It’s their turn

On March 24, 1965, students at the University of Michigan held the first teach-in on the Vietnam war.

This was very early in the full-fledged combat phase of the war for the United States. Just 16 days earlier, the first U.S. Marines had landed at DaNang. There was little support for questioning the war. Michigan Gov. George Romney and the Michigan Senate both denounced the teach-in. But 200 professors supported it, and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Paul Adams attended and learned, calling the event “a vital service … in promoting debate on the question of U.S. policy in Vietnam.”

The last thing hawks wanted was to promote debate on the war, but from Michigan, teach-ins spread across the country. Information—teaching materials included matter for both sides—turned out to be essential as long as the war went on. The more people learned about the war’s origins, Vietnam’s history, and our government’s conduct, the more they questioned verities that had previously been accepted without doubt. Movement was always hawk to dove.

Eventually Romney discovered he, too, had been misled by the U.S. government on the war. He called for “a sound peace in South Vietnam at an early time.” His admission that he had too freely accepted what he had been told by the military and diplomats when he visited Vietnam—he called it “brainwashing”—cost him his chance to be president. A book by three British journalists noted that “most Americans had been” brainwashed, not just Romney.

We tread this past pathway for a reason. The teach-ins served a purpose. They informed the public when most people mistakenly accepted what they were told. It was much like the gun issue, in which claims are made but seldom subjected to scrutiny. People are frozen in their dogmatic positions instead of studying.

Like the students of 1965, students of 2018 are seizing control of an issue—guns. It is an issue that, like Vietnam, is becoming one of life or death for students. “We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire weapons and ammunition they desire,” said Robert Kennedy between Martin Luther King’s murder and his own.

We hope this movement takes a route through more than just protest, that discussion and learning are a part of it. There is a myriad of gun issues that we do not talk about—including whether the overheated news coverage that follows many school shootings helps cause copycats. Some schools and school districts—including Washoe—have reacted badly, some even talking about truancy. Many college campuses are showing a better way—cooperating and encouraging the March For Our Lives movement.

It is true, as we have reported often in encouraging restraint in news coverage, that school shootings do not kill a large number of students each year. But how many is too many? How few are few enough? Such macabre questions are so-what questions. “One life is everything, and human tears must be counted one by one,” wrote novelist Jay Richard Kennedy. Students are fed up with death as a perpetual price of access to weapons, and gun advocates, policymakers and adults who have failed to come to grips with gun crime will just have to live with their aggravated young participation. May it lead us to wise policies.