November 23, 2015
By Arthur H. Gunther III
The perch that I sit on — and most of my readers, too — is in the lower part of New York State, in the geographically smallest county — Rockland — but it is close to New York City and has since its beginning as a section of Orange County included diverse peoples. So, its views have long been mixed, for long periods conservative, even rightist, then liberal but now largely in-between. It is a go-to-work, take-care-of-the lawn, keep-it-peaceful perch that is as much Americana as the down-home folk in North Carolina or the casual men, women and children in California, or the stand-up-straight people in Vermont. Or anyone, anywhere in this beautiful, mixed USA. Long live the diverse nation.
The one thing we don’t have on our perch is fear, and that is not the case anywhere else in America. It isn’t us. There aren’t many who would agree with trampling on constitutional rights because of terrorism, for to do so is to bring obvious victory to those idiots. Be careful, be prudent, but follow the principles of this democracy. Otherwise, there is no democracy.
In the end, terrorism will be defeated by what it is not: tolerance, equality of opportunity, caring for others, not by lockdown, reading of mail, suspending of civil rights, suspicion of your neighbors and foreigners. That was Hitler’s way, not ours.
I can think of no better response to fear, which seems the menu of the day following the dreadful attacks in Paris, and that is the masterful speech given in the depths of the Great Depression by newly inaugurated President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
As he said on March 4, 1933: “ … This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. 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. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days. …”
While the president was referring to the economic crisis, the implication was that the very government put forth by the Founders, obtained by the sacrifices of the Revolutionary War, reaffirmed by the Civil War and earned by settlers of all persuasions in the cities and in the countryside since 1776, was on the rocks and that fear could shipwreck the ship of state. There were sinister forces that wished that, even then.
Today’s terrorism is so sophisticated that a single line of battle cannot be drawn, and it will require an international effort — not one nation — to marshal many forms of combat. All must carry the flag of battle, together. The banner must proclaim: “DO NOT LET FEAR WIN.”
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org