United We Stand?

By Madeline Mitchell

In any war, there are always alarming questions being asked: What will my enemy do next? Why are we fighting? What are we going to do about this? When will it end?

In America, we tend to band together in times of crisis and turn to violence against the enemy as a solution.  Following the 9/11 plane attacks, President Bush was urged to declare war on terror.  When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, Roosevelt declared war the very next day.  As can be seen, America is not afraid to ferociously fight back in troubling circumstances.

Whether or not you agree with the outcome, the tremendous amount that the Manhattan Project accomplished in such a short amount of time–just under three years–is astonishing. It makes you wonder what other kinds of things could be accomplished with that kind of determination, effort, and financial and political support. What if the kind of money, manpower, and resources that went into the Manhattan Project went into the fight against hunger? Cancer? Homelessness?
— Denise Kiernan (Girls of Atomic City)

In this year's Community Read, Kiernan highlights the attitude towards war that Americans have proven they have the ability to foster.  During World War II the United States home front was determined to win the war by any means necessary. This included halting production of cars, new housing, and many other goods in order to use those factories for war efforts. Today t’s hard to imagine that sort of sacrifice happening in the U.S. Could this be because of the immense political polarization the United States has been facing since the 2016 presidential election?

There has been an obvious political divide that has grown substantially in the past 23 years.  In 1994 the majority of the population fell into the mixed sector of median liberals and conservatives. In 2017, the majority of the population falls into consistently liberal or conservative.  This goes to show that people are more staunchly rooted in their beliefs than ever, and are much less likely to be swayed by the government or media.

With this divide so prevalent in our everyday life, would it be feasible to get an entire country on board to help win a war?  Would it be possible to keep a whole city like Oak Ridge a secret in our time of social media?

One member of a group book discussion for The Girls of Atomic City speculated, “[The government] would have to keep it spread out to stay undetectable.” In contrast to the men and women in The Girls of Atomic City, millennials have proven that they are not afraid to question politics, policies, and the president’s actions.



The young people of the 2000’s haven’t been the only to stand up for what they believe in. The Kent State Massacre of 1970 - wherein college students protested the Vietnam War - resulted in four students killed and nine injured by the Ohio National Guard.  This instance is commonly referenced in today’s conversations of police brutality and the protests that follow them. 

Immediately following breaking news of a contentious protest, Americans are watching and analyzing the responses of the police, President Trump, and how the media tells the story.  If a large enough group of people were against a war effort akin to what is written about in The Girls of Atomic City, it would likely make national news instantly, and eventually put the government’s effort off track.

PC: The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Stories of the Women Who Helped Win World War II

PC: The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Stories of the Women Who Helped Win World War II

So, does history repeat itself? Judging by ours, it’s likely that the next time a foreign power attacks United States soil, our appetite for war will change and grow just as it has in the past.  Nowadays the attitudes of Americans seem to be extremely tainted with fear and urgency for protection.  However, the dramatic division in politics along with our age of social media begs the question of if the sort of effort seen in America during WWII would ever be possible again.

What do YOU think? Are we really as divided as we seem? Let us know in the comments down below!