07 November 2008

Remembering What it Means to Talk About Security

It speaks loudly about how far to the right Republicans have managed to push the ideological spectrum of American politics to consider what might happen if our president-elect were to speak anything like the following:
"It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens."

Source: Franklin D. Roosevelt. “The Economic Bill of Rights” (Excerpt from 11 January 1944 message to Congress on the State of the Union.) The Public Papers & Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt (Samuel Rosenman, ed.), Vol XIII (NY: Harper, 1950), 40-42. Thanks to MSH for reading this to me this evening.

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Blogger Matt said...

Roosevelt said:

Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.
And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest--until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home--fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them--help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too--strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keeness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment--let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace--a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.


Franklin D. Roosevelt--June 6, 1944

08 November, 2008 18:15  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Matt, I'm not sure what your point is. There is no obviously analogy between WWII and our current imbroglios (certainly not Iraq, Likely not Afghanistan). And even so, I see no special reason to pray when the task is promoting economic or even military security. Among the problems I have with American politics is that it is too thoroughly shot through with religion. JJ

08 November, 2008 18:25  
Blogger Matt said...

I'd simply offer this as a counterpoint that to say that FDR would be castigated by the right for his treatise on universal human rights ignores the reality that it should be similarly expected that the left would hang FDR for offering a prayer in time of crisis.

The underlying point is that the political spectrum has been stretched in both directions where all are too eager to launch attacks based simply on the use of key phrases, or words, without consideration for the basic fact that there might be something thoughtful or substantive in what is being said.

My theory is people react to political speeches via some internal (or computer aided) google search engine that finds these buzzwords and taglines. Then they become fodder for whatever cause cares to abuse them. I just don't see that there exists a high ground on the left or the right.

08 November, 2008 19:39  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...


Unfortunately, you are simply wrong about who has done more to shape the left-right dimension in the US. The best work we have (Poole, Rosenthal & McCarty ~
http://polarizedamerica ) clearly identifies the Republicans as the culprits - they've drive it hard right over the course of many years. And before you suggest that they are somehow left wingers, think again.

FDR hardly is alone - every US President prays (or did). They all end their speeches and whatnot with 'God Bless America' and so forth. In fact, the notion of someone being elected to high office in the US without praying - or at least claiming that he does - is a howler. It is very difficult to argue that religion is a liberal force in the world.

08 November, 2008 20:55  

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