College protests now are nothing like those during Vietnam

It seems silly to write a column about the recent college protests. It’s not really news when privileged students who have never been in the line of fire and whose most pressing concern is what pronoun they’ll use on any given day decide to rise up against the establishment. And yet, here we are.

Across the nation, college students have been raising their voices against what some call a “genocide” and others call “Zionist oppression.”

They have been supported in their misguided crusade by politicians like Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, women who have veered so close to antisemitic bigotry in their acts and omissions that it’s no longer possible to play the “both sides” game: their refusal to come out and condemn without equivocation Hamas and its acts of terror is a fitting representation of the sort of bigotry so clearly present at these protests.

And that’s why I’m disgusted with the attempts to compare the anti-Israel protests — which are at heart anti-Jew protests — with what happened on college campuses in the 1960s. Back then, the Vietnam War was raging, and young American men were being sent to fight in a conflict that many people didn’t support, and many more didn’t understand.

I was too young to remember what was happening then. So I asked a good friend of mine to help me comprehend the 1960s mindset.

Dan Cirucci, a blogger and public relations professional, was a young man at Villanova University in 1968 when he marched against the war and supported those who called for its end. So what does Cirucci think of the current protests?

“This is not like 1968,” Cirucci wrote. “College age Americans were fighting and dying on foreign soil in 1968 in a war that seemed to have no end. And 1968 was the high point of the bloodshed, with 16,592 young American lives lost.”

“Authorities were not nearly as tolerant of college uprisings as they are now. Protesting students were often quickly expelled, and since there was a military draft, they could be legally prosecuted,” Cirucci added. “At Kent State University, the National Guard was called in to quell a student protest. Twenty-eight National Guard soldiers fired about 67 rounds over 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others in what came to be known as the Kent State massacre.”

I think the thing that struck me the most about Cirucci’s account is the comment about Kent State. The protesters today are in no danger of anything other than being arrested, and only if they have committed crimes of trespass or assault. The students we have seen at UCLA and Columbia and other institutions have become violent, whether because they have acted on their own or allowed outside agitators to join the cause and infiltrate the ranks. No one is killing them.

No one is holding them accountable for their “First Amendment” rights, which have turned in many cases into criminal antics. And not one of them is in danger of being drafted to fight in a foreign war.

Beyond that, as Cirucci points out, the Vietnam protests were aimed at saving lives. He mentions that he was at Villanova, an Augustinian institution that also happens to be one of my alma maters. There, they prayed for the end of the war, and the safety of the soldiers and the South Vietnamese.

If you attend one of these 2024 protests, it is rare to hear prayers. More likely than not, you will hear faith being twisted into a weapon, and Jewish students being vilified for who they are, and what they believe.

So no, the protests that are cropping up around us are not “just like” Vietnam. They are much closer to the BLM protest/riots that engulfed our country a few years ago. The point of those marches seemed to be grievance and hatred of “the other,” not a true attempt at any social reckoning.

There is no difference with the anti-Israel protests we are forced to deal with today. Opinions will differ on what is happening in Gaza. But people who have a better grasp of history, those who lived through this before, know that there can be no difference of opinion on this: The times, they are “a changing.” And these “protesters” are nowhere near the caliber of those who went before them.

Copyright 2024 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Flowers is an attorney and a columnist and can be reached at