On the day set aside to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. let's take a moment to think about fear. Those born after the King movement can't conceive of the life and deaths of African Americans in this country prior to the civil rights movement. You have never seen the White
signs on public facilities, nor would you believe that the signs were there even if they weren't physically present. The newer generations can't understand how the color of your skin could get you killed if you violated rules that weren't written down and were adjudged "uppity" by the power structure.
Dr. King faced violence from private persons and the state for wanting to vote, to use the public facilities, to receive the benefits of a society that were paid for by taxes that everyone paid. It ultimately cost him his life. He knew real fear, faced it, and carried on with his dream.
I don't expect Dr. King's level of courage from the Reich-wing bedwetters
who are looking for safety from the "terrorist" bogeymen that inhabit their imaginations, but get a grip and pretend you have a spine. You don't have to worry about being lynched for whistling or choosing the wrong seat on public transport. You don't have to worry about your house being burned down because of a rumor of a crime.
In his first inaugural address
on March 4th
, 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt said:
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.
This was in the depths of the Depression and starvation was stalking the America and the world. Different countries found different solutions to the problem.
Roosevelt concentrated on getting people to work and in the course of many efforts built and repaired the infrastructure of the country, fostered the arts, preserved the past, and left a legacy that is still enjoyed today and for the future.
Germany took a different path to escape their distress. They had a leader who preferred to emphasize the fear and build on it. It is easier to find scapegoats than solutions, and people who are under the stress of fear are easier to lead than those that are calm.
Roosevelt attempted a few tricks to evade the restrictions of the checks and balances, but he had no delusions that what he was attempting was legal and he backed down when blocked.
In Germany the checks on power were removed and unfettered power was given to the executive with tragic consequences.
Today Al Gore gave a speech
in which Digby
, and others noted addressed the fear that is being used to justify a new attempt to secure unlimited power for the executive branch.
Mr. Gore and I are of an age that remembers the stupid classroom drills that had us ducking under desks in case of nuclear attack. We were aware that if approximately 10% of the arsenal of either the US or the Soviet Union were detonated on the surface, Nuclear Winter
would probably be the result. We remember the tense face-off of the Cuban Blockade. We remember the 1960s and 1970s with the Cold War, Vietnam War, aircraft hijackings, scattered bombings around the world. Terrorists, both state-sponsored and free-lance abounded on every continent. This was the time of multiple Arab-Israeli wars, the Oil Embargo, riots in the cities, assassinations, kidnappings, and so on and so forth.
Our parents grew up in the Depression and then came of age during the battle for civilization that was World War II in which tens of millions died.
Americans don't take an oath to the President or the flag, they take an oath to support and defend the Constitution, a document written by people who had just gone through a war to win the right to govern themselves. If the people who wrote the document had wanted a leader with unlimited power, they wouldn't have had a Revolution to get rid of King George.
The Framers and Dr. King did not struggle to enable people to give up their liberty to fear, but to overcome fear and achieve liberty.