The ‘Perpetual Student’ Changed American Polititics


The Vietnam War may have affected the United States in a way that is just now rearing its ugly head – the perpetual student.

I don’t know of any war that can be classified as “popular”, but the war in Vietnam was certainly one of our most “unpopular”, triggering a long list of events including massive antiwar demonstrations, civil disobedience, an expanded drug culture, a free sex atmosphere from the “make love, not war” crowd, just to name a few.

At the age of 19, I had graduated from high school (almost 50 years ago!), had worked a full 40 hour week job for over two years, was married and had one child!  I also enlisted in the Army because that’s what every male in my family had done for generation after generation.  Even though I was prepared to go to Vietnam, the military had a pecking order in place and single men got combat orders before married soldiers with dependents.

We saw several thousand draft dodgers run for the border to escape being drafted into the military and we also saw one other, very important change that I’ve called the perpetual student.

Military draft deferments were issued for a wide variety of things, chief among them being physical impairments that made training and military service extremely difficult, if not impossible.  Everyone knew what it meant to be 4-F – the classification for physically impaired draft-age men.  (Women were not drafted)

Probably the second most popular deferment sought by those who wished to avoid being drafted was the student deferment, and that’s the category I believe had a significant impact on the political complexion of the United States.

Normally, 12 years of high school led to two or four years of college and then it was on to the private sector, starting and raising a family and a job to support that family.  You registered for the draft on your 18th birthday, but didn’t have to be worried because you were still in college and were assigned a student deferment.  As the war raged on, that formula changed.  College students completed their normal course of studies and then enrolled in graduate programs and – for many – simply stayed there until the war was over!  Some were in their 30s, still living at home or in a VW microbus, and there really wasn’t much to do except party down.

Following the Grateful Dead from concert to concert was, for many, a profession.  Staying stoned on drugs made it all easier to accomplish.  American heros to this crowd included Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Robert Hunter,Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, Brent Mydland, Donna Godchaux, Vince Welnick, Keith Godchaux, Tom Bruce Hornsby and Tom Constanten.  And, of course, Timothy Leary, who exhorted his followers to “Turn on, tune in, drop out” while under the influence of LSD.

The war eventually ended, but the perpetual student remained…and does so to this day.

Two Of Your Average 60s College Students

While many thousands of young men and women followed the “normal” path to adulthood – complete with the responsibilities directly associated with starting and raising a family, establishing themselves in a career field and generally prepared themselves to become productive members of society, the perpetual student stayed in a state of limbo – seemingly not giving a damn what the rest of the world was doing, so long as it didn’t involve them having to work or take any responsibility for their own actions.  They had avoided the war and that was all that was important.  Life was good; why change a thing?

Of course there was that little matter of paying what most of us considered our fair share for police, fire, rescue, schools, roads, infrastructure, etc.  We had jobs and, therefor, paid taxes.  If the perpetual student had a paying job it was all under the table, with no weekly paycheck deductions and certainly no ugly tax returns to file every April 15th.  They were certainly taking everything and not paying for anything, and the more they received “free” from the government the better.

Most of those people simply never grew up.  They continued living off of others and found that to be a lucrative lifestyle.  They take responsibility for nothing and never will.  “Hey!  If someone’s going to give you everything, why work for anything?”

Today, they’re running the country and advancing dependency on government(s) to give them every single thing they feel they need, because it’s a right – somehow woven into the Constitution – probably hidden in the “”Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” clause of the Declaration of Independence.

By way of example; it was not all that long ago when unemployment checks were paid out up to a maximum of 26 weeks.  Today, unemployment recipients cash those checks for 99 weeks.  There’s even talk inside the Beltway of extending UC “benefits” longer still.

There’s a name for that lifestyle and governance – socialism – and socialism only works as long as you don’t run out of other people’s money.  Call it class warfare, if you will – the haves providing for the have nots.  Redistribution of wealth, whereby those who take responsibility and earn what they have are forced by their government to give what they have to those who refuse to earn it for themselves.

We aren’t heading in that direction, we’re there now.

61 million Americans just went to the polls and approved of turning the United States into a socialist state – even after seeing just what such a government could do to destroy a country in very short order over the preceding four years.

A travesty of the highest order; especially when such notable leaders of the former Soviet Union publicly question the intelligence of U.S. voters and suggest that Barack Obama will destroy the United States.

And when the United States goes down, most of the free world will go down with it.  So very much of the world economy is based on the U.S. dollar that an economic collapse here would have an immediate, profound effect in most of the rest of the world.  You can even measure that effect by watching the stock market.  Whenever the U.S. stock markets go down, the markets in the rest of the world drop also.

The Woodstock generation of 1969 has taken over.

For an up close look at that crowd, click right here.