FDR’s words about fear still ring true

Published 11:06 pm Wednesday, December 9, 2015

In his 1933 inaugural address, Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” The United States was in the throes of the Great Depression then, and economic fears gripped the nation. Roosevelt was able to bring hope to Americans that a New Deal was coming that would return prosperity to a country facing the hardest of times.
Eighty-two years later our country faces more tough times, and though the fear is different, Roosevelt’s words still ring true.
A Muslim couple who federal authorities say adopted extremist views killed 14 people last week in San Bernardino, Calif., creating the legitimate fear that radical Islamist terrorism is taking root in the American homeland.
Nobody wants that, and after more than a decade of American military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and generations of unrest in the Middle East, it’s understandable that some would see all people with ties to the Middle East as our enemies.
After a terrorist attack in Paris last month, Gov. Robert Bentley announced Alabama would not accept refugees from the Syrian civil war. Earlier this week, a presidential candidate stirred controversy when he proposed that Muslims be barred from entering the United States altogether. Basically, their message is that America is no place for immigrants.
That’s not what America is about.
To be sure, a segment of the world’s Muslim population does hate America, and this is rightly a cause for concern. But to assume that all Muslims hate Western values and are bent on the destruction of America is as wrong as assuming that the hate-mongering Westboro Baptist Church represents all of Christianity. Neither faith can accurately be painted with that broad a brush.
In comments from the Oval Office Sunday night, President Barack Obama called for the nation to reject Islamophobia, saying, “Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes.”
The president is right. America was formed on a cornerstone of freedom of religion, and for generations, peaceful Muslims have lived alongside their American counterparts of other religions from sea to shining sea. The presence of Syrian refugees and Muslim immigrants could teach us more about the part of the world where they come from, and through understanding we could conquer fear.
A nation as great as America shouldn’t compromise its Constitutional principles out of fear of a fringe religious group.
Refugees and immigrants should be carefully screened before they’re allowed to enter or stay in the United States, and those here on visas should be reviewed periodically to ensure they’re working, studying or otherwise keeping the terms of their visas.
That’s the way the system should’ve been working all along. If we make the system work as it should, and reach out in peace and friendship to Muslims who are not radical terrorists, the only thing we will have to fear will be fear itself.
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