Curatorial Projects > Battle Emblems (2006)


The Resistance was a grassroots movement of individual direct action that arose from mounting opposition to the Vietnam War and to the U.S. government’s national draft law. Opposition at first was scattered, but as anti-war protests grew more organized, protest rhetoric turned into public dissent actions, with mass anti-draft rallies held on campuses nationwide, including U.C. Berkeley and Stanford. Since late 1965, when the Amendment to the Universal Military Training and Service Act was passed, it was a federal offense to destroy a draft card. Draft cards, official documents issued by the Selective Service, were burned en masse at public rallies, including one held on April 15, 1967 at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium. It was excellent political theater, although there probably were only a few thousand participants nationwide. Called The Resistance, it was organized by former Stanford student president David Harris, and three others. It’s important to distinguish resistance, which involved formal, public defiance of Selective Service and willingness to serve jail terms up to five years, from draft-dodging, which didn’t. In October 1967, thousands turned in their draft cards as a statement that conscience would not be intimidated by threats of imprisonment. The Resistance had cells in cities nationwide, and an overseas counterpart called Stop It, composed of Americans living in England. The draft ended after the U.S. military was driven out of Vietnam in 1975. Draft registration was reinstated under President Carter in 1980, and The National Resistance Committee was formed to oppose registration and the draft. They disbanded following the first Gulf War.

The Resistance movement incorporated the omega symbol into their outreach materials, including posters, flyers, and buttons. Omega is the 24th and last letter of the Greek alphabet, and literally means “big O” (mega meaning “big”), as opposed to omicron, which means "little O" (micron meaning “little”). Omega is often used to denote the last, the end, or the ultimate limit of a set, in contrast to Alpha, the first letter of the Greek alphabet. Jesus declares himself to be the "Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last" in Revelation 22:13. However, the modern application of the omega symbol to represent the SI (International System of Units) unit of electrical resistance in physics and engineering, commonly referred to as ohm, as well as the Buddhist sound mantra of “Om,” served as the principal ideas for the use of the omega symbol by The Resistance.