Rallying Signs: Vietnam Posters Express Outrage

Few things have caused a greater schism in American society than the Vietnam War.

The 1960’s encompassed a time of political, racial, social, and cultural unrest as the U.S. became polarized between those who advocated continued involvement in Vietnam and those who wanted peace. Central to the conflict was the fact that many did not understand the origins of the Vietnam War or the reasons behind the U.S. decision to intervene. To a majority of Americans, the war seemed futile and pointless, and it left the nation questioning the policies of a government it had always trusted.

The movement against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War began with demonstrations in 1964 and grew in strength over the next few years, peaking in 1968. Many in the peace movement were students, mothers, or anti-establishment hippies, but there was also involvement from educators, labor unions, clergy, journalists, lawyers, military veterans, and ordinary Americans. Expressions of opposition ranged from peaceful nonviolent demonstrations to radical displays of violence.

In terms of peaceful nonviolent demonstrations, a large number took place independently on college campuses, while national demonstrations took the form of Marches on Washington, which drew hundreds of thousands of people and continued up until the war’s end in 1975.

Out of these demonstrations arose countless posters and political signs harboring anti-war messages and slogans. Some are direct and simple, a call for something; others, with sharp and severe messages, prompt a double-take; some are sad, while others mock through ironic jokes and a biting sort of sarcasm; still others are vulgar and obscene, placing blame as they look for a scapegoat and search for someone to blame.

Here are some particularly poignant rally signs and posters from various anti-war demonstrations:

CALL FOR ACTION - A fairly generic rallying sign calling for the end of the war and the return of U.S. soldiers.

DESPICABLE DRAFT - The poster reads "I don't give a damn for Uncle Sam" and protests the draft. Uncle Sam was a familiar character on recruitment posters.

MASTER PUPPETEER - This photo shows two protesters, one labeled "Saigon Puppet" and the other "U.S. Imperialism."

A SIGN TO LAST THE AGES - A rallying sign featuring one of the most familiar and famous messages of the 1960's: make love, not war.

COME WITH ME - A sign calling for those opposed to the war to participate in a protest march.

A NEW HITLER? - One of the more darkly labeled rallying signs, this poster compares President Nixon to Hitler, substituting a swastika for the 'x' in Nixon's name.

DOUBLE JEOPARDY - This poster suggests that the war's effects are not only taking a toll in the U.S.

PROTEST POSTERS - A group of protesters walk with rallying signs reading: "Bring the Troops Home Now," "War No More," "End the War in Vietnam Now," and "Self Determination for Vietnam."

LEADING THE WAY - This rallying banner leads a group of marchers protesting the Vietnam War.

Watch this video for a deeper look at Vietnam War protests. 

Political Signs Become Local Attraction

***Names have been changed to Mr. and Mrs. X to protect privacy

One yard in Fredericksburg, Texas is attracting quite a lot of attention—and not for the landscaping.

At the home of Mr. and Mrs. X, two large signs sit blatantly in the front yard. They’re hard to miss, and townspeople have taken notice.

The first, placed in the yard approximately two years ago, features a picture of former president George Bush waving and the words “Miss Me Yet?” underneath. The second, introduced about a year later, shows a picture of President Obama and reads, “Voted Obama? Embarrassed Yet? You Should Be!”

The first of two politically-charged signs to be placed in the front yard of Mr. and Mrs. X in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Mr. X was prompted to create and purchase the signs after being disappointed by the 2008 presidential election. While he discovered the Bush design through an e-mail thread, he designed the Obama sign himself.

The Obama poster was the second to arrive and was designed by Mr. X. Both signs have now been in the front yard for approximately two years.

The signs, a familiar sight to Fredericksburg residents, are now attracting the attention of visitors.

“Lots of people come by to take pictures,” Mr. X said. “Many tell me the merchants on Main Street are sending them by, like a tourist attraction. It’s actually very difficult to get yard work done on weekends. Everyone wants to stop me to visit about the signs.”

In conservative Fredericksburg, the signs have received a lot of support.

“We’ve only received two negative comments in two years,” Mr. X said. “One unsigned card from a Chicago resident passing through, and the other from a lady I go to church with.”

While Mr. and Mrs. X have been lucky to receive relatively little backlash, both signs have been vandalized once. On the Bush sign, it appears that George may have a pink mustache, while there is a hole near Obama’s eye in the Obama sign.

“Some kids drove by late one night and shot at the Obama sign with a paint ball gun. They missed twice, but hit once in the eye, making a hole,” Mr. X said. “I suspect some kids from down the street marked on George with a Marks-a-Lot. When my wife cleaned it off, the cleaner lightened the picture in some spots.”

The sun, too, has faded the Bush sign from its original bright pink color. Currently, Mr. X is working on a new sign to replace it, featuring both George and Laura Bush with the words, “Miss Us Yet?”

While plans for the new sign are underway now, Mr. and Mrs. X did contemplate removing the signs after about a year of having both displayed.

“To our surprise, everyone we mentioned it to begged us not to because they had someone they hadn’t been able to show the signs to—kin from out-of-town, things like that,” Mr. X said.

So for now, the signs will remain a Fredericksburg landmark. But despite their touristy aspects, the signs deserve recognition as political statements. Furthermore, they foster political awareness and have generated a good deal of political talk in the community.

“We get to meet a lot of folks that come by. All have been fun to talk to and hear their take on the current political situation…even if they keep me from getting my yard work done,” Mr. X said.

Political Signage

It’s protest art in a different style.

As of yet, I’ve stuck to covering paintings, posters, graffiti, and street art. But there’s a whole other world of political and protest art out there in the form of metal signs, bumper stickers, buttons, t-shirts, etc. The genre is positively teeming with variety.

This metal sign (i.e. a part of the ‘other world’ of protest art) was spotted in the Fredericksburg General Store in Fredericksburg, Texas, my hometown.

This sign was spotted in the Fredericksburg General Store in Fredericksburg, TX. While the store houses mostly antiques and nostalgic memorabilia, it also has a small collection of political signs and wall-hangings, mostly conservative in nature.

Citing a paraphrased version of the second amendment to the U.S. constitution, (the actual amendment reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”) the sign reflects heated arguments over the issue of gun control in American politics.

Unmistakably created to protest regulation of firearms, the sign’s latter half employs a condescending tone which intends to call out the opposition on their ignorant misinterpretation of the second amendment.

While the second amendment appears straightforward, its meaning has been a subject of debate for centuries and regulation of firearms remains a hot topic in politics.

The National Rifle Association (NRA), founded November 17, 1871, has long been considered America’s foremost defender of Second Amendment rights. While the NRA was not initially a lobbying organization (it only formed its Institute for Legislative Action in 1975), it is a major political force today. The NRA is staunchly opposed to any firearms regulation and favors civilian control over firearms.

On the other hand, those supporting gun control cite as their single most important reason the safety of individuals. Those in favor are of the opinion that implementing gun control laws would reduce the number of firearms-related accidents, prevent guns from landing in the wrong hands, and regulate who gains ownership of guns.

As for the sign, Fredericksburg General Store owners Ron and Donna Nordstrom say it’s a store favorite.

“It’s a popular buy among locals and tourists,” Mr. Nordstrom said. “With the amount of hunting that goes on around here, it’s no surprise that residents and visitors alike support the sign’s message.”

Fredericksburg, in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, is widely regarded a prime destination for hunters across the state.

The General Store, one of many unique shops to grace Fredericksburg’s Main Street, boasts a wide selection of quality souvenirs, collectibles, toys, candy, and nostalgic items. While it is not home to large number of political art pieces, it does house a few, mostly conservative in nature.