The (Second) Great Migration to the Suburbs

The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki proved to be quintessential events that would haunt the American public for decades to come. In Matthew Farish’s “Disaster and Decentralization: American Cities and the Cold War,” Farish discusses how the bombing would create an apprehensive atmosphere throughout the world, but especially among the American people. In a thematic moment, Farish describes, “Suburbs embodied order, safety, and a deeply gendered consumerism that ‘became as solid a pillar of the United States version of cold war culture as did its remasculinized military.’” A fundamental topic that Farish addresses is the fact that Americans living in the cities were very uneasy and anxious following the nuclear attacks on Japan. Thus, many fled to the suburbs, which were seen as a bastion of safety.

The quote is climactic in the sense that it illustrates how, during the years of the Cold War and following, suburbia became a critical aspect that established itself in the roots of United States culture. Not only were the suburbs seen as a bastion of safety, but also they became a symbol of what it means to be American. This is a major point that Farish manifests throughout his paper.

Furthermore, Farish moves forward to discuss how the images of the bombings of Hiroshima gave rise to an uneasy, apprehensive sentiment regarding urban disaster throughout the Cold War period. The American public, after seeing these compelling images, became anxious, and, led by fear, fled America’s major cities to the safety and comfort of the suburbs. In the same fashion, images of the demolition of the Twin Towers during the September 11, 2001 attacks provoked the same sentiments among the American public. The images of the towers falling, which were widely publicized throughout the news and media, revived the fear of attack by a foreign enemy in an urban area. The imaginations of the American public went wild, many predicting nuclear attacks on major cities. Thus, this led to many Americans to flee to the suburbs, where there wa a sense of comfort and safety. In short, the prevalent imagery of the 9/11 attacks provoked fear and uncertainty among the American public, ultimately resulting in a predilection for the suburbs.


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