Note: I originally wrote most of this entry on November 30, 2009. Not that it makes much difference. Most of the issues I describe in this post have not gone away.
Since September 11, 2001, Americans policy seems to be dictated out of fear. The election of Barack Obama created a (too brief) respite to this situation, but now we are back to scaring the hell out of each other. If we aren’t tough with Iran, they’ll attack us with nukes. If we pass universal health care, our costs will all go up (never mind that the other option–to do nothing–would bankrupt us much more efficiently). Climate change seems the only fear that’s worth worrying about–and it’s one of the few that most governments seemed unconcerned about, maybe because it’s “far down the road.” Yeah, but if, while driving, you don’t swerve to avoid an object far in advance, you’re going to crash your car.
The biggest fear now seems to be jobs and retirement benefits. Well, I’m more worried about what we’re willing to sacrifice long-term for short-term gain in those categories. Short-term benefits is what got us into this financial mess in the first place, probably because Congressmen and Senators aren’t re-elected for future benefits of their legislation, but only on what it brings in the short-term. And, of course, that is a result of looking at an elected position as a career move instead of as service to one’s country. Serve your country well, and whether you are reelected or not shouldn’t matter. What should matter is doing what’s in the best interest of your constituents, and hoping that they are smart enough to recognize it.
And, of course, there is fear over health care. And President Obama. And socialism. This fear has died down with the emergence of facts (thank you, newspapers, for remembering what your job is), or maybe the shrill voices in the room are taking a hiatus to get Sarah Palin’s new book signed. I would be interested to see what it says, provided that it wasn’t written by a ghost writer, as writing style and word choice can reveal a lot about a person, if you know how to critically analyze it. Ulysses S. Grant showed himself to be a decent and intelligent human being with his memoirs; Clinton showed himself to be long-winded with his.
But, I am getting off topic.
Most people know that Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is…fear itself,” in his first inaugural address, but how many know what he said after that? He continued on that topic of fear as follows: “Nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror, which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Amazing how current that sentiment seems when listened to now, as are other parts of the speech. Oh, and enough with trying to get things done in a bipartisan manner: most of the great advances in our society have come from one side of the political spectrum or the other. Think the Radical Republicans and The New Deal Democrats. The Fourteenth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act.
Since writing the above, I have seen reports that Obama has gone on the offensive against Republicans, particularly in the Senate. In his State of the Union Speech, he also sounded more fired up than he has been in past speeches. Maybe someone told him to start taking after FDR. Still, the one thing that can defeat him, and this nation, is fear. Fear that the recovery is not happening fast enough. Fear that this President can’t deliver to us the jobs we need. Fear that nothing will get better.
In the fable about the tortoise and the hare, the tortoise wins the race because it is “slow and steady.” As a whole, America seems to suffer from ADD. Problems as large as the ones facing our nation today cannot be solved quickly. Anything that looks like a quick fix is bound to fail in the long run. What we should look at are the slow and steady steps being taken to get us out of this mess of an economy. To get us out of two wars. To make us competitive in the future.
We the people are this government, not our representatives in Congress. Not our President. Not our Supreme Court. Ultimately, we are the ones given the awesome responsibility of running this nation through our representatives, not our representatives running this nation through us. So, as citizens, how can we best serve this nation in these troubling times? I mentioned FDR before. Once he quantifies fear in his first inaugural address, he says the following:
“In every dark hour of our national light, a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves, which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will, again, give that support to leadership in these critical days. In such a spirit on my part and on yours, we face our common difficulties.”
Notice Roosevelt didn’t tell people to support the President, or Congress, or the courts. He told them to “give…support to leadership.” And so they did in 1933. And so we must now.
Full text of Roosevelt First Inaugural Address: http://www.bartleby.com/124/pres49.html