I’m scared.

Is that acceptable to say?

With the thoughts and promise and the hope that comes with finally ridding ourselves of potentially the worst president in American history (don’t know enough about some of the early 1800s guys to make that an absolute statement, plus I heard Buchanan was a major idiot…) , I guess I should be happier and more enthusiastic. I was in Blockbuster last night and saw thisgiant Obama poster with his speech from the Grant Park rally and I still got shivers. I’m looking forward to the next four (hopefully eight) years of what could be our country’s transcendent period. I still believe. I still have hope.

But I’m scared.

Every day, I see stories likethis andthis andthis and I wonder what is going to happen next. I see more and more machines taking the places of more and more workers. I see more jobs going overseas. I see fewer companies weathering the storm.

The violent hacks and slashes that continue to take out newspaper jobs are now coming home to roost in the digital world as well.Yahoo andMicroSoft were the digital bastions of our future, expanding boldly while sidestepping whatever seemed to befall the ink-stained wretches. Now, their workers are grist for the mill as well. I somehow doubt that anyone goes to work these days and feels fat, happy and completely irreplaceable.

On a personal level, I worry that my upcoming tenure discussion will be less about my value to the university as a scholar and teacher and more about how many adjuncts they could buy with my salary if the canned me. I’m worried about the summer and the lack of revenue that comes with a 9-month appointment and the fallow field of grant money and summer courses available in this foundering economy. I’m worried that after 15 years of slogging toward a degree, my wife will find the job cupboard bare when she walks across the stage next year to get that exceptionally hard-earned diploma.

I’m scared.

I spent the day looking for a bit of inspiration, something that would tell me that everything will be OK. On a “Quote of the Day” site, FDR’s bold statement that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself popped up. I dug around and foundthe full transcript of the speech from which the quote originated. I often grouse that in this fast-food, quick-bit, sound-bite, blog-chunk world, we miss depth and meaning and substitute being glib for being right. Not wanting to fall victim to that myself, I went line-by-line through this 76-year-old speech and sought the context for the line we’ve all heard thousands of times.

The quote was part of Roosevelt’s inaugural address. The core of the speech is powerful and could have been written about today. FDR combined an acute understanding of his time with a sense of Biblical history and the social ramifications of uncertainty. He saw how the greed of the times, the way in which people lived beyond their means and the collapse of the financial system contributed to what appeared to be the end of days for this country. He saw frozen credit markets, unemployed workers and the death of industry and knew everyone in his country was living in fear.

It would have been easy for Roosevelt to say what he probably was thinking: “I’m scared too and there are no guarantees we’ll ever pull out of this thing.” He could have told people to suck it up or drop dead or anything that lesser politicians have said in tough times. It would have been even easier to blame it on the last guy for whom the infamousHoovervilles were named. “Hey, you all can SEE how screwed up this is! It’s almost impossible to fix this mess…”

Instead, he did the extraordinary. He stepped up to the microphone and on day one of his new job announced that you too will have a new job soon. He told his people that the stuff they had lost was just stuff and that it could be worse. He told them that we’re going to figure it out and that we’ll work on it together. He told them fear comes from the unknown, so let’s focus on the known and fix what we can see in front of us. I have no idea how this came off to the people who were starving and living in shanties in Central Park, but in retrospect, I must admit, it had the courage and vision this country needed at the time.

The speech was a practical miracle, to coin an oxymoron. It was a compact between president and people. It was a commitment to figuring this out together. It was a declaration that we were getting up off the mat and going one more round.

It was essentially a 1933 version of “Yes We Can.”

Let’s hope the end results are the same.

5 thoughts on “I’m scared.

  1. Huzzah!
    And, yes…we CAN! It’s just a matter of if “we the people” WILL. It will be truly hard work, I am not expecting rainbows & unicorns a millisecond after Obama’s Inaugural Speech (but if a passing unicorn wants to spike the Brokeback Pastor…I will be there to help clean up said unicorn so it can go on it’s merry way). I expect progress to be slow, but PROGRESS all the same and once initiated, it will pick up speed.
    Peace,
    Elspeth

  2. I have my fingers crossed. The past 16 years have left so much disappointment festering in me that it is hard to really believe that any significant changes will take place in the next 4 years, but I doubt that our country could have elected anyone more able to lead those changes. President Obama is going to have an enormously difficult job to do, so I hope we all can find ways to make that job easier.

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