The Imagery of Urban Disaster and its Impact on Society

One quote I found significant and informative states, “It was these suburban ‘citadels’ that infiltrated the discourse of Cold War geopolitics: they were the quintessential sites of American life, the spaces where history was being actively rewritten. Suburbs embodied order, safety and a deeply gendered consumerism” (Farish). The atomic bomb represented the immense strength of the United States and its subsequent structure. It displayed the mass innovation within a capitalist, urban country. However, America’s use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki prompted a shift in American culture. Although capitalism and consumerism remained an American ideal, urban life within the United States began to deteriorate. The above quote displays the massive migration of homogenous groups (white, straight, families, etc.) to suburbia in order to feel more secure and in control. Suburbia provided safety from potential attacks on America because the populace believed other nations would attack major cities. Furthermore, the homogenous culture of suburban areas prevented the internal threat to the social body from the rise of new political and economic ideas. This movement of people contradicted the purpose of the atomic bomb and left cities with a lack of revenue and structure. Through this quote, Farish argues the significance of suburbia in the history of the Cold War. The creation of suburbia drastically changed history by creating a new “safe” space, separating the country into “us” (white, straight) and “them” (the other), perpetuating the containment culture, and refuting the traditional status of the United States as displayed through the use of the atomic bomb.

The images of Hiroshima depicted the mass destruction of a new weapon of mass destruction – the atomic bomb. The United States populace was able to picture potential disaster within their own major cities at the hands of these bombs. As a result, American people became extremely fearful and anxiety-driven, which lead to mass migration to suburban areas in order to avoid what felt like inevitable urban disaster. The impact of the images of Hiroshima on the culture of America draw similarities to the imagery of the Twin Towers falling. Due to mass media presence around the Twin Towers and access to cell phone cameras, the destruction of the two towers was greatly publicized. Images ranges from the second plane crashing into the tower to the reactions of people on the streets flooded news outlets and broadcasts. Similar to after Hiroshima, the American people became fearful over the destruction of urban areas at the hands of an enemy. These images of disaster supported a new form of containment culture. The American populace divided, homogenous groups re-emerged, and outsiders, especially people of Middle Eastern descent and Muslims, were marginalized and profiled. Urban areas became a place of danger, while the home and suburbia represented safety from the new danger of the world – terrorism. Overall, the images of urban destruction, as shown in Hiroshima and 9/11, result in a divided culture that contradicts the publicized American strengths of urbanism and unity.


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