Fortress America: How We Embraced Fear and Abandoned Democracy

Elaine Tyler May. Basic, $30 (256p) ISBN 978-0-46505592-0
May (America and the Pill), a University of Minnesota history professor, provides valuable historical and cultural context for the current political moment with this sweeping and detailed examination of how Americans came to perceive the world as overwhelmingly dangerous. She begins with the Cold War, pinpointing fears of nuclear war as having motivated a shift of responsibility for security away from the government and toward individuals, who were encouraged to transform their private homes into shelters, or “fortresses,” capable of withstanding atomic fallout. That mind-set was accompanied by a more general movement away from communal engagement and toward “hunkering down” in isolation. She methodically dissects and debunks the rampant fearmongering, whether by alarmist politicians or violent Hollywood thrillers, that has led to hyperbolic views of the threats Americans actually face. While May is far from the first to question how likely it is that the average citizen will be the victim of a terrorist, few have been as effective at connecting the broad sweep of 20th-century U.S. history to modern-day policies, such as broadly defined gun rights and highly aggressive and punitive law enforcement. This is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the anxieties that occupy American politics. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/23/2017
Release date: 12/12/2017
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-465-09300-7
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