Myth, Memory, and the Wars on Terror: America's Cult of the Warrior and the Social Creation of History


Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowships




The inception of the War on Terror powerfully changed American cultural attitudes towards war and the military. Those attitudes reflected the competing stories America told itself about the war: the righteousness of our cause, the might of our military, the trauma of war, ideas of duty and sacrifice, the status of veterans, the role of ordinary citizens. The iconography of the War on Terror changed continually over its twenty years, expressing America’s effort to find meaning in war and sacrifice. This project documents the evolving meanings of the War on Terror and the social status of veterans and the military, exploring cultural artifacts such as literature, art, popular media, and monuments. Succeeding generations will understand the War on Terror through stories that persist in the culture—fragments of meaning and knowledge that remain suspended in the flow of history as a social construction. These are the “collective memories” of American culture. This project speculates how the War on Terror may be remembered in American popular consciousness.