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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.

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.

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 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.

According to Republicans, we should fear closing the loopholes and imposing many of the very same taxes on the wealthy that Roosevelt advocated for.

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.

We should fear what happens when the neediest in our population are given access to health care, or unemployment support, or basic equal rights.

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.

Originally posted to The Progressive Atheist on Sat Jul 12, 2014 at 09:13 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (23+ / 0-)

    "In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.” -Confucius

    by pierre9045 on Sat Jul 12, 2014 at 09:13:30 AM PDT

  •  FDRs fearless approach lead to victory in (8+ / 0-)

    roughly one term in office. While Bush the lesser's approach was, "Be very afraid for all I have is fear itself." and lead to 2 useless wars he could not finish in 2 terms. The fact that this war criminal is not in a cell is Brussels is a national disgrace.

    Never promote men who seek after a state-established religion; it is spiritual tyranny--the worst of despotism. It is turnpiking the way to heaven by human law, in order to establish ministerial gates to collect toll. John Leland

    by J Edward on Sat Jul 12, 2014 at 09:30:00 AM PDT

  •  Three generations to turn us into cowards nt (5+ / 0-)

    I voted Tuesday, May 6, 2014 because it is my right, my responsibility and because my parents moved from Alabama to Ohio to vote. Unfortunately, the republicons want to turn Ohio into Alabama.

    by a2nite on Sat Jul 12, 2014 at 10:01:27 AM PDT

  •  FDR saved capitalism from itself (5+ / 0-)

    By replacing unregulated capitalism that enslaved the many and enriched the few, with a regulated capitalism that served a larger slice of society.  In response, the wealthy right wingers hated his guts.  They used to show up in movie theaters on Saturday afternoon, sit in the last row, boo FDR when he appeared on the newsreels that preceded the feature film, and then leave without seeing the movie.

    But Communist Party members were quietly told to vote for Herbert Hoover for reelection in 1932, rather than for their own candidate William Z. Foster.  The Communists knew that a reelected Hoover would not survive a second term, there would either be a Fascist or a Communist revolution, and they hoped for the latter.

    "Corporations exist not for themselves, but for the people." Ida Tarbell 1908.

    by Navy Vet Terp on Sat Jul 12, 2014 at 07:49:34 PM PDT

  •  that's the secret of authoritarian power (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joe Jackson

    fear makes authoritarian leaders more attractive

    authoritarian/patriarchal power structures are built on supplying certainty to people with an irrational need for it.

    the stronger the need for certainty the easier uncertainty (nature, complexity, ambiguity, etc) turns into fear.

    it started when human populations grew to require delaying the age of reproduction.

    here's why certainty is the currency of power, and is more important than truth, and how we can fix it in a couple of generations with simple sex education:

    This is a list of 76 universities for Rush Limbaugh that endorse global warming denial, racism, sexism, and GOP lies by broadcasting sports on over 170 Limbaugh radio stations.

    by certainot on Sun Jul 13, 2014 at 11:13:59 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for reminding us (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pierre9045, ybruti

    of FDR's timeless rhetoric, as true today as it was 80 years ago.

    “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

    by 6412093 on Sun Jul 13, 2014 at 09:58:35 PM PDT

  •  FDR in 1933 - Contrast that to the GOP 2014 (0+ / 0-)

    Fear is all we have to Offer!

    If Money is Speech, Speech isn't Free! I wonder what it is about that that Antonin Scalia cannot understand?

    by NM Ray on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 08:32:47 AM PDT

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