Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How Far We've Come

I was at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry a couple of years back and my kids enjoyed climbing into a big tractor. There was a scene before them that made it appear they were farming their field. Some buttons to push. Interactive sounds. It was fun. In fact the whole museum was great.

Had my kids gone in 1968 they might have found a different interactive exhibit. Read an article from Time about it here. It's a Huey helicopter aimed at Vietnamese huts. The kids would fire the machine gun at the huts and enjoy the sound of machine gun fire. When they hit the huts light bulbs would glow to let you know you've scored a direct hit.

When JFK sent B-52's to carpet bomb South Vietnam in 1962 most Americans really didn't mind. Contrary to perceptions today in fact Walter Cronkite was as much of a cheerleader as the rest of the mainstream media. To protest was to take your life in your hands. That's the kind of backdrop that produced this exhibit. But what the Pentagon hadn't yet realized is that the activism and protests of the 60's had changed public perceptions. By 1968 things were starting to change. Groups such as Vietnam Veterans for Peace angrily resisted and the museum was forced to close the exhibit.

It seems to me that it used to be much easier to inflict massive death. JFK's massive bombing campaigns were not only tolerated, they could be celebrated. Games for children could be created to glorify them. That seems unimaginable today. It is unfortunate that our government still is killing a lot of people. But they can't do it quite as openly. It can't be celebrated publicly. So the young people that go off to war haven't been indoctrinated to the same degree, which means likely they will be less indifferent to gratuitous violence. That means less death. Violence is pervasive, but it could have been worse. It isn't thanks to 60's activism.

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