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Fortress America: How We Embraced Fear and Abandoned Democracy
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Basic Books 2017
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An award-winning historian argues that America's obsession with security imperils our democracy in this "compelling" portrait of cultural anxiety (Mary L. Dudziak, author of War Time).
For the last sixty years, fear has seeped into every area of American life: Americans own more guns than citizens of any other country, sequester themselves in gated communities, and retreat from public spaces. And yet, crime rates have plummeted, making life in America safer than ever. Why, then, are Americans so afraid-and where does this fear lead to?
In this remarkable work of social history, Elaine Tyler May demonstrates how our obsession with security has made citizens fear each other and distrust the government, making America less safe and less democratic. Fortress America charts the rise of a muscular national culture, undercutting the common good. Instead of a thriving democracy of engaged citizens, we have become a paranoid, bunkered, militarized, and divided vigilante nation.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
12/12/2017
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780465093007
ASIN:
B01K3WN4BQ

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APA Citation (style guide)

Elaine Tyler May. (2017). Fortress America: How We Embraced Fear and Abandoned Democracy. Basic Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Elaine Tyler May. 2017. Fortress America: How We Embraced Fear and Abandoned Democracy. Basic Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Elaine Tyler May, Fortress America: How We Embraced Fear and Abandoned Democracy. Basic Books, 2017.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Elaine Tyler May. Fortress America: How We Embraced Fear and Abandoned Democracy. Basic Books, 2017.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.

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Date Added:
Jun 12, 2018 16:31:33
Date Updated:
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Fortress America
fullDescription
An award-winning historian argues that America's obsession with security imperils our democracy in this "compelling" portrait of cultural anxiety (Mary L. Dudziak, author of War Time).
For the last sixty years, fear has seeped into every area of American life: Americans own more guns than citizens of any other country, sequester themselves in gated communities, and retreat from public spaces. And yet, crime rates have plummeted, making life in America safer than ever. Why, then, are Americans so afraid-and where does this fear lead to?
In this remarkable work of social history, Elaine Tyler May demonstrates how our obsession with security has made citizens fear each other and distrust the government, making America less safe and less democratic. Fortress America charts the rise of a muscular national culture, undercutting the common good. Instead of a thriving democracy of engaged citizens, we have become a paranoid, bunkered, militarized, and divided vigilante nation.
reviews
      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        October 1, 2017
        If violent crime statistics indicate a downward trend, why are Americans so afraid?"There was never a 'golden age' of security," writes May (American Studies and History/Univ. of Minnesota; America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril and Liberation, 2010, etc.). "But there were moments in the twentieth century when citizens and policymakers believed that the government had a responsibility to create the conditions in which Americans could achieve safety and a decent standard of living." According to the author, the Cold War and Atomic Age changed this situation, as the government admitted its inability to protect citizens from the impact of a bomb and encouraged them to take action themselves. Citizens found this admission unsettling, and, combined with the changes in society regarding the civil rights movement, Americans set out to protect themselves and the model of the traditional family against threats of crime, bombs, and, eventually, terrorism. The events of 9/11 ushered in new fears, and the war on terror came to have a similar effect on fear levels, with Americans once again responsible for their own protection. May asserts that though Americans are actually safer than ever from violent crime and more at risk from people they know than strangers, the fear of the unknown still has a strong hold on society. People retreat more into private, secured homes and gated communities, which actually detract from any sense of real community and statistically have not been proven safer. "Hostility toward government and a lack of concern for the common good may have made the nation considerably less secure," writes the author, who closes with a more tenuous correlation between this fortress mentality and threats of "unregulated private enterprise" and the unchecked increase in wealth of the ultrarich due to misdirected attention and resources.In making a solid case for our country's overinvestment in personal and national security, May asks a germane question: are we focusing on the right threats?

        COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from October 23, 2017
        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.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        November 1, 2017

        May (Regents Professor of American Studies and History, Univ. of Minnesota) characterizes the years since World War II as perhaps the most fearful in U.S. history, demonstrating how Cold War-era fears of nuclear weapons attacks and communist subversion became a potent motivating force affecting elections, public policy, social models, and everyday American life. May further suggests this reaction expanded and generalized in the late 1960s and 1970s--the era of antiwar and social justice demonstrations--to include a fear of crime and distrust of specific cities and the people found there, even though crime steadily decreased during the period. An isolated culture of retreat resulted, characterized by an abandoning of public spaces, mass incarceration, walled and gated residential communities, private security companies, and a rise in gun ownership. The author's wide research cites popular contemporary journalism, motion pictures, public opinion polls, political speeches, census data, advertising copy, crime statistics, and countless scholarly monographs. VERDICT This thoroughly researched and thoughtfully written social history is recommended to all who seek to understand our divided society.--Paul A. D'Alessandro, Brunswick, ME

        Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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An award-winning historian argues that America's obsession with security imperils our democracy in this "compelling" portrait of cultural anxiety (Mary L. Dudziak, author of War Time).
For the last sixty years, fear has seeped into every area of American life: Americans own more guns than citizens of any other country, sequester themselves in gated communities, and retreat from public spaces. And yet, crime rates have plummeted, making life in America safer than ever. Why, then, are Americans so afraid-and where does this fear lead to?
In this remarkable work of social history, Elaine Tyler May demonstrates how our obsession with security has made citizens fear each other and distrust the government, making America less safe and less democratic. Fortress America charts the rise of a muscular national culture, undercutting the common good. Instead of a thriving democracy of engaged citizens, we have become a paranoid, bunkered, militarized, and divided...
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