The Social Impact of the Vietnam War

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THE
Social Impact
of the
Vietnam War

Jess Carrignan
December 10, 2010
A.P. U.S. History
Changes in societies have occurred since the very first civilizations and continue to occur today. Each society is a reflection of the art and music, as well as the people and their values and beliefs of the people of the time. The social structure of the people is very much shaped by the events that occur during that particular generation. Often in history major events such as wars and natural disasters are the defining factors that influence and shape that particular society. Here in the United States our society is certainly no exception. It has been constantly changing since the very early days of the Pilgrims. One such event that shaped and defined the society of its time was the Vietnam War which brought about one of the greatest, massive and rapid changes to American society. The Vietnam War, fought between 1955 and 1975, was one of the most grueling and devastating wars America has ever fought. The death toll of American soldiers was greater than that of all other previous wars fought with other countries. Countless numbers of Americans were killed as they suffered dangerous and harsh condition. The home front during the war was just as chaotic and brutal. The war brought about drastic changes to all aspects of the United States, both political, economic, and most notably, social. The effects of the Vietnam War were seen throughout the country as Americans rose up in protest against the war. The social changes brought about by the Vietnam War forever shaped and defined American Society and culture by acting as a catalyst to the counterculture movement in the sixties and a shift in art, music and education. The social impact of the Vietnam War was profound; its affects reverberated throughout the nation, instilling new values and beliefs, influencing music, art, and education and impacting family life, shaping the culture of American society far beyond that time period.

One result of the Vietnam War was a radical change in American’s values and beliefs. This time period is often referred to as the “era of the hippies”. A hippy was the label given to those who rejected the traditional social values of the society and promoted the values of peace, love and unconditional freedoms. They were known for their unconventional living styles and dress, as well as their enthusiasm to partake in recreational activities such as sex and drugs. To the older generations who strongly held firm to their values of patriotism and conservatism, this movement was seen as offensive and vulgar. The war was the underlying cause for the hippie movement, as the very origins of the hippies came from those who actively opposed the war and believed in pacifism instead of violence. This antiwar atmosphere caught the attention of the younger generations and soon caught on, spreading throughout the country. The devastation occurring over in Vietnam only further provoked the antiwar activists and hippies who fueled the growing change in American society, bringing about the counterculture movement of the sixties. Americans began to distrust the United States government, believing the justifications behind the war were corrupt. This led to protest not only against the war, but against the government itself. “What it did was it gave people more of a thought that they could protest against the government and what it was doing.” The various scandals exposed throughout the war further fueled the distrust and anger and led many to believe that change was necessary. The counterculture movement reflected the growing change in beliefs and values that were brought on by the war. The social conservatism and strong sense of patriotism and pride for America that was seen predominately throughout the forties and fifties was beginning to be replaced by the ideas of liberalism and freedom, shared by the younger generations. The younger generations began to see...
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