Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace in a Violent World
Plenty gets written about the music at Woodstock, can we talk about the Three Days of Peace?
Most Americans Opposed the Vietnam War
Peace was in short supply during the summer of 1969. Really short supply. The Vietnam War was killing 1,000 Americans each month and 10x as many non-Americans. Southeast Asia was on fire, literally. By the time the Vietnam War ended in 1973, the fighting killed 1.3 million people. 58,220 Americans.
Woodstock was sold as “Three Days of Peace and Music.” Plenty gets written about the music, can we talk about the Three Days of Peace?
Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted.
-Martin Luther King, April 4, 1967
It’s difficult for someone who wasn’t in their teens or twenties in 1969 to imagine how desperately we needed peace. The Vietnam War overwhelmed much of America. There were 8,744,000 active US service members between 1964 and 1975, 3,403,000 of whom were deployed to Southeast Asia -- many of them selected randomly through the draft.
A Random Lottery for the Draft
By August 1969, the majority of Americans opposed the Vietnam War. Anti-war rallies with tens of thousands of protesters were commonplace in major cities across the country. When Woodstock was announced as “Three Days of Peace and Music,” the Peace part was supernal bliss. Three days to not worry about the war, the draft, the man. Because worrying about the war and the draft was taking its toll on the young people not interested in fighting a war they didn't believe in.
64% of veterans said Iraq wasn't worth fighting, along with 58% who said the same about Afghanistan.
-PEW Research Center
Imagine being 18, 19 or 20 years old during the summer of Woodstock. Imagine being against the war and knowing that your fate would be determined by the random selection of birthdays written on slips of paper and pulled from a glass jar by a Washington bureaucrat in a suit. Get lucky, and you’re safe for a year. Unlucky, that was when your birthday was one of the first dates pulled -- you’d probably find yourself called up for service.
We Could Gather and We Could be Heard
The successful and peaceful gathering of half a million people for Woodstock made it clear to all of us that we could gather and that we could be heard. A few weeks after Woodstock, anti-war protester and community organizer Sam Brown (with liberal political activist Jerome Grossman and others) coordinated the Vietnam Moratorium to end the War.
That led to the November 15, 1969, March Against Death -- when another 500,000 would gather on The Mall in Washington, DC also accompanied by musical artists (Woodstock performer Arlo Guthrie was there, among others). This time the message was peace and only peace. Stop the war. Pete Seeger led that crowd in a 15-minute rendition of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance..
That rally was the top news story for days. It was a welcome change from the grim statistics and Vietnam War reporting that we usually had. You see, back in 1969, there was very little data coming out of the Vietnam War reporting. The Defense Department wanted to present a picture that the US was “winning” the Vietnam War, and they did this by sharing casualty figures that were published in papers and broadcast on the TV news.
My parents liked NBC. In the late-60s that meant that every night our news came from Chet Huntley (in New York) and David Brinkley (in Washington, DC). The Vietnam War made the news just about every night and on screen there were little flags and text that looked like Olympic medal tallies -- unfortunately they weren’t medals. They were casualties. United States, South Vietnam, Viet Cong, North Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia. Each name was followed by a number. The number our government reported killed.
The logic at the time (unspoken, at least in my house) was that war was like golf. The lower the number the closer you were to winning. I remember walking around with this belief until my friend Peter’s father explained that any number over zero meant that no one was winning.
I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.
— Martin Luther King, April 4, 1967
Today, peace is just as difficult to achieve, but we have new data and new ways to measure peace. Hopefully, this will make it more likely we will achieve more peace and well being. Less war and terrorism.
We have AI, advanced data science, and machines to do the modeling for us. And fortunately, we have The Institute for Economics and Peace, the coolest charity in the world this week, to help us understand. The Institute for Economics and Peace is one of the most incredible think tanks in the world. They are the inventors and publishers of the Global Peace Index, the most important 100-page report that you’ve never read. More important than the Mueller’s.
Launched in 2008, the Global Peace Index measures data from 163 independent countries and ranks them according to their level of peacefulness. These territories cover 99.7% of the world's population and their research includes findings about both the status of peacefulness and emerging trends.
Positive Peace Index
Since I know you’re wondering, Iceland, New Zealand,Austria, Portugal, and Denmark lead the list of the world’s most peaceful countries. Afghanistan, Syria, South Sudan, Yemen, and Irag the least peaceful.
As for the current trends in peace, all three regions in the Americas recorded deteriorations in peacefulness during 2019. Countries in Central America, the Caribbean, and Venezuela are showing the most rapid deteriorations. Growing political polarization is also causing declines in peacefulness in Brazil, and yes, the United States.
The Institute for Economics and Peace is a nonprofit organization that would love to have your support by attending an IEP event or reading their 2019 Global Peace Index Report.
For additional information please contact Coolest Charity.