Obedience to Authority

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During the Vietnam War, a unit of American Army soldiers invaded My Lai a South Vietnamese hamlet resources contended was the enemy Viet Cong stronghold. That day in May 1968 an estimated 347 unarmed civilians “including women and children” died as a result (Cantrell, 2007). My Lai became one of the most controversial situations of the long Viet Nam War. When the truth came out due to letters to the government describing the horror, two questions resulted. Understanding why some of the young American soldiers that day killed so many innocent civilians and why did so few in the unit try to save the lives of as many as they could require moral clarity. Though obedience to authority has hurts and killed innocent people, but lack of moral clarity is the crux of what happened in My Lai, Vietnam in 1968. Americans want moral clarity. Moral clarity is often more of a testament to the idea than a living reality. In the case of the My Lai incident, America faced a moral dilemma in trying to understand what went wrong, why it happened. Testimonies during the trial that ensued of those who participated in the massacre induce more questions than provide answers. “Beyond parading our moral presumptions, we come to believe we act more morally the less we think about it”, says Cotkin (2010, pp 1).” Kendrick, (2006) offers, “Nearly forty years on, however, the status of the massacre as historical pivot is unclear, not so much because it is explicitly contested, but because its memory is muted” (Kendrick, pp 37). Ending a war, keeping America free assumes these are moral actions, but what is acted upon to achieve this in the face of what is moral then becomes “problematic”. Accepting there is an inherent difficulty in acting morally ... ... middle of paper ... ...y’s Muddy Waters: Ethical Quandaries in Modern America. Dougherty, William Frederic. Testimony of SP 4 William F. Doherty, RA 11 620 737, Co B, 2d Bn, 41st Inf, Fort Hood, Texas, taken at Office of Inspector General, I11 Corps, Fort Hood, Texas, at to 1422 hours on 5 May 1969, by Colonel Wilson, I G http://www.virtual.vietnam.ttu.edu/cgi- Milgram, Stanley. “The Perils of Obedience.” Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum.11th Ed. Laurence Behrens and Leonard J. Rosen. Boston: Longman-Pearson, 2011. 692-704 . Print. Oliver, Kendrick. Coming to Terms with the Past: My Lai Kendrick Oliver Revisits the Scene of an Infamous Massacre That Became a Watershed in Public Perceptions of the Vietnam War, and Asks What It Means to America, Almost Forty Years On. History Today. COPYRIGHT. History Today Ltd. COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale Group. 2006, February. 36(2); pp 37

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