Fear Itself


“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself”– FDR
I was thinking about this phrase the other day, because I believe now, more than ever it is true. The election of Obama is a historic event, and we must take this opportunity to uphold hope over fear. Fear has brought us the Salem witch trials, lynching, the holocaust, the Japanese internment camps, the Cold War, the Cuban embargo, hate crimes, Guantanamo, the Patriot Act….the list goes on.

In October, the fear that had gripped the American people was the economy: newspapers, the TV, the radio; everywhere fear abounded. The world was going to end, the stock market was going to crash, and the Great Depression would eventually prove to have been a vacation. It was out of this climate of fear, that the United States Congress chose to grant the Treasury Department virtually unchecked power.

When I came out against the bailout many people criticized me- they pretty much regurgitated what the media had been saying: the economy would fail, the stock market would crash, and now was no time to try to punish the bad guys, because the little guy would suffer.

What worried me most at the time was not that the proposal that would give tremendous amounts of money to the people who had created the mess, but that we would grant near limitless power to a former wall street banker, to do what he would with taxpayer dollars. The attempt to push through the legislation in the span of a week, spurred by a 3 page proposal appalled me, and I called out for people to slow down, and think the things through.

Eventually the congress caved, and despite thousands of angry phone calls & letters from the American people, Secretary Treasurer Henry Paulson was essentially given a blank check. Now, just last week Henry Paulson came out and said he was going to do something completely different with the money, than what he had asked for. Not only did Paulson completely change what he intends to use the money for, but he flaunted his power to do as he wished “I will never apologize for changing a strategy or an approach if the facts change“.

That’s a scary proposition. Translation: “Congress, even if I come to you asking for billions of tax payer dollars to do “X”, and you give it to me, if I change my mind after the fact and decide to “Y”, I will do it. And I won’t be challenged“.  (Read the article here)

The things we are willing to sacrifice due our fear is frightening, and Henry Paulson’s comments last week are really what got me thinking.

So what’s my point? That the economy isn’t failing? No. I do not challenge the fact that we are facing tough times, and decisive action is needed.  That Paulson is making the wrong move? No. The wrong move was made by Congress last month when they gave into fear and granted Paulson virtually limitless authority. Once the government starts granting this much power to one man because they are fearful of the future, we head down a dangerous road.

Lesson of the day: when the government cries the sky is falling, beware of their solutions. Fear puts a blinder on our rationale that must be consciously removed if we are to see clearly and act sensibly.

Perhaps Jon Stewart best expressed the power of fear, in his clever comparison of Bush on Iraq & the economy.



What frightens you?

27 million people worldwide are enslaved?


2 men marrying?


1% of the world’s population controlling 40% of global wealth?


Taxing people with earnings over $250,000 a year?


America’s prison population of 2.3 million representing 25% of the worlds total?


Leveling the playing field for women and minorities?


18,000 people in America dying every year for lack of health care insurance?


Making health care available to all Americans?


The genocide in Darfur leading to 300,000 deaths over the past 6 years?


Allowing a rape victim to terminate her pregnancy?


1,900 immigrants dying over 6 years trying to cross into America


Immigrants working in our country?


1,000,000, American homes in foreclosure?


The specter of electing a minority to the White House?


If the right wants to run a campaign on fear,  go ahead think about what really worries you.

The national discourse in America today couldn’t be further from what truly matters as human beings in this world. But not to be deterred, the religious right, fiscal conservatives, and closet racists have become galvanized in their quest to suppress the most dynamic and promising candidate for president that our nation has seen in nearly a decade. If the McCain/Palin ticket is successful, four more years of reckless guidance, international arrogance and wanton disregard for human rights, civil liberties, and equality will be ushered in.

The Democratic Party is by no means a panacea, but try as I may, I cannot wrap my head around the republican line of reasoning that believes a 72 year old self-proclaimed “maverick”, and mind numbingly unqualified governor can bring us the “change” we need.

The economic divide between the impoverished and the rich has grown steadily over the past decade, millions suffer from lack of health care, hundreds of thousands are homeless, women still make less than eighty cents on the dollar to men, more black men in America are incarcerated than in college, civil liberties have been slashed by the Patriot Act… the list goes on.

Conservatives have decried the liberal nominee as “inexperienced”, “unknown”, and most recently “socialist”. Absentee ballots mailed out to three hundred voters in New York, even “mistakenly” spelled Barack’s last name “Osama”.

During the 2000 election I was dumbfounded at how the election was stolen in plain sight. In 2004 I was confident America would reject Bush’s four years of “leadership”, and again was crushed. Now we have Obama and the nation has not seen the kind of unity, excitement and collective hope for a new, respectable course in the world since the nomination of JFK.

I’m not sure how I would take another Democratic  defeat, especially one clouded by suspicious behavior. Meanwhile, the right is decrying the registration of false names nationwide (which will have no bearing on the election- “Mickey Mouse cannot cast a ballot on the 4th) while meanwhile, states are purging thousands of registered voters by “accident” (6,000-Ohio), or simply rejecting applications for voter registration (35,000-Arizona).

Conservative politics have brought us slavery, second class female status, xenophobia, market deregulation, imperialism, George Bush, John McCain & Sarah Palin. Liberal politics have brought us women’s suffrage, the New Deal, the civil rights movement, Bill Clinton, Al Gore & Barack Obama.

The choice couldn’t be clearer for me, and it breaks my heart that some will read this post and still conclude that the conservative McCain/Palin ticket will move us into the future.

This video was shot on a college campus 1 hour from Philadelphia:

Stand up for justice, acceptance, and progress in this election.