Un-American - Essay Example

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The America which emerged victorious from World War 11 confronted a changing world order, and servicemen who returned from the war with altered perspectives and expectations. In line with this realignment, the America of the 1950’s was vastly different from the pre-war nation…
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1950’s: The Changing Face of America. The America which emerged victorious from World War 11 confronted a changing worldorder, and servicemen who returned from the war with altered perspectives and expectations. In line with this realignment, the America of the 1950’s was vastly different from the pre-war nation of the 1940’s. This decade was widely regarded as the ‘Fabulous Fifties,’ or the ‘Golden Age’ of American history. The traditional concept of ‘American’ underwent a transformation. The 1950’s witnessed sea changes in American political ideology, civil rights, and in the economic and cultural landscape.
The altered political ideology following the communist expansionism of the ‘Cold War’ had domestic repercussions in American society. The stage was set by F.D. Roosevelt, who conceded control over post-war Eastern Europe to the Soviet Union, granting “moral legitimization to what Stalin had acquired by sheer force” (Nisbet, qtd. in Maltsev and Simpson, 15). The subsequent race for nuclear supremacy, and the policy of ‘Mutually Assured Destruction,’ “inspired widespread fear of impending nuclear war” in Americans, who built bomb shelters in their backyards (Foner, 891). This let the “sweeping tide of anti-communism” (Pike, Global Security organization web site) engulf America. Any criticism of American society was construed to be ‘Un-American.’ Senator McCarthy’s witch-hunts made ‘McCarthyism,’ with its connotation of ‘unsubstantiated accusations of disloyalty’, a dominant theme of the 1950’s.
America of the 1950’s witnessed “the twentieth century’s greatest citizens’ movement – the black struggle for equality” (Foner, 899). The rigid racial boundaries of the previous decade persisted in post-war America. The new suburban landscape was racially segregated, and reinforced by methods, such as ‘block-busting’ (Foner, 863). Jim Crow laws flourished in the South. The American judiciary led the assault on racial discrimination. In 1944, the US Supreme Court ruled racial segregation unconstitutional in public schools. Rosa Parks’ defiance led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 and Martin Luther King burst upon the scene with his charismatic leadership. Despite strong resistance, America’s march towards a truly equal, ethnically integrated society began in earnest.
Economically and culturally, the 1950’s gave a new definition to ‘the American way of life.’ Most significantly, “consumerism replaced economic freedom and democratic participation as central definitions of American freedom” (Foner, 877). ‘Free enterprise,’ the consumer culture, and the triumph of capitalism, marked this era. American GNP doubled, prices stabilized, unemployment decreased and the standard of living rose dramatically. Home ownership became the norm, residential construction and the auto industry boomed, spending on consumer goods skyrocketed, and the spread of credit cards made easy money available: overthrowing the long-standing American ethos of debt representing a “loss of economic freedom” (Foner, 877). Fast foods and frozen TV dinners transformed eating habits, while the interstate highway system and cars revolutionized travel.
From the political, civil rights, economic and cultural perspectives, America of the 1950’s differed substantially from the place it was in the previous decade: A new generation of Americans emerged from the post-war US. Fear of nuclear war, anti-communist sentiment, the increasing call for racial equality, and a prevalent consumer culture made the ‘Fabulous Fifties’ unique in its character.
Works Cited.
Foner, Eric. “An Affluent Society.” Chapter 24. Give Me Liberty! An American History. 2nd
Seagull Edition. W.W. Norton and Co., NY. ISBN 978-393-93257-7. Print.
Maltsev, Yuri N. and Barry Dean Simpson. “Despotism Loves Company: The Story of Franklin
D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin.” Web. Accessed as pdf from
Pike, John. “Cold War – McCarthyism.” Global Security Organization. 2011. Web. Read More
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