December 7, 2008
What We Have to FearBy Lauri B. Regan
During the election campaign and several months prior to the downward spiral in the economy, I entered into an email exchange with a relative who supported Obama. In responding to concerns that I raised regarding an Obama administration's support of Israel and our country's national security, my relative wrote, "A wise man once said that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
That statement was made by FDR in his 1933 inaugural address in which he went on to say:
I know this relative very well and he does not have ESP or a PhD in economics. It was simply lucky that he used this phrase to address my concern just prior to the collapse of Lehman and the beginning of the worst economic crisis our nation has faced since the Great Depression over which FDR presided.
The irony, however, is my concerns that elicited my relative's response were for the security of the State of Israel and America. He was responding to my fear that the country would elect an individual who would eagerly sit down and talk with narcissistic dictators ruling rogue nations in the hope that they'd see the light and suddenly love and respect America, Israel and other freedom-loving infidels.
My response to his email was "Ignorance is bliss." While many people were frightened after 9/11, that fear dissipated with time. And the longer the Bush White House has kept us safe from attack on US soil, people are finding it easier and easier as FDR said, to "deny the dark realities of the moment" and put their heads in the sand pretending that no one wants to harm us.
With the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, our innocence has once again been stolen and it is increasingly difficult to say that we have nothing to fear. The past several days we have been treated to pictures and video of the murdered and injured and the rose colored glasses have been converted, in the blink of an eye, to magnifying glasses exposing vivid images that cannot be ignored.
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Tell that to the innocent people killed this week, to the 3000 Americans killed on 9/11, and to the millions killed in the holocaust -- genocide well on its way when FDR made that famous statement.
An Israeli cousin visiting recently was asked, "Do you worry about the dangers of a terrorist attack while living in Israel?"
Before being given the opportunity to respond, my FDR-quoting relative interjected, "Of course they don't worry."
I suggested that he give her a chance to respond and he continued, "Lauri thinks there will be bombs flying everywhere. She's a fear-monger."
I would prefer to be called a realist. But if the term fear-monger is what is used to describe someone who watched the World Trade Centers fall on 9/11 and who takes seriously the statements from lunatics like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that "Israel must be wiped off the face of the Earth," then yes I am a fear-monger. Call me paranoid, but when I read all too often about the long range missiles barraging Southern Israel and view the images of Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg, his wife, Rivka, and all of the others who were murdered in Mumbai this week, I feel fear.
My Israeli cousin finally responded to the question about whether she worries. "Of course we worry, how can we not? But we live our lives because we have to. That is how we survive."
Since 9/11, I too worry everyday of my life. But like my Israeli cousin, I continue to live my life. I go to work everyday in New York City passing through Grand Central Station during rush hour. And last week I had a new reason to worry as we received the news that al Qaeda may be plotting a terrorist attack against the New York railways.
I am not comforted by the thought of Barack Obama sitting in the Oval Office figuring out how to convince Ahmadinejad that we mean him no harm -- while Iranian scientists toil day and night to quickly complete their nuclear weapons program. I am fearful when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev threatens our missile defense plans and then conspires with Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez to share nuclear technology. And I wonder whether in fact President-elect Barack Obama is a realist like me.
In an analysis of Obama's recent appointment of Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano to the post of Secretary of Homeland Security, Dick Morris and Eileen McGann wrote:
When FDR gave his address in 1933, few knew that it wasn't just "material things" that we had to worry about. The lives of millions of human beings that would soon be lost as well. As a realist, I hope and pray that Obama goes to bed every night repeating the phrase "We will never forget."
FDR completed the speech with the following:
In this dedication of a Nation we humbly ask the blessing of God. May He protect each and every one of us. May He guide me in the days to come.
I wonder what famous statement will be included in Obama's inaugural address and whether we will one day look back in history to see the irony of its true meaning.
Lauri B. Regan is an attorney at a global law firm in New York.