Monday, March 14, 2016

‘Fraidy Cat

Note: This essay first appeared on Stonekettle Station in April of 2013.  Given the current state of affairs, an update seemed in order // Jim

This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. 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.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1st Inaugural Address (March 4th, 1933)


I’ve got a number of pets.

Including several cats.

One of those felines is utterly fearless.

She came to me, that cat, as a castaway. Literally, cast away by some cowardly waste of humanity.

I found her at my back door on a -20F Alaskan winter morning, a tiny ball of fluff damned near frozen to death.  Crying piteously, hungry, cold, and terrified.

Now, the very last thing I needed at that point was another damned cat.

I suppose the prudent thing, the safe thing, the conservative thing, to do would have been to shoo this unwanted immigrant away from the house with curses and kicks, send her back out into the Alaskan winter to find her own way in the world. Honestly, what did I owe this needy creature? I had my own problems, my own pets, my own cats already.

I’ve spent my entire life in war zones around the world, one more life – and an animal at that – what difference could it make to me?

As it turns out, I’m not the kind of guy who would leave a kitten to freeze to death – make of that what you will.

I spent some time and effort looking for her people, but it became obvious fairly quickly that she’d been tossed out of a car and abandoned to her own devices in the midst of the Alaskan winter.

And so, because there was no one else, she became my responsibility. 

For various reasons involving two large male cats already in residence, the tiny kitten couldn’t be let into the house.  So she made a home for herself in my woodshop and eventually grew into the fabulous world-renowned ShopKat, famous from one end of Facebook to the other. 

At first she was afraid of nearly everything, as all babies are, and spent much of her time hiding in the many dark nooks and crannies of my large cluttered workshop.

But very quickly she became fearless.

Howling woodworking machinery, the various loud shop vacuum systems, the chainsaws, the ATV’s when I’m winching logs into the woodpile or plowing snow, nothing frightens her.  She spends her time perched on top of running equipment, intently watching my various projects. Which isn’t to say that she’s a happy-go-lucky idiot or not sufficiently cautious, or overly dependent on me for protection. Alaska is a dangerous place for small creatures and the ShopKat is more than aware of that fact. You have only to watch her cautiously scanning the sky for bald eagles or carefully checking for bears before venturing outside the shop to see immediately just how aware she is – however, that said, ShopKat has been known to charge full grown bull moose, it’s the damnest thing you’ll likely ever see.  And she never, ever, goes near the road.

It’s many years later, and the ShopKat has become my affectionate and cheerful companion. She is the most singularly funny, intelligent, and amazing creature. She brightens my many hours in the shop, and not a day goes by that she doesn’t express just how grateful she is for a home.

And then there is the White Cat. 

Stupid, we call him, and the label suits him perfectly.  He’s pretty and decorative, but he’s just none too bright.  He lives in the house and never, ever, ventures outside. And for a very good and very costly reason.

As I said, Alaska is a dangerous place for small fuzzy creatures.

Stupid is afraid of everything

The vacuum cleaner nearly gives him a fright-induced stroke. A sneeze can cause him to cower in the basement for hours. Loud noises, and not so loud noises, terrify him. He was once ambushed by a tennis ball. Stupid is afraid of his own tail.  He can start violently awake from a sound sleep in the middle of a quiet sunny afternoon, hounded by dangers only he can see, and race madly for shelter behind the wood stove or under the couch, peering suspiciously out at the world with wide terrified yellow eyes.

He cries piteously for attention, but when you reach for him he screams in horror and shies away, deathly afraid of being touched. 

If you try to pick him up, he goes completely rigid, legs and tail sticking straight out like an electrified statue of a cartoon cat made from barbed wire. He is at once both the most pathetically needy and the most spastically unaffectionate creature I’ve yet come across.

What is the difference between ShopKat and Stupid?

What makes one creature so utterly fearless and one so utterly fearful?

Is it just the perversity of cats in general?

Is it because one appears fantastically intelligent and the other is as dumb as a catnip mouse?

Is it nature or nurture?

Is it an accident of genetics? Happenstance? Or the natural extremes of a normal curve?

I have no idea. Cats are slaves to their nature and their nature is alien to human perception.

I do know, however, that fear can be learned. 

One of the (several) reasons I don’t want ShopKat in the house with Stupid is that I don’t want her to pick up the White Cat’s fear, his everyday terror at mundane things, the nameless shapeless dread that rules Stupid’s very existence. 

Because I know fear can be contagious.

I’ve seen it, out there in the world, on the battlefield, in crisis. 

I know fear can spread until people, like cats, become frightened by the slightest adversity, the smallest setback, the tiniest upset, until fear becomes habit.


The question is if the habit of fear can be broken, unlearned.



The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

That’s what Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said.

It’s one of the most famous, and most recognizable, quotes in American history.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.




Trembling paralyzing bone chilling fear that keeps us from doing what needs to be done, fear that turns advance into retreat, victory into defeat, hope into ashes, cheerful resolute optimism into endless bitter pessimism.


Roosevelt sure got that right, didn’t he?

Eighty years ago there was plenty of fear to go around. The country was afraid, hell, the whole world wallowed in fear – and for good reason. It was the darkest hour of the Great Depression.  In America, the economy had collapsed, banks failed one after the other, ruined investors took to stepping off high ledges or swallowing bullets, entire industries vanished overnight, tens of millions were out of work, millions were on the brink of starvation, tens of thousands more were homeless or squatted in Hoovervilles, the Dust Bowl smothered the Midwest under choking clouds, mobsters with gats and tommy-guns fought pitched battles in the streets, crime and violence were everywhere, disenfranchisement, lynchings and cross burnings were rampant (and not just in the South). Across the sea, old governments disintegrated or were overthrown or fell into ineffectual chaos – and fascism took root among the ruins and the dark clouds of war gathered on the horizon.

And in that moment, a sickly bespectacled man, paralyzed from the waist down by the ravages of polio, stood on the East Portico of the United States Capitol Building and raised his right hand before Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes and took the Oath of Office. 

And after he was sworn in, President Roosevelt turned to the gathered crowd, to the nation via radio, and spoke of fear. He called it out, that fear, as nameless, unreasoning, unjustified. After that first paragraph, FDR addressed the root cause of the nation’s misery and placed blame exactly where it belonged, on the unbridled avarice of Wall Street. Roosevelt went on to speak of unemployment and America’s role on the world stage and the hard work that lay ahead – but it was the line about fear that people remembered, and still remember to this day.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

That statement made an entire nation stop and take stock of itself.

What Roosevelt meant was that while the nation – and the world – faced significant problems, all of them were manageable. All of the problems could be solved, overcome, beaten. The nation, the government, the people, needed to work together, they needed to roll up their sleeves and get busy solving the issues, instead of cowering alone in fear and panic and depression.

There were those who took Roosevelt at his word, they found hope and courage and they put aside their fear and went out and started fixing problems as best they were able. They weren’t always successful, but when they failed, instead mewling in fear and complaining that nothing could be done, they looked at that crippled man in his wheelchair and they remembered his words and then they just kept trying something else until the problem was fixed. Then they went on to the next thing. 

These people heard the new President’s words and they faced their fears and they went out and with the help of each other and their government they rebuilt the nation. They built the very things that define America today, from social safety nets to the national parks to the great public projects we take for granted every single day and can’t imagine America without.

Predictably, of course, there were also those who quailed in fear at Roosevelt’s admonishment not to be afraid.  They fell to gibbering fearfully about the New Deal and the government and unions and Social Security and the new Securities and Exchange Commission among other things. When they didn’t have something concrete to fear, they made up terrors to be afraid of like children paralyzed by an imaginary bogeyman in the closet – and rather than get up and throw open the closet door and face their imaginary dread, they spent the night cowering under the covers like my stupid white cat peering fearfully out from under the couch.

These people heard the new President’s words and they embraced their fears and then they went out and did everything they could to delay, hamper, and obstruct the government and the recovery at every turn – all the while directly benefitting from the very projects and efforts they decried, projects and programs and efforts that their children and grand children still benefit from eighty years later.


The more things change, right?


The same exact political parties and ideologies who were afraid back then are the same exact people who are afraid of the same exact things today.

Eighty years later, almost to the day, and they’re still paralyzed by the same nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.

And their fears are almost exactly word for word the same as those of their grandparents.

And if they don’t have something to fear, they invent things to be afraid of.

Case in point: in a previous post (Various And Sundry April 2013) I mentioned Georgia GOP Chairwoman Sue Everhart, who is afraid that straight people might enter into gay marriage in order to obtain health insurance.

"You may be as straight as an arrow, and you may have a friend that is as straight as an arrow. Say you had a great job with the government where you had this wonderful health plan. I mean, what would prohibit you from saying that you’re gay, and y’all get married and still live as separate, but you get all the benefits? I just see so much abuse in this it’s unreal. I believe a husband and a wife should be a man and a woman, the benefits should be for a man and a woman. There is no way that this is about equality. To me, it’s all about a free ride.”

Like this is a real thing.

Like this actually happens.

Like this is actually something we should be afraid of.

Like straight people actually get gay-married solely in order to obtain healthcare – and like it would actually matter if they did.

Like Georgians actually have this conversation: “Well, dang it all, Sue Bob, you know I love y’all and I’d marry you if’n I could and make an honest woman of you and your four kids by four other different men that you met at the bowling alley, but, see, my best friend Cooter needed that hernia surgery. And he didn’t have no insurance because that Obamer fella done ruint The Best Healthcare System In The World with that socialism stuff.  So me and Cooter, we got gay-married so my insurance would pay fer fix’n his balls. Bros before Ho’s, darlin’. Now me an’ Cooter was gonna get us an annulment right after the surgery, but the preacher wants us to try couples counseling first and see if’n we can maybe work it out…”

Yes, let’s all be afraid of that.

Because, yeah, that’s gonna happen.

Meanwhile there’s two married gay conservatives, Log Cabin Republicans I suppose, sitting around in their fabulous living room complaining about how straight people are totally ruining gay marriage: “Fine, fine. I don’t care what they don’t do in the privacy of their own separate and sexless bedrooms. Ok. That’s their right, if they don’t want to go to Hell, fine by me. Fine. But why can’t they just be happy with domestic partnerships? I don’t care what you say, if it’s two straight guys they can’t be gay-married. Gay-marriage is between one gay dude and another gay dude, damnit!”

Because, see, gay conservatives. Get it?


I digress.


Because with all the problems the world faces at the moment, being afraid that straight people might be getting gay-married for health insurance is right up there with, um, well, you know, being afraid that gay people getting married will somehow queer your straight relationship.

Straight people might get gay-married?

Honestly, what the fuck?

Talk about just making up idiotic nonsense to be afraid of. 

You’ve got to reach down a long, long way past a whole lot of actual problems before you get to “Oh Noes! Straight people might get gay-married in order to defraud the taxpayers!”

And Jesus Haploid Christ, if they’re afraid of that, well then what aren’t these people afraid of?


Because, just like my stupid white cat with his little peanut-sized brain, they seem to be afraid of just about everything.

They’re afraid of the government. They’re afraid of the president, they’re afraid of congress, they’re afraid of the judges. They’re afraid of socialism. They’re afraid of Nazis and communists. They’re afraid of liberals and progressives and RINOs and feminists and Prius-driving vegetarians. They’re afraid of their neighbors. They’re afraid of the North and afraid of the South and afraid of people from Chicago, and New York and Washington D.C. and California. They’re afraid of gangs and crime and terrorism.  They’re afraid of know-it-all college educated long hairs. They’re afraid of political correctness and affirmative action. They’re afraid of minorities and they’re afraid of immigrants and they’re afraid of uppity blacks and strong-willed women and smart Asians and dirty Latinos and murderous Muslims. They fear their own supposedly loving God and they’re afraid of everybody else’s deity too. They’re afraid of the Rapture and the Anti-Christ and the End Times. They’re afraid of Sharia Law and they’re afraid of the Pope and afraid of the Jews – and yet they’re afraid of atheists too. They’re afraid of immorality and pornography and the internet and cable TV and that Rock&Roll music. They’re afraid of social media, they’re afraid of Twitter and Facebook and the bloggers and the Goddamned lamestream media. They’re afraid the military might just take over and they’re afraid that the military isn’t powerful enough. They’re afraid of death and afraid of taxes. They’re afraid of science, of evolution and climate models and plate tectonics and carbon dating and sex education. They’re afraid of abortion and birth control and the morning after pill, but at the same time they’re also afraid people might be having sex and they’re afraid “those” people might be having a whole bunch of welfare babies that they’re afraid they’ll have to pay for. They’re afraid of North Korea and China and the long defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. They’re afraid that somebody might be coming to take all their guns and they’re afraid of all the crazy people with guns and they’re afraid that the government has too many guns.  They’re afraid of being poor but they’re afraid of the rich too. They’re afraid of the Bilderbergs and the Illuminati and the New World Order. They’re afraid of the the banksters and yet they’re deathly afraid of any laws that might restrict those self same power brokers. They’re afraid of losing their entitlements and they’re afraid the undeserving want entitlements too and more than anything they’re afraid that somebody somewhere might be getting something for nothing on the taxpayer dime, but they’re afraid of making those same “takers” pay for their own healthcare.  They’re afraid of chemicals in their food and genetically engineered crops, but they’re afraid of laws requiring that those same ingredients be fully disclosed by food producers because they’re afraid that might be bad for business. They’re afraid of obesity and heart disease and that our kids are a generation of blubbery little couch potatoes, but they’re afraid of Mayor Bloomberg and Michelle Obama.  They’re afraid of Hollywood violence and yet they’re also afraid that Sesame Street might be making their kids into prancing pacifist pisswillies. They’re afraid we’ll run out of oil or that some America hating dictator somewhere will cut the oil off – and yet at the same time they’re afraid of solar panels and wind towers and electric cars.

What it comes down to is this: they’re afraid of the past and they’re afraid of the present and they’re afraid for the future.

I could go on, but frankly this endless parade of depressing dread,  this nameless unreasoning unjustified terror, this fear of fear, is getting more than a little tedious.

For these people fear has become habit.

Their fearful grandparents were wrong eighty years ago and they’re still wrong today.

They’ve always been with us, the fearful.  They were here right at the beginning of the country, back then they were telling us how nothing could be done, that we’d better not make problems for Ol’ King George, that we should be afraid. And after it was over, after America had won her freedom, they were afraid to admit that they’d be afraid to join up in the first place.

They were here eighty years ago when FDR gave his speech, back then they were telling us to fear our neighbors and our government and the bogeyman in the closet, that the problems couldn’t solved, that the nation was done for.

And they’re here with us today. And it’s the same old fear. America should be taking the lead in climate change, in energy, in transportation technology, in solutions to violence and disenfranchisement and social justice, in health and medicine, in exploration of our world and others. Instead … we refuse to even discuss it. Our leaders will filibuster, gridlock, delay, rather than face the world’s problems.


You can’t fix the problem if you can’t talk about it.


Hell, you can’t even define what the problem is, if you can’t talk about it.

The fact of the matter is this: There is nothing to fear.

None of the problems we face require divine intervention.  We don’t need to do a rain dance or beseech God to deliver us or to smite our enemies. We’re fully capable of solving our problems on our own. Asking some deity to solve our problems, to just wave his big magic God stick and make it all better, is a childish cop out.  It’s an admission of cowardice and an inability to face the world and roll up your sleeves and take care of business and even the Christian God thinks so or he wouldn’t have told his followers that he only helps those who help themselves.

None of the problems we face requires us to secede or for us to dissolve the Union or declare an end to the grand experiment. 

That’s the coward’s way out. 

Democracy takes courage and will and effort. Quitting takes none of those things.

None of these problems we face require revolution or taking our guns to Washington or shooting down our neighbors.

Our ancestors rebelled against tyranny, and after they had won their freedom they designed for themselves a system of government that was born of and based on compromise, on flexibility, on courage and intellect and reason. They built us a system that could be changed without revolution, without war and bloodshed and killing our neighbors. That was the whole damned point.

Of the problems we face today, gun violence, North Korea, climate change, energy, the economy, jobs, all are solvable.  Every single one. Many of these problems have more than one solution. And if we don’t get it right the first time, we’ll keep at it until we do get it right – providing we face the problem instead of cowering under the couch like my stupid white cat.

Up above, I said that I didn’t bring the ShopKat into my house because I didn’t want her to be afraid, I didn’t want her to learn fear from the other cat.  I didn’t want her to pick up the indoor cat’s fear, his everyday terror at mundane things, the nameless shapeless dread that defines his very existence. 

In the end, due to circumstance, we have begun to introduce the two cats. How it will ultimately shake out, which will win out – fear or fearlessness – is yet to be determined. It’s entirely possible that Stupid will learn to draw courage from the little fearless ShopKat and stop jumping at his own tail.

I don’t know.

It’s hard to tell with cats. But, see, here’s the thing, we Americans, we are not cats.

Fear, like hatred, is learned. And, again like hatred, fear becomes habit.

Cats may be slaves to their nature, but we are not – at least we don’t have to be.

We can choose.

In the end, you can choose to be afraid.

Or you can choose to be fearless.

It’s entirely up to you.


You can find the entire text of FDR’s inaugural address here, along with an audio recording. I highly recommend that every American read the transcript. If you didn’t know better, the world, the fear, that Roosevelt describes could be right here, right now, today.

As I said, the more things change…


  1. You can't make it up, and neither did Miss Susie. She apparently watches movies, though: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0762107/

    1. You cited a movie, an Adam Sandler movie yet. You got any other evidence that this is a widespread real-life scam, or are you afraid that "somebody somewhere might be getting something for nothing on the taxpayer dime . . . "

    2. Thomas, I think you missed Liz Burton's point, which to my reading was that Miss Susie got her avsurd idea from an absurd Adam Sandler movie, rather than from life.

  2. Historical nit to pick: banks were not getting bailed out when FDR took the oath. Neither were depositors. He then set up a system where depositors would be bailed out while the banks would not. Bailing banks out, well, I'd say that started with the S&L collapse in the 80's, but other nit pickers can find earlier examples.

    1. It's a misnomer to refer to the federal package known as TARP as a bailout. It was a series of loans to various financial institutions and auto manufacturers that required repayment with interest. To date, just on the loans to the financial industry, there has been a return of all loan money PLUS about $40 BILLION in interest -- a win:win for the economy.

    2. If only that were true. That $40 billion was a payoff, since none of those responsible for the disaster suffered any consequences other than big bonuses. And that interest is also tax-deductible, so who really won?

    3. Yes, banks and auto companies paid back the US Treasury, with money they borrowed from the Federal Reserve. This is Enron accounting. The Fed has bailed out the banks in more ways than you can possibly imagine: swapping Treasuries for garbage mortgage debt, loaning banks cheap money which is then deposited right back at the Fed as "excess reserves" at a much higher interest rate, bailing out dodgy counter-parties so they wouldn't default on bank loans. Total racket. They paid back taxpayers with money stolen from taxpayers, minus commissions of course.

  3. My brother once said about a dog he had "Cayce's brain on the head of a pin would be like a pea on a football field.". That's about how I imagine Stupid. :)

  4. Very well done. The hard part though is getting people to admit they're afraid. And since anger is one of the primary emotions used to mask fear, we see the results of that daily now. And when we fight against the fear, it also becomes a shield. A sometimes very violent shield.

    1. From my experience, the ones putting the fear label on others, do so to cover their guilt. In that case, it's not fear but cautiousness you see due to a track record of lies and being misled. No offence to any reader if you are not part of the problem.

    2. There is quite a difference between cautiousness or healthy skepticism and the type of fear that Jim writes about. People who THINK for themselves (researching, using critical thinking skills & *gasp* common sense) seldom fall into the mob mentality that unfortunately seems to occur when a spark is put to the smoldering nameless faceless fears.
      Example...do you know anyone who tends to use sweeping generalizations regarding oh, gender, race, religion, sexual preference...etc? "Those damn ragheads are gonna take over everything with their Shria Law BS"...Never mind that a large number of people wearing turbans are not Muslim but Sikhs...I could use many other (not made up) examples of things people say out of fear (much of the time born of ignorance...and willful ignorance at that).
      What you are describing is actual sanity - and it's becoming more and more rare in this batshit crazy, tinfoil hat wearing extremist society that has become louder and louder, trying to convince the rest of us to come along for the ride....off the cliff like good lemmings!

  5. you said what i've been thinking, but much clearer then i could..

  6. FDR created the American middle class, and they never forgave him for it.

  7. Very well said, Jim. We as a nation - after seeing this same movie run previously - have to rise and change the outcome. If we don't, this time we may not be able to pull out of the dive that one side of the political establishment seems hell-bent on taking us into.

  8. So what did win in the three years since this was first published? Fear or fearlessness? Or did both cats just stay the way they were?

  9. Sharing this post with the hope a few of my FB friends will actually take the time to read something longer than a tweet or status update..

  10. You can’t fix the problem if you can’t talk about it.

    Hell, you can’t even define what the problem is, if you can’t talk about it.

    That covers it and myself like many others are having a hard time finding a way with friends who a few years back were decent folk. About the time of 2008 I guess was the turning point and I denied that for too long. How to break through ? Keep writing sir as you are inspiring to say the least.

  11. Sharing with the hope a few of my friends will read something longer than a tweet or FB status update.

  12. One of your very best...thank you!

  13. "When you do the things you fear the most, the death of fear is certain." Unknown author

  14. I don't pretend to be real smart about history or politics but I don't have to be to know what's right and what's wrong with this country. I recently responded to one of your posts that this election year is making me afraid. It is and I can do my part to fix it and that part is to vote for anyone opposed to Trump. Thanks again.

  15. This is simply outstanding! A wonderful provocative well written essay, I enjoyed it very much. Thank you!

  16. Damnit Jim! I LOVE your essays. I do hope that one day I can be one of the 5,000 minions on FB and better still to buy you a beer and discuss whatever best suits ourselves that day!

  17. Maybe, but when I don't even have any resources to keep my neighbor's cigarette smoke from seeping into my condo and making me sick (the law is on his side, and nothing I can do will stop it unless he stops smoking in there), it's kind of hard to feel like I can control anything.

    1. A small table top air purifier may help...that is in your control...and available at most major retailers.

  18. I gave in to fear once in my life, I sat down, had a good cry. Then I got on with the job I'd been trained to do. One person at a time, finding out who'd live and working on the people that would survive. I worked for three days without rest. A truly terrible three days, as I worked more people slowly came to help. Jim is right sitting screaming with fear at how you are going to get the job done, it achieves nothing, at some point you just have to put your fear aside and do the work in front of you. Then go and get very, very drunk.

  19. So well written sir! For the record, my money is on ShopKat either protecting Stupid from his own fears or leading my example and turning him into another little furry badass. Looking forward to hearing all the adventures of their roadtrip.

  20. We picked up our last kitten, #8 at the time, under similar circumstances, though only 50 deg rain (though just as deadly, he was nearly beat). He is also fearless.

    Now that we "only" have 7, and having raised fearful cats for 2 decades, I can tell you that we have never, EVER had a cat pick up fear from another as their normal state. We have one mildly fearful one now, but the fearless youngest just regards that fear as fascinating, at the worst.

    If only humans were the same.

  21. I have a niece who might take a big job in London. Her parents and grandmother are terrified. (you can guess who they want to be President). They think all that terrorism is going to get her. Oh yeah, and Obama just sits there.

  22. All fear all the time. The media and the demagogues have been getting rich off this crap for decades.

    Great piece.

  23. Superlative, one of the best yet. Watching your country unravel from Europe, and apprehensive about the implications of an unhinged America for the rest of the world, your perspective is a tonic and deeply appreciated.

    I believe ShopKat will do Stupid good. If fear can be learned, so can courage.

  24. Sadly this piece got more true with age.
    Do you think this is whyTrump appeals to so many?
    His willingness to say something batshit like build a wall (the fearful love walls), but he skips over the details of land procurement (the fearful are afraid of eminent domain), and cost (the fearful are also afraid of debt).
    Other Republican candidates are batshit, but they're batshit with details (details are the scary part), and the Democratic candidates well... They're full of details.

  25. A great post. Thank you. And I just came across this article about authoritarianism, and you're right: it's fear.


    1. If you want to read the work from which a great deal of that article was cribbed, without one single citation: http://www.whale.to/b/authoritarians.pdf

  26. Yes, fear is very much alive today. One need look no further than the Nurmberg [Trump] rallies. Those crowds positively reek of fear - you can see it on their faces. But I'm betting that prior to Jan. 2009 many of those people were not so anxious. That their fear has been learned from Fox News, Conservative radio, and bloviating politicians.

    I have a bad habit of reading the comments on Salon and other left leaning sites. The level of misdirected hate and blame that is leveled at Barack Obama is sickening – he is literally blamed for everything. He is called lawless, divisive, destroyer of the country. Yet no one EVER says how he has been lawless, or how Obama has divided the country, or destroyed anything. All these people know is what they have been told – and they have bought it wholesale.

    What are these people going to do when Trump or Cruz losses in November? I’m betting there will be a whole lot of violence, rioting, and race killings on a scale we have never seen before. And they will blame Barack Obama.

    Chris in S. Jersey

  27. FDR gave that magnificent speech at his first inauguration. Clearly there was nothing to fear because prosperity and abundance were all around. The nation just needed to overcome its fear, rejuvenate its confidence, and normal exchange patterns would resume. To FDR, all the fear was "nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror". He was convinced he could turn it around by exuding confidence and backing it up with audacious symbolic action.

    He then presided over eight more years of economic depression. His vast and varied programs failed. Private investment relentlessly collapsed. WWII raised GDP enough to technically end the Great Depression, but the typical family, under a rationing regime, was even worse off.

    Was it Wall Street banksters' fault? Unscrupulously moving markets requires vast amounts of borrowed money supplied by the monopoly producer of credit, the Federal Reserve.

    Then where did the Great Depression come from? European industry was decimated by the end of WWI (another coll. The Fed supplied credit for the expansion of industrial and agricultural production to support the war, and continued to do so afterward. When Europe got back on its feet, it exposed domestic overcapacity. Rather than let zombie farms, factories, and banks liquidate, more credit was used to keep them alive, exascerbating the supply/demand imbalance, imperiling even the strongest competitors. Subsidizing farm prices and imposing tariffs on foreign imports made matters worse.

    So is prosperity all around us, and only fear is holding us back? It might be more complicated this time, and if he couldn't fix, how is today's ruling class any more capable?

    1. Warning: historical oversimplification ahead:

      I think you may be looking at this at the wrong angle. It is true that the New Deal programs did not END the Depression. What they did do was more important - the New Deal programs (the social safety net that included Social Security and unemployment insurance) ended the cycle of devastating economic downturns that plagued the country (mostly due to Wall Street avarice) about every 20 years after the Civil War – 1873, 1890s, 1907, 1929.

      Thus, while there were still economic downturns (post-WWII and the 1970s, for example) those recessions were held in check. Instead of massive suffering by the (mostly) the old and poor, people had help and could hold out thru the bad times.

      FDR, like every single human, was not perfect. And his programs were not magic bullets that ended the Depression overnight – nothing could. It was a world-wide phenomenon that defied single remedies. Looked at from a distance, however, those New Deal programs helped immensely – we did not have another Depression until those same protections were weakened piece by piece by the very same Wall Street actors who were to blame before.

      Funny how history works, huh?

      Chris in S. Jersey

    2. The problem is still the same. The disparity of wealth is putting a stranglehold on the economy. You can not have a successful consumer based economy when the intended consumers can't afford to purchase the goods and services that drive the economy. This division of wealth is at levels that haven't been seen since just before the Great Depression. The working class must see a healthy raise in their income if we are to see anything more than stagnant or extremely sluggish economic growth. There are even several Wall St. types who have said this.

    3. The problem is still the same. The disparity of wealth is putting a stranglehold on the economy. You can not have a successful consumer based economy when the intended consumers can't afford to purchase the goods and services that drive the economy. This division of wealth is at levels that haven't been seen since just before the Great Depression. The working class must see a healthy raise in their income if we are to see anything more than stagnant or extremely sluggish economic growth. There are even several Wall St. types who have said this.

    4. Thanks for your reply. I don't disagree with your analysis of the outcome of the New Deal programs except to say that they stabilized the economy at a low level and held it there by breaking the mechanism whereby economies right themselves. The only business worth being in was one that was subsidized for domestic policy or the war effort.

      I cited farms as an example. Agricultural capacity expansion to feed Europe was debt financed. Without Europe, there wasn't enough domestic demand. Prices plunged, farms went bankrupt, farmers moved to California. Too much lending capacity meant that some banks had to close or merge as well. Normally this would continue until capacity matched demand and prices could rise. That's typically a 2 year gut-wrenching adjustment, but then its over. Look into the Depression of 1921.

      Hoover and FDR tried to prop up agricultural prices so farmers could continue to pay their bank loans by buying the excess at inflated prices, then giving it away or destroying it. This kept too many farms and banks in business. Too much supply, not enough demand, so prices and interest rates couldn't normalize.

      The crises of the 1800's you mentioned were much smaller and concentrated in banks/government. They were typically the result of the federal government subsidizing an industry like railroads to open up the continent. Like 2000's housing, it led to vast over-expansion of capacity (railroads to nowhere) and rampant corruption in stocks and bonds that inevitably led to loan losses. Those wealthy enough to have a bank account were often wiped out. Again, the root cause was government subsidies that are deemed beneficial but attract cronyism and corruption like moths to a flame.

    5. Chuck, agreed. A lot of what we are seeing and feeling is a direct result of massive wealth and income inequality.


  28. I was thinking about your white cat "Stupid". Just a thought but years ago my sister had a cat with a condition called Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome. It is a treatable condition and can make their life as well as their owners life a lot more manageable if treated. Here is a web page that discusses it a little better. http://www.petplace.com/article/cats/behavior-training/behavior-problems/feline-hyperesthesia-fhs

  29. Well stated Jim This fear is world wide and the human race acts like children. Its about time we became adults and stop believing in fairy tales that promote fear , religion for one of them and the free ride it offers.

  30. I love all your stuff, but this one made me cry..absolutely inspiring and articulated so well. I am going to share it, but, I fear almost everyone I know won't bother reading it, either because they think I am a conservative hating liberal, or because it is too long. Sigh...what happened to people I know who were never like this before?

    Northeastern Ohio

  31. I'm afraid your essay has hit the nail on the head!

  32. Roosevelt literally meant that fear was to be feared. In a fractional reserve banking system, if depositors get worried about the safety of their deposits, they withdraw their money. When the bank's assets fall below its capital requirements, it will stop lending and even call in existing loans. During the Depression, calling in a loan from nearly insolvent farms and business was pointless, so the banks declared themselves insolvent and closed, which hammered confidence at other banks. He immediately imposed a bank holiday, essentially closing banks so people couldn't pull money out. Until then, panicking first was a good move.

    In the end, Roosevelt gave in to the irrational fear of others as evidenced by the internment camps full of US citizens of German and Japanese descent.

  33. What we actually need to fear are the sonsabitches who get and keep power by creating, stirring up and feeding the fears of the selfish ignorant lily-livered types. A certain orange-haired dickwad comes to mind. Like white-cat, those selfish ignorant lily-livered citizens can't help but fall for the shit-stirrers. They sold their balls and backbones along with their souls too long ago.

  34. Great summation of the right wing thought process. Pardon the oxymoron.

  35. This SO needed to be said. Hell it needs to be broadcasted from the rooftops. Thank you for writing it. And my money is on ShopKat. I think once someone is accustomed to being courageous fear is not that easy to learn. I'm also sharing it. Hopefully it will be the antidote a few on my list need. Thanks again.

  36. Hey Jim. I really dig your writing. You do a great job of putting into words everything that frustrates and angers me.

    By the way, and I know I should have done this first, I just read your rules on sharing your material. I've been sharing your articles, in full with your name and everything, with my friends on my facebook friends. I read your rules, and I am a bit confused. In the first part you say that your permission is needed to share your material on websites and blogs, and the second part says it's okay to share your stuff on facebook. Do you consider my fb page to be a blog? I have the one that is under my name. I also have "The Pissed Off Progressive" and "Righteously Intolerant". I pretty much post the same stuff on all three of them, I sometimes use them just to put a different name on my posts, but they all connect directly back to me. Politically, I am a hard core progressive and a Sanders supporter. I hope I haven't done something to violate your rules, this is your stuff and you have the right to have a say in how it is shared. Check out my sites. I'm sure you'll appreciate the content.

    1. Chuck, a link from your facebook page back to the essay here on Stonekettle Station is okay. Reposting the entire text, especially to Facebook, is not. Please make the appropriate corrections. And thanks for asking. // Jim

  37. it takes courage to face your fears, it takes none to be fearless. for those of us old enough and honest enough to know how fleeting courage can be...know how unreliable it can be over long stretches, we often just give up on it and become fearless. it's a lot easier to deny fear a seat at the table than it is to have to depend on old unreliable courage to get through dinner with it sitting there glaring at you, feighting at you and keeping your digestive tract all in a knot.

    as a transsexual woman, most people just see me as a laughing matter, a walking, talking joke. some people see me and believe they have not only a God given right but an obligation to beat the crap out of me on sight. some people marvel at the courage it must have taken me all those years ago to transition...some marvel at the courage it must still take to put on that dress every morning and go out to face a world where virtually everybody has got me wrong. thank God i don't depend on courage, it would necessarily be in short supply in this life by now, most likely be wearing its' other face by now (dispair). thank God for the blinders He put over my eyes in my fifties...thank God for making me fearless. the only thing i ever had to fear was fear itself.

    1. I won't insult you by applauding your "courage", but I will give kudos to you for having the sense of self and moral strength to live YOUR truth. Nobody will ever quite understand another person's story, they have not lived it...only their own!
      Now patience...that's sometimes very difficult to hold onto, especially when it's needed most...like when dealing with ignorance and at times, utter stupidity!

    2. patience? i have about as much of that as i have courage. some people think i'm made of it because i'll sit at the same fishing hole all day and all night using the same bait until i catch that big one i KNOW is down there. on the other hand i'm that mad woman passing on a double yellow line to get out of traffic. note: if you are the first car in a long line of traffic you are not a leader, you are a freaking obstruction!

  38. Republican Motto: The only thing we have is fear itself.

  39. I'm a little late to this party (college professors love to assign papers) but I have to say this is one of my favorite essays here. Makes me think, if you don't know why you are afraid of something then why be afraid of it?

    Also reminds me of this piece of snarkiness "Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to social conservatives"

    Keep up the good work. I aspire to write as well as you.

    1. Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to hate, hate leads to social conservatives.


      "Ignorance and prejudice and fear walk hand in hand" - Neil Peart


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