Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Throughout the Democratic National Convention speakers referenced the immortal words from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inaugural address, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” Roosevelt’s words spawned over 30 years of progressive politics, government reform, and foreign policy that made this country what we see today. During this span, from Roosevelt’s first term through the Johnson administration, the United States went from an isolated power in the grips of a “Great Depression” to a shinning beacon of freedom, prosperity and equality for all the world to see.

The policies of this period engendered an internal metamorphosis of the Republican Party, which transformed the Republicans from the “party of Lincoln” to the party of fear. Conservatives launched gratuitous attacks against the “New Deal, “Fair Deal”, and the “Great Society”, pandering to public fears caused by economic and social changes. In a similar fashion, Republicans today feed off fears of an American public caught in the midst of a changing world. The Bush administration understands the simple precepts of fear: Fear is the product of ignorance. Keep American’s uninformed or present only partial information and fear will rein supreme.

Recently, Annie Jacobsen wrote an article for the conservative publication Women’s Wall Street, detailing “suspicious activities” of 14 Syrian passengers on a flight. On the surface, Jacobsen’s article delivers an alarming report on government oversight and inactivity on the part of air marshals, but the questions not asked confirm the true nature of the article. Terrorists proved through 9/11 that with five people they could bring down an aircraft, why sacrifice 14 terrorists on one flight when their numbers could be better divided on more flights and inflict more damage? Could these people be traveling together and wish to associate with each other for that reason? Authorities determined that the 14 Syrian passengers were musicians traveling to a show in Las Vegas—is it not logical that musicians, traveling in a country where people judge them by their ethnicity, would stick together?

While Jacobsen paints a poignant picture of families crying, the stewardess desperately searching for someone to take action, and even Jacobsen’s own “spiritual rebirth”, the article clearly illustrates how many in our nation have become incapacitated by fear. On September 11, 2001, passengers on Flight 93 saw suspicious activity and instead of being paralyzed by fear, they rose to the occasion and saved countless lives in the Washington, D.C. area. Where were the heroes of Jacobsen’s flight?

Republicans hope to incapacitate voters by fear. Not only do they constantly raise and lower the “terror threat level” without giving us hard evidence, but they also issue ambiguous warnings about election terror and are seeking powers to postpone the election in the event of a terrorist attack. Wouldn’t a terrorist attack be the perfect time for an election? Obviously it would be a sign that our elected officials had failed us.

Perhaps even more frightening are the “social fears” raised by the Bush administration. While our economy continues to sink and our own soldiers continue to die in Iraq, Bush felt a threat from homosexuals who seek to participate in the rights of marriage. They warned American’s that homosexuals threatened the “sanctity of marriage”. Clearly, Bush has never associated with homosexuals and neither have the people who buy into his thinking. Homosexuals present no threat to anyone. The only threat to marriage is marriage itself. Evangelicals try and convince my generation that marriage is the only appropriate vehicle to engage in certain activities. As a result, many young people flock to the altar to marry for the sake of marriage and the honeymoon is short lived, divorce rates skyrocket. Until we dispel the Puritanical myths of the “right” marriage will continue to crumble.

Republicans tell American’s to “fear” Democrats because they will raise taxes. Yes, Democrats do wish to raise taxes but only on those who make $200,000 or more a year and deserve and can afford to contribute more to this great nation. To those of you in the upper class I say congratulations you’ve made it, but with your wealth comes extra social responsibility.
In his acceptance speech, John Kerry said, “The future doesn't belong to fear; it belongs to freedom.” How fitting to close the convention with these encouraging words. The same convention that introduced the world to young, vibrant leaders such as Barak Obama, pushing a message of unity and strength, closes with a message to combat fear in our homeland.


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