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Anti-War Voices Of Emma Goldman, Helen Keller And Bob Dylan

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A region’s citizens are important to how they will progress with their future. Although war helps to create jobs, it also carries drawbacks to helping the society progress as a whole. Having higher officials declaring war causes a disadvantage to having constant improvement because of many casualties and all the expenses that go into it. With war being more hurtful than an advantage, countries should focus more on improving their society, which will lead to individuals having better lives and possibly a better future for that country.

In past centuries, when war was on the top of the list for officials in a country, it neglected everything else that had to do with that country. One of them being their society’s health. The society is an important aspect of one’s country because it is their own people, yet when war takes over, the priority of protecting their society is forgotten. Although war is being funded, there are many people in society who do not believe that funding wars is the right thing to do since they understand that it is more important to help build their society. In order to recognize this, individuals, such as Emma Goldman, Helen Keller, and Bob Dylan, use their voices to take a stand of having more attention be brought to the United States rather than being in war. Being anti-war and speaking out for it causes there to be more attention towards this situation and helps to educate others that war is not very beneficial in the long run because of how society is not flourishing yet.

In the United States, the number of low class families greatly exceeded the amount of upper class families in the 20th century. Because of this, many families struggled to find a stable living lifestyle even though there were efforts to try to help better society. Unfortunately, the government officials cared more for promoting those who risked their lives for their country; these officials preferred making people of the war happy rather than making their society happy. Due to this, more money is spent on those who help in the war, specifically those who fight in the war. This can be seen in Emma Goldman’s primary source, “Patriotism: A Menace to Liberty.” In her primary source, Goldman (1908, 271) states, “Yes, two hundred and sixty thousand dollars were spent on fireworks, theater parties, and revelries at a time when men, women, and children through the breadth and length of the country were starving in the streets; when thousands of unemployed were ready to sell their labor at any price.” San Francisco was able to gather up this much money and all of it only went towards those to entertain a fleet. She mentions this detail because she is trying to emphasize how if government officials had enough money to bring entertainment to the navy, then they should also have enough money to spend on those who are struggling. Putting entertainment next to a struggling society and having to decide where 260,000 dollars goes shows where America’s government officials’ mindset was; they care more about pleasing those who will bring benefits from the war rather than helping their own society. A struggling society is not enough for government officials to realize that there needs to be some type of action to try and help.

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Since the United States does not put their focus on the society in any type of way, they out it on something else: war. War is important to the government because it brings in money, something that highly interests them. The United States believes that the result of participating in war will be more satisfying than helping their own society because of how they will gain more resources, such as money or even land. For example, Helen Keller mentions one of Congress’ desires with war in her primary source, “Strike Against War.” The belief is that “Congress is not preparing to defend the people of the United States. It is planning to protect the capital of American speculators and investors” (Keller, 1916, 285). With Keller’s stance of being anti-war, she believes that the reason for wanting war is not a good enough reason. She believes that the United States is participating in war because they see it as a way to get money by either funding something or potentially becoming allies with a country in order to have capital from them in the future. Helen stresses this idea in her point of view because of how it shows where the United States rather put their effort in; they do not seem to want to help the society. Similar to what Goldman mentions in her primary source, the United States will fund anything and anyone that has to do with the war because they want money back. The United States cares more about generating revenue than caring for their society because of how money is a top priority of theirs to acquire.

With war money being more important to the United States’ government rather than their own people, there is a struggle for trust within many individuals. Like Goldman and Keller, singers like Bob Dylan did not support the war because of the wrong mindset of the government. Dylan believes that injustice at home is more important than putting efforts into the war due to it creating no positive outcomes in the long run. In Dylan’s song, “Masters of War,” the singer personifies war as something that caused nothing but horror and destruction. For example, Dylan (1963, 430) sings, “Let me ask you one question / Is your money that good / Will it buy you forgiveness / Do you think that it could / I think you will find / When your death takes its toll / All the money you made / Will never buy back your soul.” The singer questions war because of how he knows that even though the government decided to go through with war, there will be many regrets because money cannot buy the people back. There will never be enough money that will pay to have society be better; regardless, the money would go back to funding anything related to war. No matter how much money is generated from war, most people are still anti-war because of how many hardships it creates.

From analyzing these three primary source, it teaches how many people had a negative connotation towards war. Many people in society that focus on their lives rather than fighting in a war that only leads to death and debt; they do not think that fighting in a war is worth risking the lives of the society. Goldman, Keller, and Dylan are important to recognize because of how no matter what year they published their viewpoint, they all had the same reaction to war. This implies that being anti-war is a more socially accepted stance and should be taken more seriously by government officials. Having government officials care more about war causes people like these three speakers to keep putting themselves out there, risking their lives, because they want what is better for their country.

Primary sources gives a first person insight of what life used to be at a certain time in history. With these three sources, a reader would be able to see how individuals felt about a certain topic, in this case the relationship between war and society. Many of the people did not see any purpose for war and therefore opposed it; they believed that caring for their society should be much more prioritized. Unfortunately, government officials, specifically within the United States, decided to pick war rather than its people.


  1. Dylan, Bob. 1961. “Masters of War.” Voices of A People’s History of the United States, 429-4230.
  2. Goldman, Emma. 1908. “Patriotism: A Menace to Liberty.” Voices of A People’s History of the United States, 270-272.
  3. Keller, Helen. 1916. “Strike Against War.” Voices of A People’s History of the United States, 284-288.
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