In his first inaugural address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It was a call for courage during a dark time in our history: In 1933, The Great Depression was at its peak and Adolf Hitler had just seized power in Germany. Those were dark times, but FDR was right. The real threat is fear itself.
Fear serves its purpose when it warns us of legitimate dangers and threats to our survival. However, when fear becomes pathological, it can do real damage to our psyche–in this case, our national psyche. Fear divides us and causes us to retreat to our safe spaces–the company of like-minded individuals. It polarizes us. I’ve never seen our country as divided as it is today.
And unfortunately, fear-mongering works. The speakers at this week’s Republican National Convention know it, and that’s why so many of them made shrill proclamations that their opponents–me included, I suppose–are out to steal your money, ship jobs overseas, take your guns, destroy your religion, banish law enforcement, and corrupt your children. A growing segment of the GOP actually believes Democrats are a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles.
The truth isn’t so exotic: We all want good jobs. We want our kids to go to good, safe schools. We all want to stay healthy and not go bankrupt when we get sick or injured.
If there’s one thing we should fear, it’s Covid-19. President Trump and Governor Kemp act like they’ve got the situation under control. They do not. The United States has had the worst response and the highest death rate of any civilized nation. And Georgia has one of the top infection rates. The pandemic has killed 180,000 Americans and more than 5,000 Georgians to date, with no end in sight.
Here’s another thing we should fear: a government that ignored the disease and viewed it as a political danger rather than a public health threat. The ineffective response by our president and governor has kept people confused. Many people still go out without wearing a mask, prolonging the pandemic. Far, far too many people believe masks are part of a global conspiracy to track and/or control them. It’s the conspiracy theorists--and what they’re willing to do--that scares me the most.
I’m also concerned about how many norms and principles we have abandoned over the last four years and what will happen if we, as a nation, do not correct course. I want to campaign on pragmatism and bipartisanship with people acting in good faith. But it’s frustrating and difficult when the opposition party uses racial dog whistles, lies, name-calling, and fear as its primary campaign tool.
We are long overdue for a return to civil discourse and debating ideas based on truth instead of misinformation and spin. People on both sides share a lot of middle ground when it comes to issues regarding healthcare, education, public safety, and the economy.
We don’t have to agree on everything, but we need to weigh information from all sides and consider different opinions so we can find the best solution and do what’s right for this district, this state, and this country.
Democratic Candidate, Georgia House District 71