The Vietnam War And The Fragmentation Of American Society Essay

1484 Words Sep 20th, 2016 6 Pages
The Vietnam War and the Fragmentation of American Society
At the end of World War Two, Americans experienced a period of remarkable national consensus and of “fervent faith in American exceptionalism.” Despite having deployed atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which caused the excruciating deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, many Americans viewed their country as exceptionally benevolent in its treatment of others. As historian Christian Appy writes in American Reckoning: The Vietnam War and Our National Identity, American exceptionalism, the idea that America is a uniquely powerful and virtuous nation, was the “central tenet of […] American national identity.” The period of national consensus and of unquestioning faith in American exceptionalism, however, progressively deteriorated as America’s involvement in Vietnam dragged on. The war had a profound effect on American society–not only did it challenge American national identity and the long-held belief of American exceptionalism, but it also divided the American public and sparked one of the most forceful anti-war movement in history.
In the late 1960s, the notion that America is inherently more moral than other nations began to unravel as images of the destruction caused by the incessant bombing and by the use of napalm became increasingly associated with the Vietnam War. The discrediting of American exceptionalism can be traced to several turning points during the war, namely, the My Lai massacre, the Tet…

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