A better address: FDR in 1933
Posted on January 20th, 2017
I haven’t done a lot of public hang-wringing about the election, although I will be out health coverage when the ACA goes. Before the election, I knew there were a lot of people spewing a lot of hate; now I know there are many millions more. [I am angrier at people on the left and center-left who didn’t vote for Mrs. Clinton (or at all) than I am people on the right who voted for the man who is now president.]
I also know that for every president since Washington, there have been people who thought the sky would fall with the incoming administration. The Democratic-Republicans thought Adams was a disaster (with cause–remember the Alien and Sedition Act?); the Federalists went kaput after the Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe. But life went on and gave us some winners (Lincoln, TR, FDR, JFK, LBJ–a corrupt man, LBJ, but the Great Society changed many lives for the better) and some losers (Harding, Hoover, Nixon, Bush II, and choose-your-own).
Four years is a long time to despair, so I won’t. Instead, I’ll keep reading the words of people wiser than I, who value(d) the many above the few. (Why do people want to elect someone they could grab a beer with? I want to elect the smartest and best person possible and I don’t want to go on a pub crawl with them.) Maybe we should be thinking of a part of FDR’s 1933 address that isn’t commonly quoted:
Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.
Or this part:
Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.
(Can you imagine the modern electorate voting for someone who uses the word “evanescent” in an address to the nation? I only wish I could.)
But remember he also said this:
We do not distrust the future of essential democracy. The people of the United States have not failed. In their need they have registered a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action. They have asked for discipline and direction under leadership.
I live in a bubble in a liberal city. I have an advanced degree. I have liberal, educated friends, a few of whom have been grating on my nerves for months with smug condescension toward the people who voted for the current president. (I don’t know about you, but I never changed my mind about an issue because someone told me I was stupid for having the belief/opinions I did.) Yeah, I’m a bit bewildered by people who vote against their own self-interest, too. But…
We need to remember the current president is the symptom of an advanced disease process. He didn’t fall out of his tower and land at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue without help. He’s there for a reason. Until the disease is treated–until the millions of people who were so hopeless that they would believe the rhetoric of an orange creep, who think a guy who brags about not paying his taxes is a role model worthy of electing president–marching and protesting isn’t enough. We need to think about what is going to work, to stop tearing down and start building. It’s going to get worse, probably a lot worse, but telling people they’re stupid because of the person they voted for won’t win any votes in 2020. Caring about what happens to and helping them, regardless of how they voted, might.
TL; DR: Judge not, golden rule, and light a damned candle.