“Threatened from above and within”

“Central cities, for many commentators, were spaces of blight, repositories of extreme cultures, classes and races, threatened from above and within” (Farish 141).

In Matthew Farish’s essay “Disaster and decentralization: American cities and the Cold War,” he points at many reasons for turmoil, instability, and degradation of American cities during the Cold War era. In the quote above, he highlights this overall concept of these cities being “threatened from above and within”; in his essay, he touches on threats from “above” being things like atomic bombs from foreign powers and threats from “within” being social instability and racial unrest. He uses this quote as a means to juxtapose and streamline many components of American cities that led to them being threatened; for example, he highlights their “central” nature as a means for foreign targeting, while also highlighting the “cultures, classes and races” of American cities that lead to turmoil within them. The fact that he places this sentence in the conclusion effectively allows him to resummarize and emphasize his argument after proving its many components.

Images of Hiroshima created the notion that a similar atrocity or destruction could happen to any American, centralized city; these images later carried over into works of Cold War pop culture that depicted cities like New York as constant targets and oftentimes as ruins caused by nuclear fallout. The image of the Twin Towers falling on 9/11 garners a similar reaction as that of the atomic bomb’s destruction on Hiroshima. This imagery lends the idea that any terrorist attack could hit a major American city, and average Americans became increasingly paranoid as a result. This possibility of terror and destruction also has carried over into pop culture as it did during the Cold War era, as many recent American films have detailed terrorists destroying or targeting American cities and plotting to kidnap or harm important American figures.

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