During the 2004 presidential campaign, I was living in London. Many of my British friends were flabbergasted that Americans would even consider putting “W” back in office. Time and again I was asked the same question: “How is it possible that Americans would even consider keeping Bush as president?” I tried explaining to them the nature of American politics, mired in its two party system, that often presented the voters with little more than the task of choosing the lesser of two evils. I finally settled on the pat answer: “When your choices are Twiddle Dee or Twiddle Dum, it’s not really much of a choice at all. You may as well flip a coin.” My Brit friends were invariably mystified by my answer and would simply shake their heads and mumble something about “crazy Yanks.” In a country where there are almost as many political parties as there are days in the month, it seems inconceivable that a major power in the free world would have such an insane and restrictive process for selecting its chief executive. All I could offer is a shrug of the shoulders and the observation that “it is what it is.”
That experience stuck with me, however. Ever since that election I have pondered the question of “Why”. Why do the citizens of this country continue to allow the two major parties to dictate who will run for the presidency, not to mention the other national offices. (The state offices do not suffer quite so much from this syndrome, but are not entirely immune at the governor / lieutenant governor level.) It really is insane. The two major parties seem Hell-bent on destroying this country, while we the citizens sit by like a bunch of cattle, docilely munching our cud, waiting to be led off to the slaughter house.
Why, you may wonder, do I hold such a low opinion of the Democrat and Republican parties? Simple. Over my lifetime, those two parties have lost sight of who the enemy is. They each think that the other party is the enemy. They seem to forget that we are ALL Americans and that the real enemy has no convention, casts no votes, and could care less about gay marriage, evolution taught in the schools, whether it is allowable to display the Ten Commandments on government property, whether abortion should be illegal, the war on drugs, Islamic extremists, China, North Korea, Iran, the World Bank, illegal immigrants, the “liberal press”, Fox News, or even the Illuminati. None of these fear inducing “enemies”, cited so frequently by the spin-masters employed by both parties, is the real enemy. There is only one real enemy. Franklin Delano Roosevelt identified that enemy with the simple and eloquent phrase “…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” At least, that is the way that it is most usually quoted, but allow me to place that quote in both historical and literary context. The source of this quote is Roosevelt’s first inaugural address in 1933. A good case can be made that 1933, the ground zero year of the Great Depression, marked the gravest threat to our nation that has ever come to pass. In the midst of those dark and pessimistic times, FDR took office and delivered the speech that has ever after been considered by many as one of the greatest feats of oratory ever delivered by an American president. Here is an excerpt from that speech placing the above quote in its broader literary context:
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.
Now, before I dissect these words, let me lay down a disclaimer. I am not now, and never will be, a proponent of big government. I have very strong objections to many of the “New Deal” programs championed by FDR. But, as much as I may disagree with his approach to “stimulating the economy”, I nonetheless agree with every word in the above quote. Let me specifically direct your attention to the last sentence, and most specifically to his mentioning a “leadership of frankness and vigor” and the “support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.” There it is. FDR has identified both the enemy, fear, and the key to victory.
But if fear is the enemy and frank and vigorous leadership supported by the people is the key to victory, then what does that say about the current state of our union? What does it say when our “leaders” rarely, if ever, display “a leadership of frankness” and in fact, often do precisely the opposite?!? And not only do we suffer from a lack of frankness and honesty, but those in power in both parties avoid addressing the real issues by engendering fear and division among the citizens of this country with blatant disregard to the fact that the more divided we become, the greater the peril we find ourselves facing. This is a state of affairs so blighted and poisonous to the health of our nation that I personally regard the actions of our “leaders” – and by leaders I am referring not to the actual elected officials, but to the real power behind the parties, the ones that run our parties and have bought our government – as acts of treason far surpassing the actions of any spy that ever worked for a foreign power. It’s time the citizens of this country awoke to the perils of our current situation. We are under attack! An attack on a scale against which Pearl Harbor dims by comparison! (Don’t get me wrong. Pearl Harbor was a villainous and cowardly act of evil. I do not mean to diminish it, but rather mean to defend the nation whose very heart and soul was torn by it.)
Make no mistake about it. The biggest single threat to the future of the United States is the fear being wielded against her by her own political parties. This nation used to stand united around the common belief that individual liberty was sacred and that any among us who would support attempts to pass laws that eroded that liberty were no less than enemies of the state. But over time, fear was used to manipulate the minds of our citizens so that, little by little, they handed over their sacred rights for nothing more than the illusion of security. This process has continued for so long that we have all but abandoned the notion of individual responsibility. Fear has been the venom used to poison the minds of the American people, convincing them that the answer to all their problems is to simply give the government an ever increasing amount of power. After all, they only want to help. We can trust them. Right?
So how have they engendered this fear? Simple. Have you ever noticed that whenever politicians want to control something, they almost always find a way to make that something a “danger” to our children, even when there is practically no hard evidence to support their claims? Funny that. Even funnier yet is the fact that “we the people” fall for it every time. How pathetic.
Time and again fear has been used to increase the power of government at the expense of the individual liberties granted to the citizens by our constitution. Just look at the record. Fear was used to create the Federal Income Tax, a “temporary measure” that somehow morphed into a permanent fixture. Fear was used to create Social Security, the War on Drugs (one of the biggest boondoggles that ever existed), the invasion of Iraq under the guise of the “War on Terror”, the Patriot Act, and the TSA. The saddest truth about the above list of boondoggles sold by fear is that many of you reading this have so bought the “company line” used to convince you of your need for these things that you probably can’t understand why I would even mention them in any sort of negative context. If you fall into this category, please read my future political posts as I will explore the proper role of government and then reflect on the items in this list in detail. You, of course, may not agree with my assessments, but I hope you will at least keep an open mind and give my ideas a chance.
It is time we identified the enemy and stopped letting it win. It is time we rose up and confronted fear. It is time we stopped letting the will of the few control the destiny of the many, for that is what truly endangers our children. I sincerely believe that the greatest danger to our children is that we will sell out their civil liberties before they get a chance to voice an opinion. I hope that we the people can find the courage and wisdom to prevent that from happening before it’s too late. After all, aren’t you ready to say goodbye to Twiddle Dee or Twiddle Dum?