Thursday, July 24, 2008

Not afraid

I've said this before, but--as Todd Gitlin reminds us--we need political leaders who say to the world, "we are not afraid." FDR did it over 60 years ago. True leaders would also tell us the same thing. Fear is out. It's your grandfather's Oldsmobile (except your grandfather was probably never as afraid as Americans are today).

Ever since the Reagan era, Republicans have been equating fear with patriotism. Not just fear of foreign enemies, although that is the target of FDR's speech, and the entirety of the Bush/McCain campaign strategy. Good Americans are also supposed to fear gays, uppity and / or single and / or child-free women, people with dark skin and unfamiliar names, people who think, people who read, artists, urbanites, non-Christians, non-hunters, non-American-Idol-watchers, people who walk to work, unusually calm people...I know I've left out over half the categories. From fear comes helplessness, and, yes, "clinging" to old habits, old ideas. As Bob Herbert said a few days ago, since when have we become such a can't do society?

There are plenty of reasons to be worried, even frightened--the biggest reason being politicians who exploit fear. It means they have no other justification for their positions, and that means all their actions are aimed at consolidating power. Fear is the tool of dictatorship, not democracy.

No comments: