The Vietnam War hugely impacted America for the better and for the worst. It allowed people to express their first amendment right of freedom of speech and reformed the role of the government and the presidential power. From 1945 to 1965 America dialed in on Vietnam’s civil war, Northern Vietnam supported communism, whilst Southern Vietnam supported democracy. America’s main goal in joining this war was to prevent communist expansion in Asia, and Northern Vietnam threatened to conquer this goal. The war in Vietnam impacted Americans in ways that past wars had not. Vietnam sparked many debates in the public, as well as in the presidency, creating a divided America.
One main stressor of American divide included the media coverage of the war. The Vietnam war was the first war ever to be broadcasted on TV. This caused American support for the war to collapse. “The daily televised images of the month’s fierce fighting undercut the rosy predictions of imminent victory issued by the White House” (Keene, Cornell, & O’Donnell 797). This was the first time that many Americans had seen what actual fighting was like because it was broadcasted right in their living rooms. These images shocked many Americans, sparking a huge anti-war movement.
Growing diversion to the war resulted in a huge antiwar movement. The typical anti-war movement attendees included “ white, middle-class, college educated Americans or individuals already engaged in crusades of social justice” ( Keene, Cornell, & O’Donnell 800). Most African Americans and women opposed the war as well, but did not yearn to march with the middle class students. Although there was division, these activists all agreed that the Vietnam war was ruining the American Democracy. They claimed that, “going to war without a formal declaration of war from Congress, presidential secrets and lies…and unjust draft deferments for middle- and upper-class men who could not afford to go to college” all violated American democratic values (Keene, Cornell, & O’Donnell 800).
As a result, huge antiwar protests and lectures followed. One example was the teach-ins held at college campuses around the United States. During teach-ins students and faculty would debate and have lectures of protesting the war. There were also violent forms of protests too. At Kent State University, for example, protesting students clashed with armed guards, leaving four killed and nine injured. Peace activists could also be seen at public ceremonies, where they burned their draft cards in retaliation of the war.
Although the Vietnam war allowed America to become divided, it did have a few positive impacts. It proved that people could exert their first amendment right, and be heard by the government. It also allowed Nixon to “reform the draft, replacing the controversial deferment system with a lottery that randomly drafted men by date of birth” (Keene, Cornell, & O’Donnell 805). It also forced America to reform their foreign policy. In this new policy “the United States would refrain from direct involvement in regional conflicts, such as Vietnam” (Keene, Cornell, & O’Donnell 805).
Keene, Jennifer D, et al. Visions of America A History of the United States. 3rd ed., vol. 2, Boston, MA, Pearson, 2017.