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Letter from the Editor – Age of rebellion

Hollywood, MD - Almost a week after Adult America voted in the 2016 Presidential Election, Kid America, in certain locations, decided to demonstrate their disapproval of the result. Or did they? It’s hard to determine if this demonstration was a spontaneous reaction or an orchestrated event designed to disrupt. While it seems pointless to boycott an irreversible election result, especially when the boycotters are individuals who aren’t old enough to vote, it got me to thinking about something that occurred during my senior year of high school. Obviously, that was a very, very, very long time ago. However, I remember quite a few of the details.

The date was Oct. 15, 1969, (47 years and one month to the day that I am writing this essay), a day when the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam took place. It was believed to be the largest antiwar protest in U.S. History. In a 2011 story, The Learning Network recalled the event in Washington, DC as “a mostly peaceful demonstration.” In addition to the huge crowd in DC, several smaller demonstrations were held in cities and towns across America. Several of my high school classmates were fervent opponents of the War in Vietnam. Back then 21 was the voting age, but any young man 18 or over could be drafted into the military. You better believe my generation—those who attended school at the same time I did—were impacted by the ongoing conflict. School officials allowed students to hold a demonstration. There were some “hawkish” students who conducted an impromptu counter demonstration. However, for the most part the atmosphere, although tension-filled, was peaceful and classes were held as usual. A rare midweek football game with an inner-city rival was held without incident.

For young school kids of today, the 2016 Election may in some way, be their 'Vietnam'. Clearly, some of them find the result to be the signaling of change that might impact their future, perhaps not in a good way. Many are approaching the age where they can register to vote. They may be right to worry. However, it is truly disheartening to see the behavior of some students has turned violent and destructive.

The war protests that occurred nearly 50 years ago, in DC and at my suburban Maryland high school, were well-organized and I can honestly say, I didn’t doubt then and I don’t doubt now, the sincerity of the participants. I also admired those who expressed support for war effort. Those classmates who went on to serve in the Armed Forces after graduation displayed a quiet respect for the difference in opinion.
To be sure, the War in Vietnam was a topic that was discussed exhaustively in classrooms—history, social studies, psychology and speech, to name a few—and discussions about America’s leadership and future are appropriate topics for today’s high school classrooms as well. Parents, teachers, administrators would do well to listen. No, not all of the students have a full, thorough grasp of the issues, but engaging them in discussion rather than writing all of them off as lazy, brainwashed morons is a much better strategy.

To answer an old song from the Vietnam era “what are we fighting for?” Back then we were told by our government it was for our way of life and freedoms, which communists wanted to take from us. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are among those rights. While restraint is properly called for and punishment for anyone who resorts to violence or vandalism is necessary, we have to accommodate disagreement and rebellion. If we don’t we become our own enemy.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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