One Coin, Two Faces

“One mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter”

When it comes to telling a story, there is often the Good Guy™ and the Bad Guy™. The truth is, there is always two sides to every story like this, the side of the heroes, and the side of the villains. But to villains always believe that they’re villains? Or do they think they’re heroes too? 

As I come to the end of this quarter’s Humanities 12 project “Building A Second Brain”, I was asked to create a piece of text as a Capstone to the end of this term. 

Where I am right now, this is either my penultimate or final project with PLP, and in high school. That is beyond crazy for my mind to comprehend, but I digress.

Calling upon topics I have covered in our Building A Second Brain project, I have worked to create some graphics in the form of propaganda posters that follow the idea that

“No story is one sided, and to understand that story one must look at multiple perspective before judging.” 

I took examples from 3 topics that we covered in our unit: 

  1. Turning Points In History: the Vietnam War
  2. Terrorism: The IRA
  3. Cults: Jonestown aka the People’s Temple


No. 1 – the Vietnam War

Poster One: 

This first poster is on the United States Governments perspective on the war. The Vietnam War was a required draft for all men while it was going on, and for that reason there were many people trying to dodge the drafts. The US sent thousands of men into the jungle with weaponry and no idea who they were fighting. It is known that the US profits off of the war, and for that reason I wanted to give this poster the look of something that would’ve once been bright and enticing, but has aged poorly since its Glory Days. 

The poster depicts the colours and stripes of the US flag, this was because I wanted to include the patriotism that is so often seen in US culture, an enticing choice to draw people in who want to stand with their country. 

The words “help fight against communism in Vietnam” was a decision I made based on a poster I saw in my research that had text similar in the corner. I made this one about communism because of the USA’s long lasting hatred of communism, which was the entire reason they were fighting in Vietnam in the first place anyway. The “See your recruiter today” at the bottom was also taken from the poster I saw, which originally said “See your local navy recruiter today”. 

An artistic choice that I made with this poster that can be seen in the posters to come is the white fade and grunge over the poster. This is to create an older look to the poster in recognition that I was looking at history rather than right now. 


Poster Two: 

This poster is from the view of the people protesting the war. While the draft was compulsory, it also meant that people at home watching what was happening on tv was pretty much compulsory as well. Every night on television there would be updates on the war and the horrific things that were happening across the sea. The US was not winning, and people were getting upset at the amount of people being sent to their deaths in Vietnam. As often was (and is) the case when groups become upset, protests began. 

Many of these protesters were hippies. Those known as radicals because they lived off free love and weed, and for that reason, I wanted my poster to show the mix of times.

“Spread Love Not War” came from “Make Love Not War” that I saw on a different poster in my research, and the background was based off of another Anti War poster from the time. I also included a similar fade over this poster, showing that the events are history, but also because I imagine a poster like this would’ve been posted on walls or carried at protests, meaning they would have been subject to sun and rain that would create a faded and splotchy affect in areas.


The Sides

In this case, one side is the government and one side is the people. The government of probably the proudest country on earth are making money and fighting against what they believe to be the biggest evil: communism, while the public see the atrocities happening on tv and the lives lost to an unwinable war and are speaking up to the people in power of their displeasure at their actions. 


No. 2 – Terrorism

In Ireland in the 1990s there was a shift in a long-lasting conflict between Loyalists and Republicans over Northern Ireland becoming independent from the British. A terrorist group known as the IRA was responsible for many bombings and violent attacks against citizens of both Northern Ireland and Britain as they attempted to gain freedom from England. On the other side of this was civilians who wanted the fighting over and peace in their country for once, since there has been little of that between the two countries throughout history. 

The separation between types of people in Northern Ireland (and Ireland in general) at this time were rather binary: 

Unionists: Loyalists: Protestants

Nationalists: Republicans: Catholics


Poster One:

This poster is quite clearly on the side of revolution and freedom. The text is a sort of propaganda of “ayo, Ireland is strongest on its own”, and the bottom text back up this idea of revolution and separation. 

The hand print is the colours of the Irish flag, and its design was meant to show a sort of possible mark. The melting pattern is there go make it look somewhat liquid-y and like it could leave a mark if pushed against a surface. Making a mark and a change is the entire reasoning behind the IRA’s actions and I believe it is good symbolism of that. 

In the background there is a warm colour-schemed backdrop inverted so it has cool colours. There is no reason for this I just thought it looked cool. To go with that is good ‘ol Union Jack, the cross that colonized the world…. Anyways. This backdrop allows the hand to be a stark mark on the British rule in Northern Ireland, and also brings forward a clear meaning to the poster: we want change.


Poster Two: 

This poster stands for the northerners who were okay with being under British rule and wanted the violence to end.

The design was taken from a scene in *Derry Girls*, a very funny Irish television series that is set during the 1990’s conflict. There’s a scene in it where a school bus is inspected for bombs, and it inspired a bright and stark poster to show the idea that there are normal people trying to live their lives while violence surrounds them (see: the bombs going off on either side). 

I used the example of children’s lives being in danger because when it comes to grabbing the attention of civilian casualties, it is always more noticeable when children are mentioned as people who can get or have been hurt.


The Sides

Those who wanted freedom (republicans), and those who wanted peace (loyalists). The actions of the IRA were horrific, but eventually a Northern Ireland Assembly was created and peace has been much more common since. 


No. 3 – Cults

Jonestown. The perspectives I chose to look at here were that of Jim Jones bringing people into his church, and the people at home with family in Jonestown once it was formed. Jonestown was a horrific event, with over 900 lives lost in their Kool-aid deposited “mass suicide”. Mass genocide, really. 


Poster One:

This poster is based off of a story of how my mom almost got pulled into The Moonies as a young adult in San Fransisco, where she went inside for free sushi and came out with a cult meeting behind her. 

It includes the pink triangle because it was a sign of homosexuality post-WWII created from the take back  of the triangle used to identify homosexuals in concentration camps. In the opposite corner, the Black Lives Matter fist, used to identify movement for rights for black people around the world. These symbols were chosen for this poster because the People’s Church, which would eventually become Jonestown, was open to all people no matter their sexuality or race. This made it a safe space for queer and black people. 

I used these symbols because they draw in safety for minorities: when you see that symbol, your guard comes down, and that’s enough. The free food is a way of drawing people in as well: “have some free food and hear about what we have to offer”. 

Honestly this poster is my favourite, but it’s also the one that scares me the most, because I would probably fall for it. Free food in an inclusive space sounds great to me, and that’s good, but it also means I need to be careful. 

Don’t eat cult sushi.


Poster Two:

On the other side, further up in the timeline of the People’s Temple, is Jonestown. In this case, the people who are against it and are scared for the people in it. People who went to Jonestown often left their family and friend’s with little to no notice, they just packed up their things and hauled away to the jungle for a new life. There was no news coverage there, no contacting people, no way to know if people were safe.

People became suspicious. And so people began to stand against it: Something is going on in Jonestown. And something was. In November of 1978, Jonestown had its great fall: a mass “suicide” by the church’s followers that left hundred of people dead with very few survivors.

My poster was based on the idea of worried families and friends at home in America, wondering their their loved ones were gone and if they were okay. I followed that idea to suspicion: where had everyone gone and why couldn’t they be contacted? Anger, fear, and a poster was born saying “DOWN WITH JONESTOWN”. The bottom text “Bring our families home” was done to look like someone wrote on it with a sharpie; a personal message on a generalized one. 

The poster is dirty, a light grunge in the corners and across the page, as well as red splotches to simulate the idea of loss and death, and bleeding ink, that symbolizes tragedy of a story coming to an end the way it did. 


The Sides: 

Jonestown was a horrific event, and a very common example of how New Religious Movements (cults) can go wrong. On one side we have the charismatic leader who claims their a God or a person people need (Jim Jones), and on the other are people who’s families have disappeared and have no idea what is happening to them. 



On each side of all three of these stories there is this: one side that wants peace, one that has chosen violence. But those who chose violence often did not believe that’s what they were doing; they thought they were doing what was right. For Vietnam it was the governments desire to fight communism and win a war, because the US does not lose, and if it does, it won’t admit it. For the IRA it was a desire for independence from the crown, and the actions that were taken to get there were considered “necessary” for the most part. For Jonestown, people found a community and they wanted to stay. Some chose to stay in death, some were forced. But they believed they were doing something good with their lives. 

On the other side were people fighting for lives and peace and their loved ones. They believed they were saving lives too. 

Without looking at both sides, it’s impossible to say one is more correct than the other, and that is just the truth. With a full understanding of both side’s intentions, it is much easier to create an informed opinion on any given topic or event. 

Thanks for reading, I hope this wasn’t too much, but I tend to write too much anyways.

Stay safe, stay hydrated,

Have a good one.

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