The Slow and Certain Demise of FDR’s Four Freedoms

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Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.
Jobs for those who can work.
Security for those who need it.
The ending of special privilege for the few.
The preservation of civil liberties for all.

-Four Freedoms Speech

Long, long ago, on January 6, 1941, when it was still politically and socially acceptable to give a shit about people other than yourself, one of the most influential speeches of the 20th century was delivered by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In his annual State of the Union Address, FDR explained in bold yet simple terms the conditions necessary for true freedom to flourish for all people.

The speech has been imitated and referred to ever since, most often by lip-serving, modern neoliberal Democrats who have zero intention of adhering to FDR’s New Deal values. Instead, they prefer to pretend since FDR and today’s centrist corporatists have both claimed the title of “Democrat,” they are morally justified in repeating and then perverting Roosevelt’s message for their own political gain. They are wrong.

When Roosevelt was elected to an unprecedented third term as president in 1940, a good chunk of Europe had fallen to the invading Nazis, and Great Britain was valiantly yet desperately struggling to hold them off. Even though many Americans still thought this conflict was strictly a European affair, including Joseph P. Kennedy, the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain at the time, FDR saw the bigger picture. (Kennedy lost his post due to his isolationist views, but his opinion was hardly out of the norm back home.)

Roosevelt believed that by coming to the aid of Great Britain and fighting the spread of global fascism, the U.S. was going to battle for universal freedoms all people had the right to possess and enjoy no matter what nation they lived in.

He was right of course, the Antifa bastard.

The principles laid out in Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms were also the basis of the Atlantic Charter declared by FDR and Winston Churchill in the summer of 1941, and were included in the United Nations Declaration of New Year’s Day, 1942. In fact, the Four Freedoms were President Roosevelt’s inspiration for an international organization that one day became the United Nations.

For all its undeniable influence, the Four Freedoms portion of FDR’s speech wasn’t even added until the last draft. A sudden burst of inspiration led to a perfect description of the fundamental rights due to all human beings.

According to FDR’s assistant Samuel I. Rosenman, “We waited as he leaned far back in his swivel chair with his gaze on the ceiling. It was a long pause — so long that it began to become uncomfortable. Then he leaned forward again in his chair and dictated the Four Freedoms. He dictated the words so slowly that on the yellow pad I had in my lap I was able to take them down myself in longhand as he spoke.”

Roosevelt dictated:

“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want — which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants — everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear — which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor — anywhere in the world.”

Noble aims, perfectly aligned with what the United States was, and is, supposed to stand for and champion, devised by one of the most compassionate and intelligent leaders our country has ever been blessed with.

And yet, even after all the hard lessons learned in the first half of the 20th century, relatively speaking not all that long ago, we are allowing ourselves to fall victim to fascism masquerading as democracy right here in our own country. It’s not like we can even pretend it’s just a problem for those guys across the pond this time around.

WE are the problem because most politicians and their fervently partisan followers would rather engage in pointless bickering and attempts at one-upmanship than address the real issue — that our ruin is being set in motion by a very few unimaginably wealthy opportunists on both sides of the aisle (could this be because most politicians are among those few unimaginably wealthy opportunists?)

Devotion to the two-party oligarchy has become septic secular fundamentalism and is gradually robbing us all of our freedoms piece-meal, usually while we’re distracted by petty state-media driven nonsense, in the hopes we won’t catch on until it’s completely too late. Seems to be working out splendidly for the oligarchs but for the average working class Joe or Jane — not so much.

Let’s at least be smarter and a whole lot more proactive about protecting our fundamental freedoms as described by FDR by first acknowledging who the real enemy is (the elites, not each other), and rejecting cult-like partisan politics. Then — who knows? — perhaps someday we will once again proudly live up to the principles of the New Deal and put our people first over corporate interests and their dancing monkey political enablers.

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is a political junkie and history buff randomly alternating between bouts of crankiness and amusement while bearing witness to the Apocalypse. Come along!

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