Feeling insecure: the effects of destructive attacks

“Every city is a potential battleground, every citizen a target.”(Farish, Disaster and decentralization: American cities and the Cold War). After WWII, an attack on the American population seemed very likely. Indeed, in 1941, Pearl Harbor was the first attack on US soil since the War of 1812, and the destruction in Hiroshima and Nagasaki showed the power of nuclear weapons. As the quote reads, everyone became a target. Living under a constant fear of being attacked by the USSR, Americans were afraid of living in cities, and started to leave densely populated areas in order to go to suburbs, “safer” areas. According to Farish, “Suburbs embodied order.” Indeed, the latter argues that cities as a concentration of people and industrial activities were perfect targets for enemy strikes. Farish demonstrates that the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were very impactful. In fact, the dropping of these bombs raised domestic awareness on the power of these weapons, and when the USSR accomplished their first successful testing of a nuclear warhead, American fear was increased. People were anxious to live in cities. Those who could afford it moved to suburbs, while the poorer populations had to stay in the “dangerous” cities. Because of that fear, several theories of regional planning emerged, all of them trying to implement an urban development that would reduce the density of population around “inviting targets” such as New York or Washington D.C. Some advocated for the establishment of buffer zones around the districts of one cities, which would limit the damage caused by a nuclear attack. These new theorists argued that such an organization does not hinder the development of a city, as the telegraph and the car make communication easier and more convenient.

twintowersSimilarly, such a fear arose after the 9/11 attacks. When the Cold War ended and the USSR collapsed, the danger seemed to have vanished. War once again had become something that was happening outside the country, and American citizens were feeling safe. The US led military interventions in the Middle East for example, but a domestic aggression seemed very unlikely. After seeing the Twin Towers fall, however, Americans realized that they were not as safe as they believed. Showing the vulnerability of big buildings and cities in general, but more importantly illustrating the lack of control the government possessed, the terrorists attacks triggered paranoia among the population. Once again, any citizen was a target, and nobody seemed safe. As a result, some Americans tried to exclude of their lives anything that was deemed “Un-American,” thus “unsafe,” and blamed the attacks on minorities, such as Muslims or the LGBTQ community. Even today, one experiences fear when watching the horrifying videos of the Twin Towers collapsing, as the terrorist threat has not vanished, as recent attacks illustrate.

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