The Physical Avoidance of Fear

“Whether cities were primary targets was not the issue … the simple fact was that there was no set understanding of when an attack would come, and where it would occur … such ambiguity bolstered calls for the spatial independence of new communities from urban centres”

In this quote, Farish ties together the 1950s boom in suburbanization with the uncertainty of nuclear attacks. Because the United States picked the Japanese urban center of Hiroshima as a target, many suspected that the Soviets would do the same in the United States. Thus, large American cities became associated with fear and dread. While moving to the distant suburbs couldn’t guarantee safety from nuclear attacks, it did provide a supposedly idealized place of living disconnected from the mindset of the city.

The 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers arguably had a more amplified effect on American fears, as they occurred directly on domestic soil. However, rather than emphasizing attacks from outside, these attacks highlighted terrorist threats from within. The image of terrorists indiscriminately killing civilians raised the fear that anyone—not just the military—could be a target. This led to a persistent distress that materialized in several ways, notably though increased security measures in public places. Americans again turned to technology to provide relief, visible in x-ray machines and full-body scanners at airports. It is interesting to note that, while these devices are designed to protect against threats, they also serve as a reminder that such threats exist.


One thought on “The Physical Avoidance of Fear”

  1. I really like your point about the security measures at airports being simultaneously a protective measure and a reminder that we have a need for protection. Although, I have heard that these visible measures of security, such as the X Rays and body scanners, are designed to be more of an illusion to console the public mind. In this way, it is also similar to the idea of the suburbs: moving slightly further away from the cities is likely to offer minor protection from the flames and radiation at most. Nevertheless, both the security and the suburbs offer a peace of mind. As seen during the Cold War, this may end up proving equally important in maintaining stress-free days as the actual security measures.


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