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What does the song "Give Peace A Chance" suggest about the Vietnam War Era?

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wantahoranhug | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 7, 2012 at 8:50 PM via web

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What does the song "Give Peace A Chance" suggest about the Vietnam War Era?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 8, 2012 at 1:18 AM (Answer #1)

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In the stunning simplicity that John Lennon and Yoko Ono presented to complex social issues of the day, the song simply makes the statement that the escalation of the war in Vietnam is a result of people not "giving peace a chance" to work.  The continual refrain of "All we are saying is give peace a chance" reminds the listener that peace is something that can be achieved if individuals show the commitment to embrace it.  Highly reminiscent of the Lennon/ McCartney anthem, "All You Need is Love," the song is a telling statement that no matter how difficult and complex the situation in Vietnam might appear to be, if individuals "give peace a chance," the conflict can be resolved.

When Lennon and Ono conceived of the song, the war had escalated to a point where death and widespread destruction were becoming evident.  Nixon's ascension to power had increased the intensity of the war in the hopes of ending it.  The song is a reminder to those in the position of political power and those who are outside of it that peace can be achieved if individual will is geared towards it.  The improvised lyrics of "Are you listening, Nixon?" and "Are you listening, Agnew?" help to reinforce this.  The song suggests, and rightly becomes appropriated by, the strong anti- war sentiment in America regarding the Vietnam War.  For the first time in its history, mobilized and widespread public dissent had become commonplace about the war and who benefited from it.  The song's success is largely in part because it struck this nerve in public resistance to it.  The song suggests that the Vietnam War Era was marked by strong social division in which there were those who were in the position of power and those who were on the outside of it, such as Lennon and Ono and their friends who recorded the song.  The song suggests that the Vietnam War possessed a moral dynamic to it.  The support of the war was clearly linked to the support of death and destruction while the opposition to it was able to invoke a claim of morality within it, something that the song illuminates.  In the song, these moral polarities of the Vietnam War Era are evident.

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