Thursday, September 3, 2009

Comment on FDR's Smokies Speech

I received the following comment which would not fit in the space allotted for comments. There's plenty of food for thought here.

When I reread the words of FDR's speech in this post it made me cry for the simple honesty he expresses about the purpose and value of our country. Today it is fashionable for some to decry our government, to wear t-shirts extolling revolution watered by the blood of patriots, to shout louder and cynically cry for our lost country. What time shall we return to? Perhaps when we hung our darker citizens from trees? Or, when we discarded our elderly without substance or care? Or when those who sought equity and justice in the workplace were slaughtered by thugs as in Calumet or Homestead? Maybe it is to a time when we treated out natural gifts and beauty as meaningless things to discard without care or stewardship?

It has become a Conservative mantra to quote Ronald Reagan: Government isn't the solution, it's the problem.

No statement could be less conservative for is it not reactionary and radical to treat our cherished institutions with such disrespect? Those who hold to Mr. Reagan's cynicism are often those who worship the Constituion as if it were an idol instead of a life giving and affirming document.


We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

There is no us and there is no them, there is only "we", altogether, bound to an ideal of justice, tranquility, defence, welfare and blessings - all common and all united. We are the government and if Mr. Reagan is correct then we, not some but all of us, are the problem. Those who would turn partisan differences of political philosophy into inviolable lines of exclusion do the ultimate disservice to the ideal that is US.

The speech opening the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was a precursor, a preview to one of FDR's most famous speeches. It is a speech that evokes the spirit of our Constitution and calls us to remember what a great source of hope our Founders saw for this nation.

From the "Four Freedoms" speech:

The basic things expected by our people of their political
and economic systems are simple. They are :

Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.
Jobs for those who can work.
Security for those who need it.
The ending of special privilege for the few.
The preservation of civil liberties for all.
The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a
wider and constantly rising standard of living.
These are the simple, the basic things that must never be
lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of
our modern world. The inner and abiding straight of our
economic and political systems is dependent upon the degree
to which they fulfill these expectations.

Many subjects connected with our social economy call for
immediate improvement. As examples:
We should bring more citizens under the coverage of old-age
pensions and unemployment insurance.
We should widen the opportunities for adequate medical care.
We should plan a better system by which persons deserving or
needing gainful employment may obtain it.

I have called for personal sacrifice, and I am assured of
the willingness of almost all Americans to respond to that
call. A part of the sacrifice means the payment of more
money in taxes. In my budget message I will recommend that
a greater portion of this great defense program be paid for
from taxation than we are paying for today. No person
should try, or be allowed to get rich out of the program,
and the principle of tax payments in accordance with ability
to pay should be constantly before our eyes to guide our

If the congress maintains these principles the voters,
putting patriotism ahead pocketbooks, will give you their

In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look
forward to a world founded upon four essential human

The first is freedom of speech and expression --everywhere
in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his
own way-- everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world
terms, means economic understandings which will secure to
every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants
--everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into
world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to
such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation
will be in a position to commit an act of physical
aggression against any neighbor --anywhere in the wold.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite
basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and
generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of
the so-called "new order" of tyranny which the dictators
seek to create with the crash of a bomb.


GULAHIYI said...

Thank you very much for that. Reading the "Four Freedoms" I can hear Eleanor Roosevelt in the background, urging FDR to champion these ideals. She was definitely one of the greats of the 20th century who doesn't get her due anymore for her achievements, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Western North Carolina Writer's Underground said...

Forget Reagan. He was only a so-so actor; although he had great speech writers as president.

I believe that an excellent argument can be made for the founders and their reactionary and radical disrespect towards the then current 'cherished institutions' of the British king and parliament as a precedent. We Americans have a long (comparatively) history of radical reactionism and disrespect towards our institutions (as we should).

My people came to these shores to get away from the yoke of petty princes and kings. For too long the American people have not exercised our unalienable rights. Of course there's shock and consternation amongst the bureaucrats and non-representing representatives when citizens do exercise their rights (Amendments 1- 10 during the last few months at various rallys/public hearings). They would rather we shut up and take the scraps that they give back to us (what has been first taken from us by the threat of force!).

What pains me is there are too many Americans who go along with this tyranny out of ignorance or else they are Quislings. Unfortunately this "going along to get along" can only lead to an irreparable chasm between Americans that will only be settled by conflict. I believe that the true cynics are the ones who stir up dissension amongst us so that they can seize power and turn all of us into villeins. If this happens (attempt to seize power) let it happen during my life.

Historical tides are cyclical (Aristotle, "On Politics"), so we'll have to go through what we go through. The 'trick' is getting out the other side alive and well. Good Fortune to us all.

Anonymous said...

Writers Underground - you sound like Glen Beck.