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The Cold War and the Concept of American Citizenship - Essay Example

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The end of WWII signified the definite transition of the U.S. from the isolationist economic powerhouse that it used to be in the 1920s to 1930s to the image of a super-power the USA is now widely considered to be…
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The Cold War and the Concept of American Citizenship
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Download file to see previous pages At the same time, the growth in power of the Stalinist USSR and the concerns with respect to the future of the world order after the decline of old European powers (Britain included) led the U.S. to intervene much more actively in the internal affairs of their partner (and satellite) states, contributing to the rise of anti-imperialist and anti-militarist mentality among the wide sectors of the American population. These two developments led directly to the transformation of the concept of American citizenship, which was now considered to be both a sign of super-power entitlement and a stigma connected with the U.S. ‘imperialist’ designs. In general, the end of WWII was met with immense jubilation by the U.S. public, as it was believed that the end of hostilities would bring about the new prosperity. However, already in 1946, the Fulton Speech by British statesmen Winston Churchill signified that the Western powers were to confront the Soviet opposition in the post-WWII settlement of the globe. Thus a picture of the new global rift emerged that pitted the USA against the allegedly ‘merciless’ Soviet communists. This generally Manichean worldview found its most visible expression in the McCarthyist campaign of anti-communist hysteria that was accompanied with veritable persecution of all alleged supporters of the Communist Party of the USA. Within a McCarthyist discourse, such individuals were regarded as traitors to not only the U.S. Federal government, but to a very ‘American Way of Life’ that was to be considered sacrosanct by all citizens. This inherently conservative interpretation focused on such symbols as private property, freedom of religion and free enterprise to rally the opponents of Soviet Communism around the visage of the American national identity. In this way, the American civic patriotism became increasingly associated with the notions of economic liberalism and social and political conservatism, which were now to co-exist in a potentially uneasy synthesis. It is characteristic that McCarthyist paid specific attention to the notions of citizenship, as disloyal elements, potentially of European migrant descent, were to be deprived of their American citizenship, if considered ‘un-American’. The activities of a famed House Committee for Un-American Activities (HUAC) may be considered an epitome of McCarthyist efforts to bring about such an outcome for their ideological opponents. Nevertheless, the McCarthyist project for the revamping of the American cultural and civic identity, with the subsequent de-liberalization of the American political culture, was bound to failure, as the significant segments of the American political elite were loath to allow the conservatives to monopolize the political agenda of the nation. The dismissal of McCarthy and the discrediting of his supporters meant that the U.S. elite were to move in direction of the socially liberal policies that were tried in the New Deal period. Both Eisenhower and Kennedy may be regarded as the consistent promoters of such a course, notwithstanding all understandable differences in their internal and foreign policies. The late 1950s saw the gradual de-emphasizing of the geo-political confrontation with the USSR, as the level of anxiety and concern with the Soviet threat began to subside after the death of Stalin and especially after the effective end of the Korean War. These two developments, together with the end of the post-WWII economic reconstruction and the definite beginning of an era of consumer spending and individual prosperity that was not seen and even imaginable in previous decades, helped re-define the concept of American citizens ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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