Panic induced by the atomic bomb during the Cold War era

“It was precisely this quest for racial and social distinction that led one Saturday Evening Post writer to compare the ‘human tides…flowing out of the cities’ to the ‘dark tides’ that replaced them. ‘Decay and race’, Beauregard argues, ‘were thrown together in a discursive unity.’”


While this quote does not singlehandedly encompass the whole meaning of “Disaster and decentralization: American cities and the Cold War” by Matthew Farish, it comments on a very important racial characterization within cities which promoted much of atomic era urbanization technique. The idea is that cities were being deluged by African Americans and foreigners. The incoming of these non-white peoples to urban areas was correlated with the introduction of “panic, plague, and urban vulnerability.” This relates to Kennan’s description of communism as a “malignant parasite” that threatened America. Both descriptions reinforce the belief that the “other” infects American inhabitants, both physically  and ideologically.

The great fear did not just include the bombing itself. It was life after the bomb. It was the potential for racial combination that occurred within the bomb shelters. As this quote exemplifies, cities were being filled with varying nationalities. The combining of these nationalities during the threat of and after a bomb were issues that the Federal Civil Defense Organization sought to rectify in an attempt to prevent “social disorganization.”

It was unto these cities that the images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were superimposed. Cities like New York were natural “targets of immense vulnerability for all the mass killers of the age.” The fear was that such congested cities would be easy targets for rival countries to attack. It was the suburb with its racial and ideological homogeneity that was considered to resist the identification of targets of such attacks. This white suburbia was the epitome of American culture.

The image of the Twin Towers falling corroborates the fear present during the Cold War of a potential comparison between Hiroshima and New York. The horrors of 9/11 made this comparison a reality. The illustration of the destruction of such a prominent city, essentially “the final undamaged citadel of Western civilization”, shook the hearts of Americans. It elicited a panic out of cities across all of America. It was the first terrorist attack to occur on American mainland soil. Similar to the Cold War environment, panic emanated across the country. America was no longer untouchable; there was a force actively threatening it and carrying out its threats. The image itself of the Twin Towers falling is so meaningful because it is a representation of American strength, success, and unity being pummeled to the ground. It shows that even the strongest are susceptible to attack, a fact which President Bush’s War on Terror attempted to rectify. 


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