Fear Itself

I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel. 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.
- From Franklin D. Roosevelt's First Inaugural Address

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.
- Jedi Master Yoda

From my observations and experience, it seems the United States does colossally stupid things when we act out of fear. The specter of a mushroom cloud was used to rally support for the invasion of Iraq. We cowered in fear of communism with the House Un-American Activities Committee and the McCarthy Hearings. We imprisoned Americans of Japanese descent during World War II. In a recurring theme, we were terrified of Communists during the Red Scare after World War I. The 19th century saw the Know Nothing Party rise up in reaction to the fear of Irish Catholics and other undesirable immigrants. One can go before the birth of our nation to see insanity in the Salem Witch Trials.

There is always a danger in allowing fear to overwhelm us and we can see it again today. The NRA goes on and on about Obama wanting to take away guns. Donald Trump wants to block all Muslims from entering the country and to take out the families of terrorists - not as collateral damage but as targets. And he has much support in this from the American people.

This isn't to say there aren't real problems. However, the solutions to such problems are not typically best summarized in a five-second sound bite. There, is for example, a real problem with gun violence. And both sides of the gun control debate argue without the benefit of a comprehensive analysis - largely because we've deliberately ruled out such an analysis, with Congress, for example, prohibiting the CDC from performing research on gun deaths.

ISIS is a true threat. But the solution is not as easy as blocking all Muslims from entering the nation and killing the families of ISIS members. That seems an excellent way to actually increase their support in the Islamic world - "see, the Americans do hate all Muslims and want to kill your children".


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