Domestic Effects of the Vietnam War

The Vietnam War was a controversial war that caused much anger and resentment in the United States. The war began in 1959 as a result of the United States attempting to stop communism from spreading throughout Vietnam and to the rest of the world (Vietnam War). Communism had taken effect in parts of Vietnam, and the United States feared that allowing Vietnam to become a communist nation would create a Domino Effect, resulting in every nation becoming communist. So in order to stop communism, President Johnson sent in troops to North Vietnam in March of 1965 (Vietnam War).
But what Johnson failed to anticipate was the antiwar and peace movements that this would create back home in the US. Johnson’s failure to inform US citizens about their commitment in Vietnam led to the growth of the “largest and most effective antiwar movement in American history. ” (The Vietnam War and Civil Rights Movement). Peace rallies, speeches, marches, teach-ins, creation of civil rights organizations, and rebellion all took place in the US as a result of the growing violence in Vietnam, as well as the US government’s lack of communication to the public about the realities of the war.
Although the Civil Rights Movement began long before the Vietnam War in 1948 when Truman signed Executive Order 9981 (Civil Rights Timeline), the Vietnam War caused the movement to grow immensely, and it spread across the nation. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s was made up of and effected many different people groups including women, African Americans, and American youth. These social groups played roles in the movement that would forever change United States history. They all shared a common vision of ending the war in Vietnam and establishing peace between nations.

Beginning in 1966, through mass demonstrations, petitions, teach-ins, electoral politics, and civil disobedience, millions of Americans challenged the government in hopes of establishing peace. The peace movement was mostly influenced by young people, African Americans, and women. The movement gained national reputation in 1965, and peaked in 1968 staying strong until the end of the war (RIP: America’s Anti-War Movement). Conflicts of politics, race, and culture caused a large division in the US between the government and society.
The injustice and violence of the Vietnam War caused much resentment, distrust, and anger in American citizens which led to various protests and the Civil Rights Movement. Women played a significant role in the antiwar movement. Many women joined antiwar organizations because they “disliked the romanticism of the violence of both the war and the antiwar movement that was common amongst male war protestors” (Rosen). The antiwar protests and differing organizations that were against the war in Vietnam inspired many women to voice their opinions about equal rights for women.
They thought themselves to be treated as the lesser in comparison to men. They did not feel that society took them seriously as a strong or important part of humanity, and that people doubted women’s abilities in comparison to men’s. Women’s Rights organizations emerged across the nation, all with the hopes of establishing equal rights among all sexes. Helga Alice Herz, is a prime example of a Woman Activist in the US in the 1960s. She was a founding member of Women’s Strike for Peace (WSP) in Detroit, and member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).
Herz set herself on fire on a Detroit street corner in order to bring people’s attention to fight for equal rights (Antiwar Activism and Emerging Feminism in the Late 1960s). She left a letter upon her death saying that humanity needs to “decide if this world shall be a good place to live for all human beings or if it should blow itself up into oblivion. ” (Swerdlow 130). Herz is an example of a radical feminist. Radical feminists were mostly made up of younger women who organized in smaller groups. They used more extreme and controversial tactics than the liberal feminists who were on the opposite side of the spectrum.
Many advocated socialism. On the other hand, liberal feminists, tried to achieve equality for women by working mainly within traditional and political tactics (Woman’s Rights and Feminism, 1946-Present). Female activists connected the war with patriarchy, sexual violence, racism, capitalism, and imperialism, and they thought that the enormous amounts of money being spent overseas would be better spent on social problems at home like gender equality, racism, and poverty (Woman’s Rights and Feminism, 1946-Present).
Sexism and gender injustice within the civil rights and antiwar movements inspired many women to form antiwar organizations as well as organizations where they could discuss the unfairness of sexism in everyday life. The founding groups for the Women’s Liberation Movement were many: The National Organization for Women (NOW), formed in 1966 worked through legal means to overturn discriminatory laws (Women’s Liberation Movement).
Another Mother for Peace (AMP), founded in 1967, was formed to oppose the Vietnam War and the women’s goals were “to educate women to take an active role in eliminating war as a means of solving disputes between nations, people and ideologies. ” (Another Mother for Peace). Another large and effective female activist group was Women Strike for Peace, or WSP. This was an organization founded in 1961, and its members worked to ban nuclear testing and end the Vietnam War.
They held many demonstrations, and also picketed the White House, the United Nations headquarters in New York City, and the Pentagon to make their opposition to nuclear weapons and war widely known to the public. Women activist groups helped to accomplish many feats surrounding gender equality in the 19th century. One of the biggest accomplishments was the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which was written in 1923 and stated that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” (Equal Rights Amendment, Sec. 1)
As a result of the amendment, women could have a say in their government without being condemned, leave their homes to go out without feeling guilty about leaving their children alone, and they were closer to equality in the workplace, as they could now earn wages like men. Women also fought for and achieved the right to have an abortion, and another large accomplishment was in 1960 when the Food and Drug Administration approved birth control pills (The Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1960s).
In conclusion, women did not play a major role in opposing the war, but the antiwar movement did inspire many women to fight for equal gender treatment, therefore accomplishing many goals for women everywhere. Another one of the largest contributors to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s was African Americans, as they played a major role in protesting the draft as well as fought for equal rights among all races. African Americans were discriminated against in many areas of life. The draft caused many of the protests after 1965; no war since the Civil War produced so much opposition to the draft (The Domestic Course of the War).
It called for mostly citizens of lower and middle class. This gave blacks an unfair disadvantage because they made up a lot of the lower class. It also resulted in more black soldiers drafted into the Vietnam War than in any other war in history. Black soldiers fought for Vietnam to gain their freedom, even though they did not have complete freedom themselves. They thought that by helping America win the war, the government would reward them with their own rights and freedoms when they returned home. Because of this, African Americans served and died in Vietnam in disproportionate numbers.
By the end of the war, they accounted for 12 percent of the combat deaths, a number that was close to their actual percentage in the population (The Domestic Course of the War). The war did not prove to be ending anytime soon. Escalating violence in Vietnam as well as social injustice of the draft resulted in the forming of protest groups like the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), among others. Blacks organized demonstrations, sit-ins, and boycotts to fight for their rights in society. One very prominent and influential march took place in Washington DC in 1963 where around 200,000 black and white Civil Rights activists participated.
This represented one of the most powerful protests in American history. It ended in front of the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King Junior made a famous speech that called for African Americans to be equally included in the American dream. King was one of the most influential leaders in the fight for equal rights in the black community. King focused on the Vietnam War and one day, as he pushed a plate of food away he told advisors, “Nothing will ever taste any good for me until I do everything I can to end that war,” (King) He believed in nonviolent protesting in order to achieve equal rights and end poverty.
Some of the most influential black protest groups were Black Women Enraged, National Black Antiwar Antidraft Union, National Black Counselors, and the Black Panthers. The Black Panther Party was an extremely influential socialist organization made up of radicals that were strongly against U. S. involvement in Vietnam. They went against the teachings and beliefs of Martin Luther King Jr. , a popular black leader in the movement, by using violence and extreme measures to get what they wanted: equal rights. Malcolm X was a leader in the Black Panther Party.
He taught black supremacy and advocated for separation of whites and blacks in society. White college students took a stand for human rights just as much as African Americans did. These protestors were made up of two types of people: liberals and radicals. They both fought for the same thing (peace in Vietnam) but went about getting it in very different ways. Liberals believed in working with the government to get what they wanted. They were generally against violence and very political. Radicals were made up of mostly college students and other young people.
They were generally more violent and went to extreme measures to get what they wanted. Some people went as far as lighting themselves on fire to prove their point. The radicals were against the government and rebelled against the normal rules of society. One commonality that most radicals shared was their distrust of the government. The antiwar movement was made up of different organized groups from all over the country. Young people everywhere were outraged at the apparent dishonesty of the government. The government had withheld information about casualties overseas, as well as the general enormity of the war.
To express their anger, many openly rebelled against the authority of the government, and most took part in antiwar and peace organizations. One of the earliest groups was called the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE). They were traditional liberal peace activists, and their goal was a reduction in nuclear weapons in the war (The Anti-War Movement in the United States). There were many other groups that fought for this reduction, but SANE was the leader in the struggle for disarmament. Martin Luther King Jr. was a huge supporter of this group because he also believed in nonviolence.
One example of the more popular, student-run activist groups was SPU: Student Peace Union. It started in 1959 on the campus of the University of Chicago and lost popularity around 1964. This group was also liberal, but they were fighting against western capitalism and soviet communism. The SPU organized many protests and marches outside of the White House. Their rallies attracted thousands of people from all across the nation. Perhaps one of the most wide-known student activist groups was the SDS: Students for a Democratic Society. This organization was the most radical and represented the New Left.
Their main goal was equality, peace, and freedom in the U. S. They fought for equal rights among all races and genders. SDS held teach-ins, protests, marches, and concerts for peace. In February of 1965, when the US began bombing North Vietnam, civil rights organizations everywhere grew larger and the protests got more intense. SDS organized marches on the Oakland Army Terminal where soldiers were leaving to go fight in Vietnam. Another way that American youth rebelled against the war was with the development of “Counterculture. ” This was a phenomenon of the 1960s that developed within these radical activist groups.
Thousands of young people joined in the creation of counterculture, a newfound way of living that promoted rebellion. The largest contributors to the antiwar movement were the American youth, and they expressed their new beliefs with counterculture. They repeatedly showed their concern for peace in Vietnam through campus rallies, antiwar demonstrations, and concerts for peace. These activists rebelled in several ways, including long hair, tie-dye, pre-marital sex, open experimentation with drugs, rock music, questioning authority, and more.
Today, this is known as the Hippie Movement. In conclusion, it is apparent that the Vietnam War caused a lot of problems, not just in Vietnam but in the United States as well. President Johnson’s failure to warn the citizens of the US about the extremity and the realities of the war resulted in a lot of anger and chaos. It had the largest effect on women, African Americans, and teenagers. Women had been treated unfairly for so long by society just because of their sex that the war protests motivated them to take a stand against the unfair treatment.
This resulted in the right to have an abortion as well as birth control pills and the Equal Rights Amendment. African Americans had long suffered oppression due to their race. Although they had come a long way since slavery, they were still treated very unfairly by whites. Leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were major influential figures that led blacks as well as whites to a more equal nation. After years of protests and demonstrations, African Americans finally started to get their point across.
And finally, college students and other American youth had lost trust in their government after being lied to and misinformed about the war in Vietnam. They questioned the United States’ involvement and its morality. To voice their opinions, antiwar movements and peace organizations were made; much of the youth rebelled in dramatic or extreme ways. This rebellion never really ended, and trends like rock music, long hair on males, sexuality, and drug abuse still exist to this day. These are the effects that the Vietnam War had on America. The injustice of the war left an imprint on the United States; Civil Rights were changed forever.

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