The Vietnam war is best know for being an almost total failure on the part of the United States Government. However, it is also known for the massive collateral damage it inflicted on the innocent civilians that were caught in the crossfire. On June 8th 1972, the South Vietnamese Army dropped a napalm bomb on Trang Bang, which had been attacked and occupied by North Vietnamese forces. In the ensuing carnage, thousands were killed, and countless more injured. Nick Ut of the associated press took the picture above, which shows several Vietnamese children, Soldiers, and Photographers fleeing the chaos. The very next day, it was featured on the front page of the New York Times. It then even went on to receive a Pulitzer Prize and become the World Press Photo of the Year for 1972 for its gripping illustration of the war. The version of the photo displayed is actually a scanned original, posted here in PNG format with a size of 510 KB, and some of the age spots can even be seen giving this photo a realistic and personal feel. In some ways I think this factor even compliments the photo, as it almost seems as if the image itself had to endure the flames of napalm that consumed so many lives that day, and many other days like it. I found this photo on google, and I chose it because I think it depicts all to well the horror wrought by the Vietnam War. It is also a poignant example of the growing media presence on the battlefront.
This was the first time that normal citizens could see first-hand what was actually happening from the comforts of their own home, just by flipping on the television. As a result, many more people were able to form their own opinions about the war, causing a large portion of the population to disapprove and even protest US involvement in the conflict. Due to the wide-scale media presence in Vietnam, many more reporters and news correspondents than ever before were on the front lines, leading to the publication of many more photos like the one seen above. One modern context that this picture gives the Vietnam War is its similarity to the recent war in the middle-east, which due to large scale media involvement has led many to yet again question the U.S. governments foreign policy. Nick Ut, like many other reporters of his day, strove to give citizens a feel for what it was like to be engulfed in the flames of battle. Now due to their efforts, countless videos and photographs exist today that vividly document the fact that war, truly is hell.
The hippie movement didn’t just disappear, it just went mainstream. The sixties came and went, the drama of the cold war, Nixon, all of it, just evaporated into the disco filled era of the eighties. The hippies however, managed to have enough of an impact on our culture that you can now see it everywhere. Coachella music festival for instance, is essentially Woodstock all over again. I didn’t go this year, but my girlfriend did, and I have been to enough festivals to have a general idea of what it was like. It may not have been as much of a free for all as Woodstock was in the sixties, but it was damn close. The picture above definitely captures this, as several girls dance in what outfits you could easily imagine seeing as hippie garb back then.
I know we aren’t using the clickers anymore, but I still think they are a valid topic of conversation considering this is a digital class. While they are obsolete for History 110, they will also be obsolete within the next couple of decades. Neural implants will soon replace them, allowing us to manipulate and respond to the world around us simply by thinking it. This may sound like pure science-fiction, but just look at what Google is doing with their new glasses… they aren’t too far away from becoming integrated with our very being.
Coffee is vital for me to study, but what things were vital during the early 20th century? I act like its the end of the world if I have to study at night without coffee, but 100 years ago nobody could study at night period because of a lack of lighting… can you imagine trying to read our history book by the dim light of a candle?
Or without coffee???
Technology is the harbinger of the future. It can make a government powerful, or crush it like a cockroach. It can heal the sick, or be used to kill the innocent. What I would like to focus on however, is not so doom and gloom. As the tides of time roll on, and technology becomes more and more ubiquitous, one can often forget to appreciate the little things. Like, a video game for instance. As a proud nerd, playing video games is one of my favorite past times, and I can get lost playing the right one for hours and hours on end without thinking twice (Skyrim anybody?). However, being surrounded by so much technology all the time can make us forget that at one point, 99% of the things we enjoy today didn’t exist 100 years ago. A century ago, kids played with a stick and hoop for fun. They could whack that hoop with that stick all goddam day long if they didn’t have to go work in factories to support their family of nine. Since only children were small enough to reach into the small spaces inside machines, this happened all too often in the past. HIST teaches us about the horrible working conditions and standard of living for many in the working class during the industrial age in Ch. 17, which brings me to another point. Technology has not only allowed us to enjoy the magical serenade that is an Xbox 360 starting up, but it has also allowed us all to enjoy a much greater standard of living. You might say, “But Brandon, what about politics? Economics? Philosophy? What about all the other realms of learning and knowledge? How can you say that science and technology are at the core of it all?” To that I say, technology is not only the medium, but the catalyst for this change. Without electricity, penicilin, automobiles, computers, and Call of Duty, you would still be reading by candlelight and hoping that the water doesn’t give you cholera.
A couple of weeks ago, Professor Blum told us that he didn’t want us to fully read our history book, yet he didn’t want us to skim it either. Instead, he called for us to, “Bite into the text,” and find phrases and ideas that are called upon frequently during the book. I’ve been reading a lot, but only now do I truly understand what he meant at the time. It looks delicious, doesn’t it?