The Creation of Suburbia

“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 that ‘became as solid a pillar of the United States version of cold war culture as did its re-masculinized military’.” (18)

In “Disaster and Decentralization: American Cities and the Cold War,” Matthew Farish describes how American society, especially urban life, was shaped in the Cold War due to the fear of a nuclear threat. During an era when paranoia and fear were pervasive, the home was created as a “bastion of safety.” However, within an urban context, homes were not safe. Americans had seen the destruction caused to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and were worried that New York, or any American city, would be next. Even though the metropolis had long been a symbol of American power and capitalism, the fear and anxiety caused by the nuclear threat were more important to American society. This fear led to mass decentralization, a project advocated for by many of the leading voices on the subject at the time.  In this quote, Farish demonstrates how “suburbs embodied safety” and were “citadels.” The feeling of safety that suburbs created was a necessity in an era where everything felt unsafe.

The image of a post-nuclear bomb Hiroshima created a fear in Americans that their cities would be next. This fear had profound effects and led to mass decentralization and the creation of “suburbia” in Cold War America. This fear was recreated after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The image of the twin towers falling was spread wide and far and is still a common image today. This image drew Americans together as it caused a feeling of horror, but also of patriotism. 9/11 was used to rationalize the War on Terror and the War on Iraq because Americans felt solidarity in the wake of the attacks. The incessant use of this image after 9/11 renewed the anxiety of Cold War America. Americans were afraid of being attacked and of their city looking like New York in those images. New York is such a symbol of American capitalism and world prowess that the image of the twin towers falling was devastating. This feeling of devastation and horror for the lives lost brought Americans together and allowed for the conflation with the War on Terror and the War in Iraq.

 

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