Dangerous Grounds: Antiwar Coffeehouses and Military Dissent in the Vietnam Era

Dangerous Grounds: Antiwar Coffeehouses and Military Dissent in the Vietnam Era

Dangerous Grounds: Antiwar Coffeehouses and Military Dissent in the Vietnam Era

Dangerous Grounds: Antiwar Coffeehouses and Military Dissent in the Vietnam Era

Synopsis

As the Vietnam War divided the nation, a network of antiwar coffeehouses appeared in the towns and cities outside American military bases. Owned and operated by civilian activists, GI coffeehouses served as off-base refuges for the growing number of active-duty soldiers resisting the war. In the first history of this network, David L. Parsons shows how antiwar GIs and civilians united to battle local authorities, vigilante groups, and the military establishment itself by building a dynamic peace movement within the armed forces.

Peopled with lively characters and set in the tense environs of base towns around the country, this book complicates the often misunderstood relationship between the civilian antiwar movement, U.S. soldiers, and military officials during the Vietnam era. Using a broad set of primary and secondary sources, Parsons shows us a critical moment in the history of the Vietnam-era antiwar movement, when a chain of counterculture coffeehouses brought the war's turbulent politics directly to the American military's doorstep.

Excerpt

Although more than forty years have passed since its official end, the Vietnam War continues to occupy a prominent place in the collective American psyche. the word “Vietnam” exists as a kind of shorthand, regularly invoked to stand in for a whole range of lessons, moral platitudes, and political opinions. Despite its dominant place in public discourse, though, the meaning of the Vietnam War remains fundamentally unsettled, its legacy unclear, its lessons and politics as divisive as ever. Decades of public revisionism and Hollywood mythmaking have helped create a series of enduring misconceptions about the era’s history.

One particularly misunderstood subject is the movement against the war. Major histories of the antiwar movement, along with popular movies and television programs, have focused most of their attention on the rise and fall of the New Left on college campuses. the typical stars of this story are the idealistic young radicals of organizations like Students for a Democratic Society, one of the leading campus antiwar groups of the era. in the war’s early years, Students for a Democratic Society and similar organizations staged some of the nation’s first major peace demonstrations on college campuses around the country. the student movement’s historic significance is undeniable, but its disproportionate place in public memory obscures the wider history of antiwar activism in the Vietnam era. in reality, of course, antiwar sentiment was not limited to Students for a Democratic Society and other campus groups. Especially in the war’s later years, as a majority of Americans came to oppose . . .

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