Examine how immigration, prohibition, and religion affected the rise of intense cultural conflicts of the 1920s.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the issues of immigration, prohibition, and religion all fed into the rise of a reactionary, conservative element in the 1920s.  The "Roaring Twenties" had cast its formidable impression on America as a cultural movement that praised the growth of celebrity, the notoriety of being infamous, and relaxed social expectations regarding behavior.  Wider interpretation as to the social condition of women and people of color, along with a condition in which lawlessness was socially accepted and even encouraged had caused many Americans to flee to a more socially rigid form of identity.  The desire for prohibition stemmed from here.  Alcoholic consumption was seen as the cause of so much relaxation in social conventions, as it was the supporting cast for so much that made the time period "roar."  The growth of organized crime and the establishment of the speakeasy was a part of this.  The proponents of prohibition favored a temperance that sought to not only limit alcoholic consumption, but tighten the moral code that encouraged such a lifestyle.

In this desire for order and control is also where I think that one can see how a fear of immigration, in the form of the Red Scare, had been able to fester.  The execution of Sacco and Vanzetti is representative of this fear of foreigners.  Many Americans felt that the "Red Scare" was a rightful expression of the fear of communism.  This fear translated into a growing resentment towards immigration, no longer seen as a strength, but rather as a potential for danger.  Its limitation and curtailing was an attempt to impose control on something perceived out of control.

The craving for order and symmetry in a time period that had little of it helped to cause the rise of religious fundamentalism in the time period.  The need for "old time religion," a brand of worship that was fundamentalist at its core, was one that arose from the perceived atheism and lack of spirituality that was so much at the core of social life of the 1920s.  This filtered into many domains, as seen in the Scopes Monkey Trial.  The battle between teaching evolutionary theory in the face of state law that demanded the teaching of a design of humanity as offered in the Book of Genesis highlighted how the rise of a literalist form of religion sought to construct order and rigidity in a social setting where it was noticeably absent. 

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