On Saturday, March 4, 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt gave his first inaugural address. This, in part, is what he said:
"This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes effort."
He was speaking about the dismal economic situation of the early 1930s, but his words could just as easily be applied to the present. What do we fear? Right now, it's the coronavirus, in other times, it's other things. Do we have enough money for retirement? Will the lab tests reveal a bad diagnosis? Will there be a war? Whatever it is that we feel threatened by, it culminates in the oldest fear of them all—the fear of the unknown. That's what we are experiencing with the coronavirus. We don't know what to do to prepare for it, and we don't know whether we will actually contract it. If we do get it, will it be in the form of a common cold or will it threaten our lives? We don't know. Other than being told to wash our hands and socially distance ourselves, is there nothing else we can do? Again, we don't know.
My son recently texted me a picture of three brawny guys standing side by side. Each of them had bloody noses and abrasions on their arms and chests. The caption read "Toilet paper run to Costco." It made me smile, but it isn't funny, really. Why would we be so afraid that, en masse, we feel the need to hoard toilet paper? And what about water? Does the virus cause water supplies to dry up? That lack of reasoning is worrisome, because we are ceasing to make sense. The tendency to overreact along with the inability to think clearly is a pretty good definition of panic.
So I'll tell you what I'm afraid of. I take FDR's words to heart—that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—and also that nameless, unreasoning terror paralyzes effort. It is vitally important that we all make an effort to stay ahead of this thing. What I fear is fear. We need to get a handle on it and not let it carry us away. I think it makes us unreasonable and prone to error in a time when we need to be smart and careful.
It seems prudent for all of us to take a deep breath, hunker down and take care of ourselves and our loved ones. We will get through this, and our country will, too. (On a lighter note, my little nephew Kyler opened the refrigerator the other day and in a frightened voice, screamed "Dad! There's Corona in here!") More seriously, it is clear that fear has permeated even into the psyches of our children. We need to get a collective grip and find a little calm in the storm.
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