Dear Dr. Spock: Letters about the Vietnam War to America's Favorite Baby Doctor / Edition 1

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Overview

At the height of the Vietnam War, thousands of Americans wrote moving letters to Dr. Benjamin Spock, America’s pediatrician and a high-profile opponent of the war. Personal and heartfelt, thoughtful and volatile, these missives from Middle America provide an intriguing glimpse into the conflicts that took place over the dinner table as people wrestled with this divisive war and with their consciences.

Providing one of the first clear views of the home front during the war, Dear Dr. Spock collects the best of these letters and offers a window into the minds of ordinary Americans. They wrote to Spock because he was familiar, trustworthy, and controversial. His book Baby and Child Care was on the shelves of most homes, second only to the Bible in the number of copies sold. Starting in the 1960s, his activism in the antinuclear and antiwar movements drew mixed reactions from Americans—some puzzled, some supportive, some angry, and some desperate.

Most of the letters come from what Richard Nixon called the “silent majority”—white, middleclass, law-abiding citizens who the president thought supported the war to contain Communism. In fact, the letters reveal a complexity of reasoning and feeling that moves far beyond the opinion polls at the time. One mother of young children struggles to imagine how Vietnamese women could endure after their village was napalmed, while another chastises Spock for the “dark shadow” he had cast on the country and pledges to instill love of country in her sons.

What emerges is a portrait of articulate Americans struggling mightily to understand government policies in Vietnam and how those policies did or did not reflect their own sense of themselves and their country.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Foley has discovered a unique source on the American home front during the Vietnam War, a perspective that moves us past the usual images of angry polarization. These powerful letters help us to consider how war-times induce people to look with new eyes at their nation and their government.”
-David Farber,author of The Age of Great Dreams: America in the 1960s

“These letters—with Michael S. Foley's astute and informed commentary—make clear why and how so many Americans trusted Benjamin Spock. The body politic sorely needs a Doctor Spock today.”
-James Carroll,author of Crusade: Chronicles of an Unjust War

Publishers Weekly
From thousands of letters written to Dr. Benjamin Spock during the Vietnam War, Foley (Confronting the War Machine: Draft Resistance During the Vietnam War) has carefully culled 218 missives from America's "silent majority." The result, revealing the home-front experience of the war from 1965 to 1972, reflects a public opinion that was not monolithic but rather characterized by "nuance, subtlety, and... ambivalence." As the iconic author of the 1950s child-rearing bible, Baby and Child Care, and a leading antiwar figure, Spock was a lightning rod for both the war's opponents and proponents. These passionate, articulate letters come from the parents of soldiers serving in Vietnam and of sons facing the draft, student protesters, soldiers serving in Vietnam, WWII veterans, and draft resisters in both the U.S. and Canada. They praise Spock and vilify him. Arranged chronologically by year and thematically within each year (e.g., peace proposals, war and children, anticommunism), with historical context and analysis, the collection doesn't really shed new light on that era, but in view of divisiveness over the war in Iraq, many may find the frustration, fear and grief expressed here newly relevant. B&w photos. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814727430
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2005
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 281
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael S. Foley is associate professor of history at the City University of New York's Graduate Center and the College of Staten Island. He is the author of Confronting the War Machine: Draft Resistance during the Vietnam War.

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments
Introduction
A Note on the Letters
1 Gun?re in the Distance, 1965
2 Into the Quagmire, 1966
3 Polarization, January–October 1967
4 The Antiwar Challenge and Its Discontents, October 1967–February 1968
5 Shock Waves: The Aftermath of Tet and the Ordeal at Home, February–May 1968
6 The War on Trial, May–September 1968
7 Toward Nixon’s War, September 1968–December 1969
8 The End of the Tunnel, 1970–1972
Appendix
Notes
Index
About the Editor
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