5/18/2017 3:36:00 PM Publisher's Column
Contemplating the present
I remember when I spent time contemplating the future, but now I spend more time contemplating the present. I suppose that is the way it goes for most people, as we get older there is less future ahead of us and more recognition of the value of the present. There also seem to be more things going on in the world that demand contemplation.
A couple weeks ago, I got a call from KTTC asking if I would consent to an interview about my experience as a fallout shelter salesman back in 1961. I did it, it brought back memories of the fear/anxiety that gripped so many in our world then and got me thinking of how fear has once again become a dominant emotion in our nation and a growing sector of the world.
I was just a couple weeks out of high school when my best friend, Andre, and I moved to the Twin Cities and found a job selling fallout shelters. The only actual sale we made, and I credit it to Andre, was to the Olmsted County Civil Defense Director. I was working on a system for the City of New Brighton but got served with a cease and desist order from the state attorney general that ended my "career." The order said I was using scare tactics, which was true but they were in the movie the company I worked for had produced. The company kind of left me "holding the bag," and I decided to find another line of work rather than fight the state.
I credit Joe McCarthy with initiating the fear of Russia and nuclear war that was so prevalent during the late 50s and early 60s. He convinced so many people that they had potential enemies living right next door, that anyone could be a communist out to destroy America. It was a sad and silly time-sad because so many people fell for it, silly because so many people fell for it. Certainly, Russia was a potential danger, but our fellow citizens were not.
It is unfortunate that we allowed the tragedy of 9/11 to lead us back into the same kind of fear that dominated and damaged our nation during the Cold War. We have allowed ourselves to once again suspect fellow citizens who are temporarily different from us of being enemy agents capable of destroying our nation.
I say temporarily different because in a few years they will have become just like us, as have immigrants before them, as our forefathers and foremothers did.
I credit former President Ronald Reagan with the present fears that divide our nation, thanks to his famous remark about government being the problem, rather than the solution. The result of it is that too many people have forgotten what government is and how effective it can be when we recognize that it is us working together.
I'm not afraid of atomic bombs or of terrorists or of immigrants destroying our nation, but I am afraid of us letting our fear, the fear FDR warned against, of us letting that fear destroy our nation.