Friday, September 03, 2004

Fear: Why This Election is So Meanspirited

People frequently quote or paraphrase FDR's inauguration address, but they choose to look at only one line. If they quoted a longer section, we'd be familiar with how the quoted line ends.

And we'd have a clue as to why the run-up to this election is so cantankerous.

I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel. 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.

-- Franklin D. Roosevelt
To watch or listen to the RNC was to receive detailed instruction in fear: Fear the terrorists. Fear weakness. Fear the passive Democrats.

To watch or listen to the DNC was to receive detailed instruction in fear: Fear the reelection of this administration. Fear our further decline. Fear the Republicistas.

Sometimes moments of fear elevate one's character and sharpen the clarity of one's resolve. ...but that's momentary fear, the fear of fight or flight that arrives and departs in barely a moment.

When people are subjected to the kind of fear that has gripped our political parties during this election cycle, their sensibilities change, their judgment is impaired, their ability to change their attitudes is restricted.

I'm mortified at the prospect of Bush's reelection, but I'm much more afraid of what fear is doing to us all. When I watch Zell Miller completely flip his lid on air, when I hear of Republicans booing an ailing Bill Clinton, I feel as if fear is contributing to a radical breakdown in the machinery of social discourse.

The sooner this nation starts diagnosing its own fear, the sooner it will begin developing strategies to deal with this fear.

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