#1 – Dick Bernard: P&J#1940: Reflecting on "fear itself"
This is the first posting on this blog. The title “P&J#1940” holds meaning for me. P&J#1 entered the internet world in late September, 2001; P&J#1940 was published March 25, 2009, and is a significant one for me.
1940 is a significant number in my life. It is the year I was born in rural North Dakota, between the ending of the Great Depression and the U.S. entrance into WWII. A friend says I’m part of the “Silent Generation” – too young for the Greatest Generation; too old for the Baby Boom Generation (1946-47 forward).
As I write this, March 24, 2009, the political and policy environment is flooded with conflicting messages. Some see disaster ahead; some see hope; “experts” are in vocal disagreement with each other. Many of the people I see every day seem oblivious to the dangers, deep in denial: As MAD magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman always said (and so far as I know, still says), there seems to remain a dominant attitude: “What, me worry?”
It is not at all certain that anyone really knows for sure about where we’re headed. We’re stuck with a likely harsh reality, disguised only by the fog of finely honed media spin from all sides. Humans being humans, we tend to pick the piece of spin that fit our own bias. Today that is very easy (and dangerous) to do.
I am not tempted to become like that hermit I met while on Army maneuvers in the Tarryall section of the Colorado Rockies in the spring of 1962. He had lived in relative isolation, apparently for years, no car, no road, no electricity, trudging to the nearest town once a month to bring back provisions, among which was the previous months Denver Post, which he read one issue per day. He was “current”, but always a month behind on the news, but living in the past was just fine with him. I see him and his one-room mountain shack as I write. It is tempting. After all, there is that old saying, that old myth, that “what you don’t know can’t hurt you”.
That hermit lived in a different time.
In the din of today, it is very hard to be hopeful, much less to know what to do to keep hope alive in ourselves, much less others.
But it is self-defeating to give up, to succumb to fear itself; or, even worse, to think that this is going to be easy. So I’ll take in what I can, and impact however I can, however useless my effort sometimes seems to be.
In recent months especially I have often thought of what my birth in rural ND in 1940 meant to me, then, and how it applies to me now.
From the moment I was born I was immersed in the background experiences of two families set back but not defeated by the reality of the Dirty Thirties. Somehow they hung on and survived to raise me, the oldest son, and the oldest grandson – the first to be born into the families of my grandparents after the bad years.
One and one half years after I was born, six months after I had “met” my Dad’s brother, my Uncle Frank, in person for the first time, he went down with his ship, the USS Arizona, at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. From then till September, 1945, WWII dominated everyone’s existence, including youngsters like myself, not old enough to comprehend all that was going on, but experiencing directly the effects.
In short, I may have been in a “silent” generation, but I was thoroughly marinated in others experiences in the years both preceding and following my birth.
Each of us have our own stories…and some of those stories match the reality of today – including times and events seemingly without hope, including conflicting opinions (including in our own minds) about how to cope.
Several times in my own life I’ve had to muddle through things without a “map”. It is part of life.
“Life” is what our country, including the so-called “experts”, is going through right now, and will be for, likely, a very long time.
So, I choose to carry on trying to impact in whatever small way I can, wherever I can.
In the early months of 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke the immortal phrase “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/fdrfirstinaugural.html.
In his own way, President Obama is doing what he can, in whatever ways he can, in the spirit of FDR, to keep our spirits up, in an environment that could turn out to be even worse than the Great Depression; and in the process he is having to make decisions for the country with no certainty that the decisions will be correct. Somehow we need to walk beside him, with him, in his shoes. Be critical, sure, but keep it in its proper perspective.
We need to remember, though, that the President is only one among over 300,000,000 of us. We owe our continuing efforts to ourselves, and to everyone else with whom we share this country and this planet, and to those who come after us.
We all can do something positive.
We must be realistic. We must not give up.
Fear is a critical piece of the whole issue of peace and justice — maybe the biggest piece. It is also the single biggest factor under-girding — and sometimes undermining — all religions.
I am encouraged by your new blog and hope it blossoms. Explain to me how one submits an entry for possible inclusion.
On submitting an entry for this blog: Yours is the first request (which I welcome). My general criteria for submissions is explained on the “about” page of the blog. Proposed submissions can be e-mailed to me. As this is a brand new venture, there will be a learning curve. Thanks for the interest.