In "Lies My Teacher Told Me," Loewen discusses the shortcomings of the history of the Vietnam War told in high schools. Students today hardly ever see controversial pictures about the Vietnam War, which would instantly change their perceptions about U.S. involvement, nor are they asked to think about the ethics of entering the war. Instead, most high school textbooks focus on the reactions of the war on the U.S. home front. Although Loewen is right that the content found in textbooks about the war is lacking overall, he fails to recognize that the home front reactions do have an important place in our textbooks. The problem with the home front is that it focuses on how people reacted to Vietnam with riots and demonstrations, but it does not discuss much about the political background and the figureheads involved.
This lack of information made us think about the one man who is often blamed for the war: Lydon Baines Johnson. LBJ played a great hand in escalating the Vietnam War and this is often the narrative told of him. This narrative is usually told time and time again with no further explaination then: LBJ escalated the war even though the American people were against it. Why is it taught that he is the reason to blame for this war we should not have entered? Was he this horrible man that had no regard for American life, or is there something more to this man the history books are not telling us?
We do not hear the other side of the narrative about how LBJ struggled with his decision to escalate the Vietnam War. We also are rarely told about his advisors which helped him decide what they thought was the best possible course of action at the time. This man conflicted by his internal struggles and outside advisors paints a new picture of LBJ. While Johnson did ultimately make the decision to escalate the Vietnam War, it was not a decision he made lightly. He said, "The last thing I wanted to do was to be a wartime President." Our goal with this project is to fill in the gap of LBJ's narrative by re-examining his political decisions about Vietnam.
By Jacquelyn Wood and Ati Wongsaroj