A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself’

Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., Nov. 3, 4 or 5

Genuine concerns exist in Illinois, the country and the world, from hunger and housing to the loss of rights and the rise of climate change.

But – dang! – the Chicken Littles on talk radio and Fox News not only scream fear, but in the run-up to this week’s election, they seemed to blame President Obama for everything from ISIS, Ebola, and lax Secret Service security, to sunspot activity, flat beer and maybe the St. Louis Cardinals’ playoff series.

Who could keep track?

These Voices for Fear warn that Ebola will mutate and become airborne-contagious (while ignoring actual public-health threats ranging from the flu and tuberculosis to obesity and car wrecks); that terrorists toting assault weapons will invade from Mexico; and that fraudulent voting endangers the republic (despite Reagan-appointed federal Judge Richard Posner flatly stating that “voter identification” laws are voter suppression).

Some problems are not imaginary, of course: lousy roads, loss of privacy, targeting of young African American men, unfair funding for public schools, eroding women’s rights, filling prisons to overcrowding with nonviolent offenders, the Chicago Bears’ meltdown…

But Obama (or Speaker of the House John Boehner, for that matter) isn’t to blame.

Such scare tactics are echoes of Ye Olde Fear-mongering.

Remember “weapons of mass destruction”? Gay-bashing and gun-nuttiness by the Tea Party and Glenn Beck?

In the ’60s it was the loony Ku Klux Klan and the John Birch Society (co-founded by the Koch brothers’ dad, Fred). In the ’50s, authorities blamed juvenile delinquency on comic books (or rock ’n’ roll).

Before that: How about the classic “Red Scare,” a la U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy?

And even earlier, there were Huey Long and Father Charles Coughlin…

But any reasonable American should see the inherent goofiness in fomenting fear about supposed actions (or inactions) by Obama, his administration, or the federal government. In fact, a tenet of the Republican Party’s credo is cutting budgets and gutting the public sector across the board, from Washington to our communities – expressed by anti-government manipulator Grover Norquist, who said, “Our goal is to shrink government to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.”

So, if that occurs, picture a nation reverting to a time without clean-water and clean-air protections, with some religious faiths promoted while others are repressed, or with neighborhoods patrolled by underpaid police without pensions. And what would the response then be to security at airports or borders? The George Zimmerman All-Volunteer Posse? Or, too, how could brave health practitioners deal with medical crises – use Paul Ryan vouchers for haz-mat suits?

The Right and its GOP marionettes come close to advocating authoritarianism.

However, everyday Americans don’t want some ruthless and dictatorial federal, state or local government imposing the will of Wall Street or profit-above-all corporations.

Regular people are pretty levelheaded and fair-minded. We want to deal with real problems with passion, cooperation and hope.
We don’t expect every election to go our way, but we want people to be able to vote.

We don’t want handouts; we want job opportunities.

We don’t want businesses do go broke, but we think they need to keep out of politics and governance.

We don’t want free medical coverage, just affordable insurance to protect ourselves and our families.

We don’t want the wealthy to pay for everything; we want the rich to pay their share like everyone else.

And for those against abortion, same-sex marriage, organized labor or guns: Don't have an abortion or marry a gay person or accept union-negotiated wages or buy a gun.

There’s nothing to fear there.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his 1933 inauguration address, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

[PICTURED: Editorial cartoon by Jack Ohman, Sacramento Bee.]

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