The Social Impact of the Vietnam War

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 themselves as the new voice of society and freely expressed their hatred and disgust for the Vietnam War.

They strongly emphasized individual rights and freedoms and felt that Americans needed to break free from the bonds of true self expression. This breaking away from the traditional American beliefs and values created a generation gap, between those in the younger generation who actively protested the war and those in the older generations whose conservative views held that Americans should support their troops regardless of their own political and moral feelings, and held fast to their conservative beliefs. The major rift in society was caused solely by the Vietnam War and the effects it had throughout the country.

The Vietnam War brought about a gradual, yet defining, change in American values: from a sense of patriotism and pride in ones country, towards a heavy emphasis on pacifism, love and the unbounded freedoms and rights they believed Americans were entitled to. The Vietnam War also highly influenced education. Often during times of war, education was pushed aside and neglected since the majority of young men who would normally go to school were sent overseas to fight in the wars. The Vietnam War however played a major role in education and vice versa.

The generation during this time period prided themselves on their education and grew to seek more and more knowledge despite the challenges they faced due to the war. The youth of this period were actually very well educated in comparison with previous generations. Education did not seem to be inhibited by the war but actually quite the opposite, as it flourished more during this period . The Vietnam War brought about a greater interest in political philosophy and the blossoming of ideas such as, liberalism, socialism, feminism and other philosophies.

The growing interest in such concepts sparked a greater movement in education and a general search for new truths in order to break away from the previous social norms of society that existed in the forties and fifties. The war not only sparked new interest in education and learning but it also impacted and influenced the social structure of colleges as well. The Vietnam War had the largest impact on college students and the majority of the antiwar movement occurred on college campuses . The war created a new type of environment among college campuses which caused “a lot of riots and protesting.

A lot of people in this county were opposed to the Vietnam war and young people especially revolted against the draft against the war. ” Filled with anger and resentment towards the war, college campuses became the center point for protests and demonstrations in the antiwar movement. These protests often turned violent and destructive resulting in many college campuses being forced to temporarily close down . While it was not uncommon for riots to break out on campuses, in many ways the war united the students, bringing them together under a common goal.

This union and bond formed further enhanced an environment prime for learning and new discoveries. It is in these ways, and many others, that the Vietnam War greatly impacted education in America. It sparked new interest in philosophies and an increased desire to learn and discover new ideas, as well as impacting and influencing the social structure of colleges and their students. One of the most visible impacts the Vietnam War had on American society was its’ influence on the arts. Throughout history the art work of an era reflected the events of the time as well as the beliefs and values of the society.

Historical events are a large source of influence and inspiration for artists such as painters and sculptures. The Vietnam War proved to be no exception. The art work of the era often reflected the antiwar movement as well as the hippie movement of the time period. Artists played a large role in influencing the general public. They were able to accurately depict the events of Vietnam which in turn greatly impacted Americans and further fueled the antiwar protests and movements. Artists for example, portrayed the horrors of the war as they saw it.

Duane Hanson, a famous sculptor of the era, created some gruesome and vivid images portraying dying soldiers such as his piece, the “Vietnam Scene. ” Other artists including, Leon Golub, Antonio Frasconi and Jasper Johns also expressed their political and social views through their art. Scenes of soldiers being tortured, anti-Vietnam War posters and slogans and art promoting freedom and the general beliefs of the hippies covered America. “There was love painted on walls with LOV and E slanted down on the right in a 45degree angle.

All kinds of symbols that came about because the generation then said make love not war, and they were expressing that. ” The media was just beginning to flourish and the Vietnam War was its’ major topic of interest. The growth of the media gave artists a new and more efficient network to be able to get their art out to the general public which in turn inspired more and more artists. Due to this, and the Vietnam War, art was able to thrive during this time period. The impact the Vietnam War had on American society is most clearly seen through its heavy influence on the artists and their artwork during this time period.

Just as Art was strongly influenced by the events of the Vietnam War, music was as well. The music during the era reflected the value and beliefs of the time period. Throughout each generation and decade, there is a new style of music. The music of this time period could be classified simply as antiwar and protest music. “There was a lot of what you would call the hippie type music that came out of that group of people, the flower children. “ Artists expressed their discontent about the events surrounding the war through their lyrics and songs.

The anti-Vietnam War movement, encouraged new artists to come forth and share their message, and brought about an overall open sense of expression through the arts. In many ways, the Vietnam War became a blessing to many artists. It opened up new doors and opportunities to market their music to a much broader and open minded generation. Young Americans listened to music more because it closely resembled the same opinions and beliefs they held. Some of the most famous and notable songs that arose from that era were influenced by the Vietnam War.

Songs such as, “Paint it Black,”” Puff the Magic Dragon,” and “Leaving on a Jet Plane, “were all songs inspired by the events of the Vietnam War and the change it brought about to the American society . The music not only reflected the culture but helped shape it as well. It further spread the antiwar message throughout the country and inspired others to join in and protest. The Vietnam War allowed music to become a major factor in American society, shaping and defining the thoughts and beliefs of America throughout that time period. The Vietnam War also had a major impact on families.

Many reports talk about the devastating toll the war took on families in Vietnam but fail to note the devastating impact it had on American families as well. Families were literally torn apart during the war. Sons, brothers, fathers, and uncles, all being forced to abandon their families and loved ones to fight in a war that many of them disagreed with. Fathers were torn from their children and families, often leaving them with financial troubles. The “lucky ones” who did not return back to America in body bags returned with other problems, including physical and mental disabilities.

The majority of soldiers suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, an illness that many were not aware existed at that time. The crippling after affects of the war added additional stress on families and often broke them apart. Soldiers were not warmly welcomed back as they often were in previous wars. Instead they returned home to mass protests against their involvement as well as demonstrations and even some cases of physical assault. “People came back from Vietnam wounded, or otherwise mentally or physically wounded and it seemed like no one cared. Wives and family members of soldiers were forced to deal with the assaults while the soldiers were away and fighting for their lives in the war. The impact it had on families was often too great of a toll for many of them to handle. The generation gap which also occurred as a result of the war also broke apart many families as parents and children grew apart. The close, tight, knit family structure that was seen in the forties and fifties was slowly being broken apart during the Vietnam War. A lot of people in this county opposed to the Vietnam war and young people especially revolted against the draft against the war. “ They were fleeing to Canada to avoid the draft and it became a process where it began the degeneration of family life in this country” Disagreements over the war and whether or not America should be involved divided many families. Overall the Vietnam War proved detrimental to society’s idea of the American family, altering its views and concepts of families. The Vietnam War forever left its’ mark on American society.

It was one of the most devastating and crushing defeats this country has ever faced, and its impact was felt in throughout the entire country. It greatly impacted and influenced all aspects of American society including the values and beliefs, art, music, and family life. The Vietnam War brought about a change to a more liberal and free spirited general view on life with heavy emphasis on individual rights and freedoms. It was the inspiration behind a new wave of education and learning, creating a greater interest in philosophy and encouraging a new found freedom for thoughts and ideas.

The war also greatly impacted the music and art of the era. It served as the major inspiration for artists who portrayed the Vietnam War throughout their artwork and music. Families also felt the impact of the war as it took its toll on family unites and the general family structure. The war divided and split many families, through loss of loved ones, divorce, and other troubles brought on by the war such as post traumatic stress disorder. Its social impact on America was immense; influencing and changing many of its aspects including, American values and beliefs, art music, education and family.

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