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Vietnam War's Social Influence

by Alexis Acklin 25 days ago in history

Research Essay

Vietnam War's Social Influence

“I would gladly lay in front of a tank if it would bring back Max and end this war”.

“Yeah? well it wouldn't.”

(Across The Universe, 2007).

Each society is a reflection of their environment; they’re shaped by the events that occur during their generation. A major rift in society was sparked by the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War brought a defining change to societal values. From pride in one's country, to a strong emphasis on pacifism, love, and unbounded freedoms they believed to be entitled to. One of the most cultural influences of the Vietnam War was to inspire the spirit of rebellion. Vietnam war era evoked social change by creating the hippie uprise, the women’s rights, and strong movements and political views that still affect us today.

The Vietnam war sparked a different way of viewing society, creating the uprising of hippies. Hippies are part of a counterculture that brought all social norms into question. They brought on the idea of opening your mind to the realness of the world instead of conforming. Hippies wanted to spread real love and peace, and they realised the heads of society weren’t as righteous as they were believed to be when the country went to one of the most hated and unnecessary wars in our history. The use of psychedelic drugs to alter mindsets, powerful rebelic leadership, and sexual attitudes were ruled by the urge to 'find oneself' and the quest for autonomy. Change in sexual behavior (and drugs) was especially taboo to the typical Americans of the time. Decency was strongly pushed upon society, but the Hippies wanted everyone to love each other and be connected; “Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within”, (James Arthur Baldwin). Hippies were ready to move forward and leave old ways behind. They changed the way we think about the government’s choices and drastically changed our social behaviour by leading the 1960s through a rebelic period.

Through the hippie’s fresh view of who people are, they surfaced an issue of equality: the second- wave of women’s rights. The resurgence of the Women’s Rights Movement rose and lead in a series of changes to the US’s status quo that still have an impact today. In 1962, The Feminine Mystique, written by Betty Friedan, really captured the frustration and of a generation filled with college educated housewives who felt trapped and empty. As one said, "I'm desperate. I begin to feel I have no personality. I'm a server of food and a putter-on of pants and a bedmaker, somebody who can be called on when you want something. But who am I?" (Collins, 117). The book changed many views of the woman’s place in society. Feminists objected to how women were depicted, and how keeping them at home limited and wasted their potential. Second- wave feminism also wanted to bring domestic violence, marital rape, and divorce/custody law issues to focus. The women of this era were strong and wanted to be heard. This was one of the biggest, most successful movements in our country’s history and really changed the woman’s place in society.

Attitudes to a variety of issues changed, sometimes radically, throughout the decade. For the first time in forever, the way society and the government functioned was viewed as flawed. When our country was at war with Vietnam, the times new generation had realized something: the government can be wrong. The people opened their eyes and called them out; the war was unjustified. In fact, a lot needed to change. When the draft came through, many were shocked that they were going to be forced into something they didn’t believe in. They protested and fought with everything they had. Forty activists, who were students of Berkeley, presented the first public burning of a draft cards. Then another nineteen cards were burnt at a demonstration that followed the Berkeley teach-in. Draft card protests were not only aimed at the draft, but also at the immoral conduct of the war. Then in New York, another card burning demonstration was held, but under new law, they were arrested. The generation wasn’t afraid of arrest; they knew this was a step towards getting what they want. Over 30,000 people left the country and went to Canada, Sweden, and Mexico to avoid the draft: 


“You still have options man”.

“Yeah, jail or Canada and they both suck. I mean I could never come home, so what is it, it's a choice of a 6x4 cell or an endless wasteland of frozen tundra”.


“Montreal is cool”.

“Man, they speak French”.


“So learn French. Learn French or die.”

(Across The Universe, 2007).

Most of those victim to the draft were too young to drink or vote. The image of young people being forced to risk their lives without the privileges of adults also successfully pressured legislators to lower the drinking age in many states and the age of voting. Others who were not in the draft protested their tax dollars for the war. War tax resistance became a mainstream, and highly effective protest tactic. In 1972, approximately 200,000–500,000 people were refusing to pay taxes on their telephone bills, and another 20,000 resisted part or all of their income tax bills. The protests to evoke change were rebelic and extreme; the era definitely was fresh and full bold people. 


The film, Across The Universe, explored the minds and issues of the Vietnam war time period. Following an English- man, Jude, who travels to the US in the 60s, he meets a few Americans who are definitely structured and molded into traditional society. During the uprise of peace and love, they get caught up in a group that’s influenced by the shift in societal norms. After some of the group’s loved ones die or get drafted in the war, they become true activists. They follow peace rallies and hippie buses, and transform into typical products of the time. One of them, Lucy, is drawn into the anti- war movement, specifically the SDR. This draws a strain on the relationship between Jude and Lucy, for the SDR rebelled in ways that was hypocritical and took away from the movement. After being involved in a bombing that resulted in many arrests, Jude was sent back to his country. When he returns, he is reunited with his friend who was drafted shortly after they met: “You don't seem too messed up”.
The old group gets together and holds their own peaceful protest together, singing All You Need Is Love. This film is powerful and really presents how the generation was molded by the war,

The 1960s-70s are often perceived today as a period of profound societal change. Many great politically minded individuals, who in general were young and educated, sought to influence the status quo. The hippie’s first rose and were a massive influence on societal values. Hippies brought all social norms into question and sparked the idea of opening your mind and hearts to the realness of the world rather than conforming. They spread real love and peace, and explored music and art that was originally to be profound. The generation of hippies was also strong. The people realized the heads of society weren’t as righteous as believed to be when the country was lead into unnecessary war. They weren’t afraid to break laws to confront the issues, because it was the only way to be heard and seen. This generation became brave and taught us how to make real change. Their protests against the drafts (and voting age) by burning their draft cards publicly and legendarily refusing to pay war taxes are proof that the war influenced their behavior. Of course one of the biggest of their movements for women’s rights is still at large today. Before then, women played a very different role in society. Margaret Meade said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world, indeed it’s the only thing that ever has”, and it inspired many more people to follow what they believed. The Vietnam War era was dauntless and empowering to the generation and strongly influenced their social norms and behaviors that definitely are still in play today. The things these people did to evoke real change is not credited enough.

Works Cited

Deppard, Kathy Marie. “The 1960s-70s American Feminist Movement: Breaking Down Barriers for Women.” Tavaana, tavaana.org/en/content/1960s-70s-american-feminist-movement-breaking-down-barriers-women.

History.com Staff. “Vietnam War Protests.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2010, www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war/vietnam-war-protests.

Napikoski, Linda. “1960s Feminism: What the Movement Accomplished.” ThoughtCo, 14 April 2017, www.thoughtco.com/1960s-feminist-activities-3529000.

“Sight of Protesters Recalls Vietnam Era.” Greensboro News & Record, 29 Mar. 2018, www.greensboro.com/opinion/letters_to_editor/sight-of-protesters-recalls-vietnam-era/article_3ec8a850-f23b-5f66-b76b-bb914eaf9476.html.

Clement, Dick, and Ian La Fremais. Across the Universe. Performance by Evan Rachel Wood, et al., Revolution Studios, 2007.

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Alexis Acklin
Alexis Acklin
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