Freedom From Fear

3 Jul

Of all the beautiful words engraved in granite throughout the heart of Washington, DC, none fit our current Fourth of July better than the Four Freedoms highlighted in the memorial to Franklin Roosevelt. At the time the president shared these freedoms with the nation in January 1941, Europe was at war and the president wanted the people to understand the stakes.

Today, those words hold true and the world still seems to be on the verge of war, but a war of ideas and ideals sometimes with violent results.

The Four Freedoms engraved on the memorial are:

  • Freedom of Speech
  • Freedom of Worship
  • Freedom from Want
  • Freedom from Fear

On this Fourth of July, let’s look at the veracity of those Freedoms.

Freedom of Speech has more outlets than the radio and newspaper days of Roosevelt, with everyone having a voice on social media. The problem is that half-truths and outright lies proliferate. So today this Freedom requires us the listeners and readers to ask continuously “Is it true? How do I know it’s true?” It takes courage to face the reality of what we want to be true and what is actually true.

Freedom of Worship means more than the happy coexistence of Protestant, Catholic or Jew of Roosevelt’s time. Now it includes Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and other worldwide faithful. But then as now, the government cannot interfere with or favor any of them. We’re left to live with each other in peace without worries of imposition of Sharia law or Old Testament eye-for-an-eye. We’re a nation of laws, not a theocracy.

Freedom from Want was easy to understand in the waning days of the Great Depression when Roosevelt spoke. Today, the soup lines are gone but many go hungry and many face a hunger of spirit. In our country with excesses of stuff, those without the basics are often invisible. Since Roosevelt’s speech 75 years ago, the government has tried a war on poverty and various iterations of welfare – with mixed results. This freedom requires continued and constant work by government and all of us. If Want ever leads to desperation, then with nothing to lose, those left out choose violence.

Freedom from Fear was painted by Norman Rockwell three years after Roosevelt’s speech as parents tucking their child into bed while the father holds a newspaper with terrifying war news. Today, Fear is a political commodity used to buy votes by scaring voters into fearing the Other – immigrant, racial or sexual minority. These political fear mongers point to the violent acts by disturbed and extremist individuals in Charleston, Orlando and Paris and say, “See, we told you the Other will kill you.”

Choose, instead, not to Fear. To the political fear mongers, say I will not Fear the Other. I will see them as my fellow human beings with a common ancestor sharing a small blue planet in an infinite universe. I choose not to Fear by going where I please, and if the remote possibility occurs and I’m shot or blown to bits by extremists, then I still win. I lived without Fear.

Happy Fourth of July.

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