Friday, May 24, 2024

Fear, Fear The American Republic.

June 24, 2016 by  
Filed under News, Politics, Weekly Columns

( “This is pre-eminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from 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.” (President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address)

[This is the fourth article in a series pondering the strategic significance of the massacre Omar Mateen perpetrated in Orlando, Florida. Interested readers may wish to peruse Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.]

Dominated by themes that evoke the nation’s fears and play on nostalgia for lost “greatness,” this election cycle has an air of tragedy about it. If it were a Shakespearean play, it would bear the name of the American Republic. The presentation of tragedy is always punctuated with death, and what may prove to be the tragedy of the American people is no exception. It began with the smoking Twin Towers in New York City, claiming the lives of thousands aAmeticanRepublic-2016s they collapsed. It now includes the deaths in attacks at Fort Hood, Boston, San Bernardino and Orlando. But the most ominous shadow of death is the one that extends across the future of therRepublic itself, its Constitution and the premises of God-endowed right, including liberty, on which it stands.

Recently, as I was thinking about the aforementioned themes of this election cycle, FDR’s famous assertion about fear came to my mind, from the opening of his First Inaugural Address. Reading and listening to it again, I was struck by its juxtaposition of fear and greatness. But unlike the small-minded, ambition-obsessed politicians of our day, FDR did not play on our nation’s fears, or exploit nostalgia about its supposedly lost greatness. He challenged our fear, and spoke to the greatness ever present within us.

This is not just an observation about FDR’s rhetoric. Rather it has to do with the fact that he spoke, as America’s greatest statesmen always had, as one who seriously understood the republican vocation of the American people; as one who was still stirred by that vocation as a calling laded with the hope of all humanity. This same understanding would show itself in the way he articulated the cause of America’s war effort in World War II, as a matter of our nation’s commitment to rightful liberty and the defense of justice, not just for ourselves but for all decent people, even those who valiantly resisted tyranny in the nations with whom we were at war.

Roosevelt spoke as Washington and Lincoln spoke before him, and as Reagan would thereafter, appealing to the things we love, not to our fear or hatred of our enemies. In facing the challenges of war and peace, they knew that, to be true to itself, our nation must always act with the same heart – the heart that longs above all else, to do justice, no matter what the cost; to love mercy, no matter what the sacrifice of pride; and to walk abiding in our Creator’s good Graces, no matter how the world derides.

This appeal was based on the fact that, for all their faults, many of the people Americans chose in the past to represent them in government shared their commitment to preserve the republican form of government, which relies on the decent character of the people. So these representatives continually reminded Americans of that character, calling on them to feel, think and act as responsible people; people concerned not just for themselves but for the better destiny of others, wherever they may be; who aspire, as we do, to build lives, and a way of life, in which doing right is the core meaning of doing well. As a result, we did not define ourselves, as a people, in terms of the enemies we fought to defeat. We defined ourselves in terms of the good we fought to preserve. We did not rouse ourselves to action by fomenting and exploiting fear, but by remembering the ties that oblige us to act for our loved ones, for our country, and for the God whose rule of right is what makes just people free.

In light of this reminder of American statesmanship at its best, consider the corrupt political appeals of our times. In response to such assaults as the Orlando massacre, Obama, Hillary Clinton and their ilk urge us to be overcome by fear. They focus on guns as a totem of the forbidden fruit we must surrender to avoid destruction. Because guns may be used for evil, we must act as if we have suddenly become no good – a people so helpless against our own unruly passions that the very presence of things that require character and responsibility will destroy us.

Though he boisterously proclaims his support for the Second Amendment, Donald Trump in action apparently agrees with this contemptuous view, but only insofar as is consistent with his theme of fearing our enemies. I am one who has long contended that we must see Islamic terror for what it is, and treat all those who participate in or abet it as our foes. But this is not because we fear them, even in our midst. The right response to enemies ruthlessly bent on evil is not to fear them, but courageously to confront and defeat them – preferably where they live and plot their mayhem, but here at home, too, if need be, with all the confidence the American militia have ever shown against the armies of British tyranny, and every other savage foe.

We should not fight terrorists by suspending the Second Amendment. Instead we should understand, respect and implement its stated purpose, while by all means sustaining the good character required to do so. Instead, the elitist parties presently in control of our politics foment our fears and systematically degrade our character. They then take fear and the lack of character as excuses for curtailing, discarding or suppressing our God-endowed unalienable rights. This is the agenda of tyranny, true to no principle but that of despotism. This is what Montesquieu and our Founders accurately understood it. (More on their insights in the next part of this series, upcoming this weekend on my blog.)

Columnist; Alan Keyes

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