander Barnett

    I agree with what you said regarding government fearmongering. At the end of the day, a sure-fire way to know if a decision is right or not is to look to the people who actually live in your country and hear their opinions. Especially when over a majority of the people are against it

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