The Disease Called Fear

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933. Lietuvių: Fra...
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933. Lietuvių: Franklinas Delanas Ruzveltas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


It was Franklin Delano Roosevelt who said, in his first inaugural address, that “the only thing we have to fear …is fear itself.”


The year was 1932. The country was in bad shape economically, and by 1933, the depth of the depression had hit head on.  People were deathly afraid, and Roosevelt not only knew it, but he knew times would get worse before they got better. The things they worried about most, he said, were “only material things.”  Said he, in that inaugural speech: “In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.”


He said that “happiness (didn’t lie) in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, the thrill of creative effort.”


Those were powerful words, a balm to the anguished citizens of the United States who were facing a horrible reality. A new normal. It was scary because all that Americans had come to know and love as “American” was being challenged and changed before their eyes…and they could not see where the changes would lead. Would they have their homes? Would they have a job? What would they eat? How would they eat? When was the nightmare going to end? FDR’s words were powerfully comforting, words I’m sure some people came back to again and again.


There is a lot of fear swirling around now. Hurricane Sandy has thrown people into pits of despair. The economy has had people carrying fear around like a heavy suitcase. Some people are afraid for the country if President Barack Obama wins, and others are terrified for the country if Gov. Romney wins. There is no peace in the land right now.


Why? Because the disease of fear is stalking. It is stalking our country, it is stalking individuals, and it is stalking with a sense of arrogance. Fear relies on control, and it manipulates people to much that they acquiesce and give in to being controlled. Joan Chittister‘s book, Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope talks in depth about fear. She says that “fear paralyzes a person,” and keeps people from doing things they know they should do. It makes them afraid to even try, and in so doing, lose their peace of mind. Chittister says we as humans must ask ourselves, “What am I willing to lose in order to have peace of mind and integrity of soul?” She says that it’s “not the grappling with a thing that defeats us; it is the unknown answers to hidden questions that wear us down.”


Fear, she says, “cripples us more than any disease ever could. It takes eminent good sense and turns it to gelatin.” Finally, she says “oppressors do not get to be oppressors in a single sweep. They manage it, because little by little, we make them that. We overlook too much in the beginning and wonder why we lose control in the end.”


I wonder what the world would be like if people were not so susceptible to fear. I remember a friend of mine in seminary, who said that his father hated racism but was afraid to speak out about it because he was afraid his church would fire him. I think how people have been intimidated into not speaking up when they’ve known they should, because they were afraid of the consequences. I am sure that, in light of Hurricane Sandy, there are some people who know that there are some predatory companies out, ready to suck the life blood out of vulnerable people, but will not say anything because they are afraid. I think much of the police brutality we hear about comes about because white officers are afraid of African-American males, not because the police officers are bad people. Young women who get caught up in life on the streets stay there far longer than they want because they are afraid of the pimps who initially lured them into “the life” with material things and the young girls translated “gift-giving” with love. Some people honestly think that the Palestinians are getting a raw deal in Israel, but they are afraid to say anything for fear of being called anti-Semitic.We have all heard stories about neighbors who suspected that a wife or children were being abused, but didn’t say anything because they were afraid. We have probably all seen something that we knew was wrong but have been afraid to say something because we don’t know what our “courage” will mean for our lives   Fear is like a mean overseer, stalking lives and countries and situations with a huge whip.


We are afraid of bettering ourselves, stepping out of comfort zones into an “unknown” and so we stay in situations that stunt our growth. We are afraid to move and afraid to stand still. It is no wonder that Thoreau said that many of us live “lives of quiet desperation.”


Chittister says that “moral maturity requires us to choose truth over self-preservation, whatever the cost.”  If we do not do that, as individuals or as communities, oppression and injustice gets to run its course, unopposed.


That’s what fear expects us to do: cower so that injustice can have its way. Sadly, fear is way too often the driver of the car, and it spreads its toxicity everywhere. Fear moves faith and hope out of the way. Fear will account for a lot of people making bad decisions in difficult times; it will add misery to people who are miserable enough.


At the end of the day, we have to decide whether we want to fuel fear and watch it metastasize throughout our spirits, robbing us of opportunities to be free, or if we finally want to face our Goliaths…whatever the cost.


Too often we leave Goliath standing upright, laughing at us.


But as long as Goliath stands, we cannot be free. And …we were made to be free.


A candid observation…











Wasteful Spending the Mark of American Political Campaigns

Some things just do not make any sense to me.

Like, politicians spending millions of dollars, basically to try to destroy each other, and win an office, while people are hungry, homeless, and sick. It makes no sense for GOP candidates or for President Barack Obama, who reports say will probably spend a billion dollars in his re-election bid, while American people are suffering.

Has America lost her way and her moral compass? How can any individual and any country condone such blatant wasteful spending when not only our nation but countries all over the world are in severe economic distress?

Not only is there wasteful spending going on, the issues that have Americans at bay are basically being ignored. In the recent GOP debates, there was not a lot of substantive conversation or talking about the issues which are breaking America’s back. Instead, there was petty argument and attacks on each other. This, while 46 percent of the nation is living in poverty?What’s wrong with this picture when a candidate would rather rail about same-sex marriage than how to fix an economy where the rich are getting richer on the backs of the poor?

Can a nation sustain itself, being like this?

One of the things I am learning about President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is that he never lost his touch with “the people.” He insisted on making those around him and those who made laws think about “the common man.” He insisted upon people having what he called “The Four Freedoms:” freedom of speech and expression, freedom to worship God in whatever way one wanted, freedom from want, which meant to him, the right of the common man to make a living wage, and freedom from fear.  He wanted these freedoms not only for Americans, but for people all over the world.

Why does it feel like present day politicians are not even close to wanting those freedoms for Americans – or for anyone else?

The middle class of America is about gone, yet the likes of Mitt Romney and the other GOP candidates have said virtually nothing about that. Newt Gingrich and Romney are both being backed up financially by extraordinarily wealthy super PACs…and it’s a sure thing that the “stealthy wealthy” will continue to throw bucks in the campaign buckets of candidates so that their economic positions can be maintained and grown.

What about the masses? Does the common person in America matter to anyone at all?

GOP candidates and Republicans in general lift up the name of Ronald Reagan as though he were the blood brother of Jesus, yet his “trickle down economic” policy never worked; what “trickled down” to the masses wasn’t enough to ensure they had quality lives. And now, with technology changing the way everything is done, the resources for the masses are even less. It used to be that a high school graduate could get at least a decent manufacturing job, but the wealthy – folks who own manufacturing businesses – are outsourcing jobs overseas, leaving their own American brothers and sisters to languish.

No problem, some would say. Just stay in school. Get an education! That’s good except that everyone cannot afford to go to college and some kids are just not college material. For those who do go to college, they are strapped by student loan debt that is so exorbitant it’s frightening.

The wealthy of this country do not seem to care. They are helping to develop the middle class of developing countries,and undermining America’s own.  What is wrong with this picture?

If one has money, one can do about anything; in contrast, if one does not have money, one is enslaved to poverty and debt for his or her lifetime.  Some of the GOP candidates have suggested, and some have stated outright, that those who are poor are poor because they want to be; they have not tried; they are lazy.

Not true. There are scores of Americans who are working their fingers to the bone and still cannot make ends meet. As for the unemployed, there are many who have given into the depression that comes when one is rejected over and over again, and those who are lucky enough to finally find a job also find out that potential employers second-guess hiring them when they realize the applicant has been out of work for so long.

This is America, where life is supposed to be easier than it is in other, “lesser” countries.

That may have been the case a while ago, but sadly, the reality and the legacy of America is changing …and nobody seems to care.

A candid observation…

© Candid Observations 2012