Who or what caused conflicts or barriers to the development and completion of the Vietnam War Memorial?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The main conflicts that arose over the Vietnam War Memorial, and the main barriers to its creation, came about because of its design and, perhaps, the identity of its designers.  Many on the conservative side of American society (though not all) opposed the design for the memorial because they felt that it was excessively negative.

The Vietnam War is a controversial war in our history.  It is a war that we lost.  It is also a war that divided us.  Many Americans believed, and many still believe, that the US should never have been involved in the war.  Together, these factors mean that this is a war that cannot be remembered in a triumphant way.  We cannot celebrate having won the war and we cannot even celebrate it as an unequivocally “good” war to have fought.

Conservatives generally feel that it was right for the US to fight the war.  They feel that the war was lost because of a lack of support from unpatriotic elements of US society.  They saw the design of the memorial as a symbol of this lack of support.  The design did not include any statues of heroic soldiers.  It did not include an American flag.  It was black and it was mostly below the surrounding ground level.  For these reasons, it seemed too somber and too negative.  It seemed like a negative commentary on the war.  For these reasons, and perhaps because of the fact that the designer was young and female, the design was seen as unpatriotic and not sufficiently respectful of those who fought in the war.

Since the memorial was built, most criticisms have faded away and the wall has become something of an icon.

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