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91 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome To The Twilight Zone?, June 27, 2000
This review is from: The End of Victory Culture: Cold War America and the Disillusioning of a Generation (Culture, Politics, and the Cold War) (Paperback)
"Is there an imaginable 'America' without enemies and without the story of their slaughter and our triumph?" (p. 15) This is the question at the heart of Engelhardt's remarkable blending of popular culture studies and military history.
In its outline, the thesis is straightforward: a long-established racially-exclusive national myth of bloody but righteous American retaliation to treacherous foes unraveled in the three decades after World War II. The new limited war strategies of the nuclear age forced awkward "containments" of this myth. The battlefields of Asia and, in particular, of Vietnam, led to "reversals," in which increasing numbers of Americans came to conclude that the familiar patterns that had helped to define national identity had been turned upside down. It is in the details of his argument that the author is at his best, making unexpected but genuine links between Mr. X (George Kennan) and Malcolm X; between the Mary Rowlandson captivity narrative of 1675 and the My Lai massacre of 1968; between the Strategic Air Command and Rod Serling; between V-for-victory signs and peace signs; between Chewbacca and Edward Teller; between Charles Manson and 1950s comic book culture.
Engelhardt brilliantly explores the complex connections between the games of American children and the broader national culture. That Engelhardt himself, born in 1944, was embedded in the post-war childhood culture is simultaneously a source of the book's greatest strengths and its greatest weaknesses. On the positive side, he draws upon autobiographical reminiscence in an understated and thoughtful manner. At times, however, he risks confusing the disillusioning of a generation (his own) with the end of what he calls "victory culture." The myth of American innocence is indeed a powerful one, but Engelhardt perhaps exaggerates its coherence and pull in the pre-December 7, 1941 world. The boundary lines of any national story are always fluid, and it was not only the Civil War that tested these boundaries in earlier eras. I also wonder whether it may be too soon to conduct post-mortems on victory culture. Engelhardt sees efforts to reinvigorate the tales of American exceptionalism in the post-Vietnam decades as tortured and ineffective. His comments about yellow ribbons, POWs, and new myths of victimization are intriguing, but my sense is that the metaphorical circling of the wagons will continue. Americans are not yet ready to see themselves as part of a vast human comedy.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 5, 2010 9:54:54 AM PDT
nobody says:
Very good review and I totally agree with your conclusion...

Posted on Jan 31, 2013 2:59:37 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 31, 2013 3:01:58 PM PST
EXCELLENT BOOK AND EXCELLENT REVIEW!

This is a really important book. I plan to use it in my class in Cold War Hysteria.
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