It was during Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inauguration address in 1933 when he uttered the famous sentence, “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.”
It was a call to Americans to work together to fight against dark times.
Our country has known collective terror throughout the decades, and 2020 will be remembered as the year we feared an invisible virus and people taking advantage of peaceful protests by looting stores and burning cars. That trepidation carried over into the new year as citizens watched as extremists sieged the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Nearly 90 years after Roosevelt called for Americans to fight fear, we find ourselves afraid of our fellow citizens. Since the attack on the People’s House in Washington, D.C., members of Congress are worried that their safety, as well as that of their family members, is in jeopardy. Some even believe their own colleagues will harm them if they speak out against former President Donald Trump (R). Rep. Peter Meijer (R-MI-03), a freshman congressman, told CNN he was afraid of possible threats after he voted to impeach Trump.
The fear has trickled down to our own neighborhoods as many are hesitant to speak their opinions, afraid if their views are more conservative than others they will be tied to the extremists who assaulted the Capitol.
There are those who once wouldn’t think twice about standing on a corner to protest or rally, even if people who held opposing views were right across the street. Now many are hesitant that their words might be met with foul language, assault and worse.
Many this past summer, during protests, witnessed foul language being exchanged between protesters and anti-protesters. Black Lives Matters participants in a rally in Smithtown in June took to social media alleging that they were assaulted. In September, a Massapequa man was arrested for allegedly assaulting a 64-year-old man who was rallying with the North Country Patriots, a conservative group that meets on the corner of Bennetts Road and Route 25A every Saturday morning.
Our times have become so divisive that many have forgotten the adversities Americans have gone through together — the Great Depression, the world wars, 9/11 and more. These horrific events didn’t leave us weaker, they left us stronger.
We became stronger because we live in a country where we have the right to pursue happiness, the right to gather, the right to express our opinions and so much more. And while we may not have the right to use those words and actions to cause harm to others or property, we have those rights.
Most of our fellow Americans get that. So let’s move forward together, stronger and more fearlessly than before with knowledge and empathy, embracing our freedoms and respecting that others in this country enjoy the same rights.