During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the controversy over America’s involvement in the Vietnam War resulted in a counter-culture, driving political and societal change. In the two centuries of the nation’s existence, this was the first time for such a movement to occur. John Lennon became a major influential symbol through his music and peace activism. As he describes in his 1971 song “Imagine,” Lennon attempted to create a world in which everyone lived in peace. Currently, America’s subjection to the War in Iraq is causing a negative response similar to that of the Vietnam War, leaving Americans to hope for the peaceful world that Lennon sings about in his timeless song “Imagine.”
The Vietnam War, between North and South Vietnam, took place from 1959 to 1975. North Vietnam (the Democratic Republic of Vietnam), backed by other communist countries USSR and China, was fighting to make South Vietnam (the Republic of Vietnam) communist. Because the United States backed anti-communist government, the US supported South Vietnam and sent military advisers to train and help South Vietnam’s army. In 1964, it was reported that US naval ships were attacked by North Vietnam. After a second attack, the US passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and began to bomb North Vietnam. The first US combat troops were sent to Vietnam in 1965. Within three years, there was half a million more troops sent to Vietnam.
By 1968, public opinion polls showed that the majority of Americans were opposed to involvement in the war. When Nixon was elected president in 1969, he attempted a “Vietnamization” of the war, making South Vietnam responsible for fighting the war, equipping them with weapons, and decreasing the number of American troops that were sent to Vietnam. By 1973, US soldiers were no longer in Vietnam and the US involvement was soon ended completely.
Many factors contributed to the controversy over the Vietnam War. In 1965, Americans were drafted by a questionable drafting system. Furthermore, most of those drafted were too young to vote or consume alcohol in most states, leaving Americans with the disturbing image of such young men being exposed to the brutal war. By 1968, the US troop casualties were still growing and there was no end in sight. The war’s objective was unclear to Americans, and many viewed it as unnecessary intervention in a civil war. Uncensored information and television media coverage of the war allowed Americans to visually see terrors of the war and amount of deaths. Not only were American soldiers dying, but there was brutality towards Vietnamese civilians. Many Americans took part in protests during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
During this era, the media reflected American feelings towards the war in Vietnam. John Lennon became one of the most influential figures at this time. Throughout his life, Lennon was a singer-songwriter, musician (vocals, guitar, bass guitar, piano, and harmonica), poet, artist, and peace activist. In the 1950’s, Lennon became famous as a member of The Beatles. Known as the “Smart Beatle,” Lennon’s intelligence and wit was evident in The Beatle’s music and presentation. Many of his songs (such as “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Norwegian Wood,” “Rain”) evoked a dream-like world-weariness through lyrics and melodies, portraying a reflective, utopian, and realistic vision of life. In 1969, he was married to Yoko Ono. Soon after, The Beatles broke up and Lennon went on to pursue a solo career. He moved to New York where he took part in social activism and released solo work.
In 1971, Lennon released album Imagine, containing title track “Imagine” which is regarded as a timeless anthem for peace. Rolling Stone Magazine characterized the song by “the serene melody; the pillowy chord progression; that beckoning, four-note figure; and nearly all of the lyrics, twenty-two lines of