Moody and Potter vs. John F. Kennedy and Johnson Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1903 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: American History

Liberals Lyndon Johnson & John Kennedy and youthful disillusionment

The Disillusionment of Two Youths in America in the 1960s

The origins of disillusionment for many young people during the 1960s - the Vietnam War years - can be fairly easily generalized even with a vague knowledge of the Sixties, America, and politics. First, young people who were 18 years of age could be drafted to go fight in Vietnam, but they couldn't vote for the politicians who send them off to war until they reached 21. That was a huge hypocrisy in the eyes of young men, and caused no small amount of rage against the Washington "establishment" (Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon in particular). Secondly, despite the rhetoric of freedom and justice coming out of Washington, when it came to young black Americans trying to bring about social change in the south, the presidents and other leaders in Washington did very little. So overall, it was the war in Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement that turned young people off to American politics, and specifically to political leaders like John Fitzgerald Kennedy - up to his death - and Lyndon Baines Johnson. And the books by Anne Moody (Coming of Age in Mississippi) and Tim O'Brien (If I Die in a Combat Zone) offer very close-up, personal assessments of those feelings of how each individual reached disillusionment in their lives in the 1960s. This paper reviews those books and points to specific incidents that spawned the cynicism and disenchantment with American's political, social, and business institutions.

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TIM O'BRIEN: Meanwhile, Tim O'Brien's parents were both military people, both served in WWII; and he explains on page 11 that he was "fed by the spoils of 1945 victory. He learned to play "army games" as a kid, bought "scarred helmet liners" from army surplus stores, played baseball, heard all the war stories about WWII and the Korean conflict, and otherwise grew up a pretty normal American kid. He began reading philosophy (Plato, Aristotle, Erich Fromm) and took an interest in politics, and began wondering if there is really a God.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Moody and Potter vs. John F. Kennedy and Johnson Assignment

Then, in the summer of 1968, it was "a good time for talking about war and peace," and Minnesota's Eugene McCarthy, and United States Senator, was getting votes; "Lyndon Johnson was almost forgotten," O'Brien writes on page 16. Johnson was "no longer forbidding or feared" and Senator Robert Kennedy was dead "but not quite forgotten" while Nixon "looked like a loser." About that time, O'Brien received an induction notice, and the summer of 1968, prior to his entrance into the military, but while he knew he would indeed be in the military, he and friends would drive around the lake in his hometown, "talking about the war... [covering] all the big questions: justice, tyranny, self-determination, conscience and the state, God and war and love" (17).

Those conversations that O'Brien references are part of his build-up in this book to his ultimate disillusionment vis-a-vis Lyndon Johnson's bullishness on Vietnam. On page 18 he admits that he knew then, and knows "now" (the book was published in 1975) that the war was "wrong" and indeed it was "evil." Still, he had doubts, as any young man would have who is facing his mortality in an unpopular, distant war. O'Brien spends pages 18 through 23 rationalizing and debating as to what he should do. He says he thought about moving to Canada, and he was clearly angry and torn as to what he should do; on page 21 he quoted a college friend as saying, "No war is worth losing your life for."

In the succeeding chapters, O'Brien describes in descriptive narrative how much he hated being a soldier, hated basic training at Ft. Lewis, Washington, and he hated the thought of war so intensely he began planning a possible route to Canada, an escape. There would be no escape for O'Brien, though, as he was shipped off to Vietnam. He covers the battles, writes about the incoming rounds that his group was subjected to, and as the book goes deeper into his experience, it is clear the author is becoming numb to the destruction he is part of, wrapped up in and dishing out with a vengeance. On page 119, O'Brien offers honest narrative which expresses how inhumane and callus the war made him feel, and it all went back to Lyndon Johnson, of course, the man who allowed all this blood-letting to go forward. "It took little provocation" for his colleagues to "flick the flint" of cigarette lighters and burn down villages; if there is even a remote possibility that the Viet Cong (VC) were hiding in the village, it may as well be destroyed. "Thatched roofs take flame quickly"; and when a VC booby trap killed two soldiers, "men put their fists into the faces of the nearest Vietnamese." When the beatings were over, the U.S. troops "hacked off chunks of thick black hair" and an officer "used his pistol, hammering it against a prisoner's head." Scraps of his friends "were dropped in plastic body bags," and the hamlet they just trashed got napalmed (babies and all).

ANNE MOODY: Meanwhile, in Anne Moody's 348-page book, she doesn't begin writing about her college career until Chapter 20,-page 213. Moody writes that she wanted to attend LSU, but in 1968, it had just been integrated; "...all the teachers were white... [and] I was afraid that those white students would murder me in class." Those fears were based on growing up in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement, when many African-American demonstrators were beaten, whipped, shot, driven to their knees with high-pressure water hoses, and basically mistreated. During much of her book up to this point, Moody is either afraid of whites, white teachers (and white students who may be aggressive), or she blames things on whites; on page 220, when she writes that she didn't make the honor roll, she "rationalized" and blamed her problems on her "adjustment to the white teachers."

Then, things began to change for Moody when she agreed to help the NAACP as a volunteer with voter registration drives, demonstrations were held in support of Civil Rights in Jackson, the town she was in, which gave her something to belong to that had substance. Not much later, she befriended a white girl who was involved in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); soon, Moody "got to like all of the SNCC workers" (225) and her change from a naive small town girl to an activist was evident in her narrative. The rallies that SNCC sponsored or participated in were "poorly attended" (226) because "many Negroes were afraid to come," she wrote. So many of the "old plantation Negroes" had been "brainwashed" so badly by whites, they thought "only whites were supposed to vote."

And while slowly, blacks began to embracing the idea of voting, but there was tension when Moody tried to get a bus ticket on the "white side" of the terminal, and ran headfirst into the ugliness of racism and hatefulness; this also contributed to Moody's radicalization and ultimate disillusionment. On pages 233-235, readers learn that Moody had another stumbling block in her growth as an activist - her mother. She wrote and invited her mother to a demonstration in Jackson (put on by the NCAAP) that would feature Jackie Robinson, Curt Flood, Floyd Patterson, and more. But her mother wrote back, saying "...if I didn't stop that ***** she would come to Tougaloo and kill me herself." The sheriff had been to her mother's house, "telling her I was messing around that that NAACP group," and if she didn't stop, she would be prevented from returning home to Centreville. Clearly, this startling development helped Moody realize how huge the resistance was to social change, not only in the white community, but in her own town, and among her own family members.

But by now, Moody was already too committed to helping open the door to opportunity and justice for African-Americans, she was beyond her mother's control or wishes. Indeed, on page 237, Moody is involved in a "sit-in" at a "white's only" lunch counter in Jackson; the news media recorded the incident, and that brought white high school students into Woolworth's. It got ugly and bloody, Moody was dragged by the hair, and a mob set upon her, smearing her with ketchup, mustard, pies, sugar; they took a pummeling for three hours, and police stood outside the store, looking through the window, doing nothing about the violence.

After that sit-in, Moody thought a lot about "how sick Mississippi whites were." This horrifying event made Moody mad, but it also helped her become even more determined to work for justice in the south. In August, 1968, Moody attended the March on Washington, and it made a huge impression on her, but she was already energized to continue the fight; then on her birthday, September 15, 1963, news came of a bombing of a black church in Birmingham,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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