"Fear has seeped into every area of American life: Americans own more guns than citizens of any other country, sequester themselves in barricaded houses and gated communities, and retreat from public spaces. And yet, since the 1990s crime rates have plummeted. Why then, are Americans so afraid? In Fortress America, award-winning historian Elaine Tyler May demonstrates how our obsession with security has made citizens fear each other and distrust the government, eroding American democracy. This trend is not merely an aftershock of 9/11--indeed, it dates back to the end of World War II. Cold War anxieties resulted in widespread nuclear panic. Officials encouraged Americans to build bunkers in their backyards and shun anyone they suspected of communist sympathies. In the 1960s and 1970s, Atomic Age anxieties gave way to misplaced fear of crime, leading to a preoccupation with "law and order." The media pointed to black men as dangerous and women as vulnerable, inaccurate claims that nevertheless led to mass incarceration of African Americans and women's exaggerated distrust of strangers. The threat of terrorism is only the most recent in a series of overblown fears that set Americans against each other. With fear on the rise, the concept of citizenship has deteriorated and concern for the common good has all but disappeared. In this remarkable work of history May charts the rise of a muscular national culture grounded in fear. Instead of a thriving democracy of engaged citizens, we have become a paranoid, bunkered, militarized, and divided vigilante nation."--Dust jacket flap.