Of course, these words would never come out of the mouth of one of today's Republicans. They would have us think we have to fear anything and everything.
As most of us probably know, these words came from the mouth of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his first Inaugural Address in 1933.
This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.
He spoke these words in the midst of one of the greatest economic disasters which had ever come before and which has ever been seen since. People saw their entire savings wiped out, and a large swath of the population was still unemployed. Roosevelt's proposals to rectify these dire outlooks, of course, called for aggressive economic stimulus driven by government spending.
Hand in hand with this we must frankly recognize the overbalance of population in our industrial centers and, by engaging on a national scale in a redistribution, endeavor to provide a better use of the land for those best fitted for the land. The task can be helped by definite efforts to raise the values of agricultural products and with this the power to purchase the output of our cities. It can be helped by preventing realistically the tragedy of the growing loss through foreclosure of our small homes and our farms. It can be helped by insistence that the Federal, State, and local governments act forthwith on the demand that their cost be drastically reduced. It can be helped by the unifying of relief activities which today are often scattered, uneconomical, and unequal. It can be helped by national planning for and supervision of all forms of transportation and of communications and other utilities which have a definitely public character. There are many ways in which it can be helped, but it can never be helped merely by talking about it. We must act and act quickly.He also was not averse to putting the blame for the economic disaster where all the evidence shows it squarely belonged.
Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.And when it came to foreign policy, FDR acknowledged that while the United States should not ignore the circumstances of the international stage, the country is best served by first strengthening its own foundations.
The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.
The basic thought that guides these specific means of national recovery is not narrowly nationalistic. It is the insistence, as a first consideration, upon the interdependence of the various elements in all parts of the United States—a recognition of the old and permanently important manifestation of the American spirit of the pioneer. It is the way to recovery. It is the immediate way. It is the strongest assurance that the recovery will endure.Roosevelt believed that as a nation, there is nothing to fear. I would agree with that assessment, and with the principles on which that assessment is rooted. There is nothing so great and calamitous that we as a nation cannot overcome it. We are a people industrious, determined, and tenacious enough to endure. And the values on which this country is founded are not so weak that they could be broken by any predicament, anticipated or otherwise.
If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we can not merely take but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective. We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and property to such discipline, because it makes possible a leadership which aims at a larger good. This I propose to offer, pledging that the larger purposes will bind upon us all as a sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of armed strife.
Action in this image and to this end is feasible under the form of government which we have inherited from our ancestors. Our Constitution is so simple and practical that it is possible always to meet extraordinary needs by changes in emphasis and arrangement without loss of essential form. That is why our constitutional system has proved itself the most superbly enduring political mechanism the modern world has produced. It has met every stress of vast expansion of territory, of foreign wars, of bitter internal strife, of world relations.
Of course, Republicans would have us believe that we have to fear everything, and have used that fear to ironically wage a war on many of the principles and institutions of just, responsible, egalitarian democracy that Roosevelt dutifully established or protected.
We should fear violent extremists overseas, who want to attack and weaken our resolve, but pose very little threat to our everyday way of life.
We should fear refugees from our Southern neighbor nations, who enter our country illegally, but have very few other preferable options available to them.
We should fear the government because of conspiracies that they are out to cover up terrorist attacks, impose Sharia law, or take away all firearms.
We should fear African Americans who come out to vote in US elections.
We should fear what happens when women are given too much responsibility over their own reproductive rights, or, you know, money.
We should fear what happens when the government tries to protect its Constitutional principle of the separation of Church and State.
Some of these are simply Republicans preying on our most innate, primal, uncontrollable fears. And when they're not, Republicans will just as simply nurture fear out of nothing. With the upcoming elections, we know the GOP will be stoking these fears hard and high. Like Roosevelt, we must remember that it is not fear we should be worried about, but action taken and justified by such fear.
Many of these things are certainly problems worth addressing and tackling, much in the way Roosevelt did: seriously, thoughtfully, and wholeheartedly. However, our responses to these problems our country face should never be driven by fear. I think above all else, this is the predominant message we should take away from Roosevelt's Inaugural Address, itself full of inspiration and wisdom.
While Roosevelt's proposals were not perfect - when are they ever - and the economic problems we face today may not require such extreme measures as the New Deal, they did address many of the problems facing the country then... and some of the same ones we are still facing today.
While the New Deal did much to lessen the worst affects of the Great Depression, its measures were not sweeping enough to restore the nation to full employment. Critics of FDR's policies, on both the right and the left, use this fact as a reason to condemn it. Conservatives argue, for example, that it went too far, and brought too much government intervention in the economy, while those on the left argue that it did not go far enough, and that in order to be truly effective, the Roosevelt Administration should have engaged in a far more comprehensive program of direct federal aid to the poor and unemployed. But the New Deal's greatest achievements transcend mere economic statistics, for in a world where democracy was under siege, and the exponents of fascism and communism flourished, the New Deal offered hope and restored the faith of the American people in their representative institutions. It also transformed the federal government into an active instrument of social justice and established a network of laws and institutions designed to protect the American economy from the worst excesses of liberal capitalism.Looking back at Roosevelt's Inaugural Addres, when we have evidence of these words from a proven leader who could tell us these things with such confidence, one wonders how the GOP of today can seriously consider themselves worthy of being called our America's leaders. They draw their power, not by standing with and guiding Americans, but almost unilaterally preying on fearing these things.
Oh, and gay marriage. For some reason, fear some gay.