Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson

I cannot recall the first time I learned about The Great Depression of my parent’s generation, but I do remember their stories of that time in American history. As early as elementary school we watched period newsreels depicting unemployed workers in soup kitchen lines, farmland swept away by winds, tent cities and rail side camps. I don’t know exactly at what age or by what means I became aware of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s words, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” but they seemed abstract to me and abstract thinking is not in a child’s brain set.

While I like to think over the past decades I have come to a better understanding of FDR’s meaning, I’m sure some will consider me as obtuse as ever. Nonetheless, I press on with some thoughts, later using Roosevelt’s quote and its surrounding text to examine any relevancy to America’s current election year fears.

What did FDR mean when he said fear was something to be feared? It seemed untrue as there were many things to fear in life, everything from getting hit in the face with a baseball to nuclear war with the Russians to black widow spider bites; all scary “things” at one time or other in my life. Early in life I developed, thankfully, a love of reading (something I gather is not easily acquired when one gets older; I know some who after required school reading haven’t read a dozen books as adults, but I digress), and can remember such phrases as “paralyzed with fear” or “he’s afraid of his own shadow” and realizing that being afraid of something can greatly influence a person’s thinking, even if the something is not a tangible thing like the pain of a baseball to the face. And it seems to me this type of fear now permeates the American political and cultural scene.

As a culture we are bombarded with oft-repeated propaganda guaranteed to generate fear across the broad spectrum of the national landscape. Regarding our southern border, oppositional rhetoric advises us to either fear an influx of criminals and terrorists, which will ultimately lead to the downfall of democracy, or fear of being that generation of Americans who failed to offer what our ancestors received when they arrived: a new life.

On the great divide of a woman’s reproductive rights, many fear for the religious moral compass of the nation while many others fear negation of medical science to the detriment of women’s health; both sides arguing the downfall of American values. Though many of us have little understanding of Middle Eastern history or its myriad cultures, we are aware of the current war in that land and, much like the anti-Vietnam War protests of the late 1960s and early ’70s, college students here and abroad are voicing their opinions both pro and con. The warring factions both believe their presence in the Middle East is God ordained and have clashed with genocidal fervor for thousands of years because radical views of both sides refuse agreements of co-existence. The diverse American populace now divides the fear of being labeled anti-Semitic if any support toward the Palestinian plight is uttered, while others fear any support shown for the State of Israel’s response to attack will label them a supporter of war crimes.

There are 166 days remaining until Election Day on Nov. 5, and on every one of those days politicians and media pundits will offer up opposing views as to why our democratic way of life is in dire jeopardy of failing with blame attributed by finger pointing across partisan aisles. Since March 4, 1789, the foundation of our existence has been founded in the framework of the original Constitution and the many updates and clarifications since that time; our whole system of legislative, executive and judicial governmental branches operates when these three check and balance each other. If one can believe national polls, then at present “We the People” are fearful our democracy is in grave danger of failing in its most basic principles and leading to utter downfall, with half holding the present administration is to blame and the other half, based upon past actions, warn of the danger to come if the most present past president is returned to power.

All these fears are real in the minds of the fearful, our minds, and all combine leaving us with an unlabeled fear; fear itself. Here is the full text: “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.” American history tells us our country has faced many crises of character and has made great strides in living up to its creed of equality for all; this is just another of those times of crisis. Franklin’s words were uttered 91 years ago, but I know much older words: “Fear not.”


While I have been cutting back on attendance at events in efforts to keep up with the whole financial aspects of life, I did attend the Fair for a walk-through with some very nice meet-and-greets throughout the busy atmosphere of animals, shows, exhibits and carnival rides. The Saturday prior to the four-day run, I biked through the grounds during move-in days and the activity is not unlike watching a studio dress a set for a movie; stuff happens quickly and efficiently.

And for the first time in the past few years, I will forego the dance troupe’s student showcase this coming Sunday. I was fortunate to guest perform a variety of roles over the years, including the Nutcracker’s Herr Drosselmeyer. The last of my four Clara’s is leaving this year, and so I said my goodbyes to the troupe at the end of the “Giselle” run; I will miss them and truly wish them all the very best in life.

Take care. Peace.

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King City and Greenfield columnist Steve Wilson may be reached at [email protected].


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