Since the beginning of this class, we have been watching as the United States has become more and more of a global power. While it sometimes seemed to be dragged into international conflicts against its inclination toward isolationism, by the 1950s, there was no denying that the United States was the “leader of the free world.” It was one of two “superpowers” (the other being the U.S.S.R.), which would dominate global foreign policy for the next half-century.
The thing that made the United States and the U.S.S.R. superpowers was a new class of weaponry–the nuclear bomb. The U.S. had “the Bomb” in 1945 and deployed it to end World War II. By 1949, the Soviets had it as well, and this created a geopolitical stalemate known as the Cold War. Neither side could afford to upset the balance of power, lest nuclear annihilation be unleashed.
Nuclear weapons are much cheaper to maintain than conventional armies and were thus attractive as the foundations of American defense policy. Nevertheless, the proliferation of these weapons over the ensuing decades brought the Americans and Soviets to a point of mutual assured destruction. This caused anxiety and an intense moral debate about the legitimacy of nuclear weapons inside the United States.
It was imperative for the government to educate the American people about nuclear weapons, but the messaging had to convey the gravity of the situation without inducing panic or undue fear. Many of these educational materials are available as primary sources for us today–and that’s what we’re going to look at and discuss this week.
Watch the two films below to see some of what Americans were told about the dangers of atomic weapons. As you watch each film, think about whether the message is realistic and what the goal of the film was.
“Duck and Cover.”1 This is a famous 1951 Civil Defense cartoon film to teach school children what to do in case of an atomic attack.
“Atomic Alert” (Elementary version)2. Civil Defense film that explains the steps to take in case of an unexpected atomic bomb.
Next, look at a more contemporary explanation of what happens when a nuclear bomb hits3:
Finally, visit the NukeMap online This is an interactive map that allows you to detonate any size nuclear weapon and see what the extent of the damage and radiation fallout will be. Would you be safe if a bomb was dropped on Tampa? What about Miami or Orlando?
Respond: Here are some questions to consider:
After watching the Civil Defense films that aimed to educate children about atomic bombs, what do you think of the efforts of the Department of Civil Defense to educate American children about nuclear weapons?
>Utilizing the Daily Intelligencer video and the NukeMap website, compare our contemporary understanding of nuclear bombs with that of the earlier era. Are we more or less afraid of nuclear warfare today than we were 50 years ago? Why?
How did the United States change after the dawn of the atomic age? How did it come to terms with being a global superpower?
What were the implications of nuclear weaponry for American citizens and for all humanity?
Consider the world today. Are nuclear weapons as much of a danger today as they were in the Cold War? Is there any other existential threat to humanity today? If so, what would you say that is? How might you prepare for it?
Please write a thoughtful response to these questions, and/or feel free to explore other ideas that you may have related to immigration legislation. Your paper should be about one page, double-spaced (around 250-300 words). This is not a research paper, and there is no expectation of further research. I want you to grapple with these ideas yourself, thinking about the historical context of immigration in American history.
250-300 words (approx. 1-2 pages typed, double-spaced).
Support any general points you make or attitudes you express with specific reasons and details.
Organize your thoughts into coherent paragraphs. Use transitions to make the relationships among ideas in the paper clear.
Edit the paper carefully for errors in grammar, mechanics, punctuation, word use, and spelling.
Do not quote from the textbook or other sources—use your own words.
Cite the source of any paraphrased ideas or information in MLA
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