Blumenfeld, Callie

The Cold War was a time of politically and military tension between the two superpowers of the United States in the Western Bloc and the USSR in the Eastern Bloc following World War II. The struggle was centered on the profound economic and political differences of the two sectors, with the former firm in its belief in capitalism and the latter in a socialist state. There was not any large scale direct fighting between the two superpowers, yet the period was a standoff concerning the mutual possession of nuclear weapons. The technology and plans involved in the construction of these weapons was a prized possession of the United States, until atomic spies stole the plans and allowed the USSR to possess nuclear weapons of its own. The U.S. was focused on countering the influence of Soviet communism, while the Soviet focus was on preaching its ideals. Both countries remained in possession of the nuclear weapons, threatening the destruction of the other should their weapons be used. This assured mutual destruction prevented the use of weapons on either side, yet the race to build up the largest arsenal of nuclear missiles was central to the cold standoff felt during the period of 1947-1991. With prominent political figures in the United States preaching that Soviet spies were abundant among the public, a new paranoia was introduced into society, and with it suspected Communists and ‘spies’ lost their freedom and lives.
As if the paranoia of the possibility of a nuclear attack facing Americans wasn’t enough, political figures made matters worse by preaching the idea that Soviet spies were everywhere and that they were continuously working to overthrow the government. These statements caused Americans to start to distrust neighbors and friends alike, creating a social change in the tension felt within everyday environments. The accusations of political figures and regular Americans alike forced thousands of people to testify and plead their case before the FBI or Congress. Many of these people lost their careers or were placed in prison even though most accusations were unsubstantiated. These false accusations based solely upon the paranoia and fear felt by American citizens due to the threat of a nuclear attack altered the lives of those accused. Their social world was changed; they could no longer work, face their neighbors, and many never returned home. Those who were wrongfully accused and faced jail time lost the possibility and opportunity of social movement in the future because jail time would stay on their record. Many were ostracized from society and cast out, unable to participate in social activities or receive the benefits of living within a group. This social exile transformed not only the minds of regular Americans who were now flooded with a sense of paranoia and distrust, but it created a new lifestyle and existence for those wrongfully accused of being an atomic spy. Although Soviet spies were present in the American community during the Cold War, political figures often exaggerated their presences and created a false sense of fear within society, causing the imprisonment of thousands of innocent citizens and altering their social lives for years to come. The repercussions of such imprisonments could be felt at times following the Cold War, as the label of a possible Soviet spy still stuck to many innocent civilians. This was one social change caused only by the fear of a nuclear war and the exaggerated reaction of many scared Americans.

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