My Country Is the World: Staughton Lynd’s Writings, Speeches, and Statements Against the Vietnam War (Haymarket Books, 400 pp. $65, hardcover; $29.95, paper; $9.99, Kindle), edited by the historian Luke Stewart, is an extensive look at the antiwar movement of the late 1960s, concentrating on the leadership of one man, Staughton Lynd.
Lynd (1929-2022) actively opposed America’s involvement in the Vietnam War between 1965 and 1970, especially in New York and Washington. His efforts peaked in the months after a December 1965 trip he made to Hanoi with Tom Hayden, founding member of Students for a Democratic Society, and Albert Aptheker, a historian and member of the Communist Party of the United States.
A professor at Yale University, Lynd believed that the U.S. went to war in Vietnam because of a foreign policy established by a group of privileged people who felt their manhood threatened by any challenge to American power.
Lynd’s wife Alice, who often worked beside him, seemed most comfortable being involved in draft counseling. Those who took part in that work were well aware of the painful irony that for every young man they helped avoid conscription, another one would be drafted and likely be sent to Vietnam.
Lynd started working for Civil Rights in the South before moving to opposing the war in Vietnam. From 1965-67, many considered him to be the leading American voice against the war. This volume collects his major writings, speeches, and interviews during this time.
In February 1965 the Lynds wrote to the IRS stating they would stop paying the percentage of their income taxes that went to the Defense Department. Lynd said he instead favored the U.S. paying massive reparations to the Vietnamese people.
Lynd considered the fighting in Vietnam to be the result of a civil war, and not a question of foreign aggression that should be stopped by military intervention. He moved from opposing the war to trying to end it and called for the creation of a War Crimes Tribunal.
“This country is presently waging an undeclared war so evil and so dangerous that the imagination can hardly comprehend it,” Lynd declared at a protest meeting in Carnegie Hall. He went to Hanoi in an effort to encourage peace talks. While in Vietnam he said the war was “immoral, illegal, and antidemocratic.” The trip resulted in having his passport revoked, losing his job at Yale, being marked by the CIA as “the notorious national peace leader.”
Lynd later became a critic of the antiwar movement’s tactics and strategies. That resulted in a permanent split with his good friend and another leader in the movement, David Dellinger. Lynd then began to move away from national antiwar activity, becoming more involved in the labor movement.
The records gathered here are an important accounting of the early years of the American antiwar movement during the Vietnam War. Just as important to me is editor Luke Stewart’s lengthy, informative essays that make up the book’s chapter introductions.
This book will help to balance out many a Vietnam War library.