It was said of him at the time of his death on April 12, 1945, "Although he never regained the use of his legs - much as he wanted to; much as he tried - he taught a crippled nation how to walk again."
He was the pampered son of privilege from Hyde Park, NY whose battle with polio, begun in the summer of 1921, ingrained into his soul a deep and abiding empathy for the suffering of others that had previously been somewhat lacking in him. Through the development of a series of radical, revolutionary programs - unparalleled in history - which his administration brought into the main stream of American social engineering, he was able to usher millions of regular people into the ranks of a middle class that had not even existed before he took the oath of office on March 4, 1933. It is now almost a cliche but it is as true as the rising sun: He saved capitalism by "tempering its excesses." The people would elect him to an unprecedented four terms. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was - beyond a doubt - the greatest president in American history.
His smiling, jolly disposition which was always on display for the press and the news reel photographers, belied the hidden reality of a deeply complex man - many layered, indefinable, even tormented. His closest confidantes would testify years after his passing that they always had the feeling that they never really knew him. Emotionally, he would keep even his loved ones at bay - so difficult was it for him to reach out on an intimate level to another human being. Throughout his life he would project to the world and to those around him, a cheerful - albeit guarded - amiability. That he could be devious at times, there is no doubt. He enjoyed setting members of his own cabinet against one another in order to to play for time in pursuit of the desired solution to whatever pending political problem that might have been manifesting itself at any given moment. But his all-too-obvious human frailties should not distract us from the larger picture: We are a better nation because of Franklin Roosevelt - and far too many Americans are abysmally ignorant of this fact.`
"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." .
Twenty seven years ago, FDR's legacy, the New Deal, came under assault by the reactionary political ideology of the so-called Reagan Revolution. As a result, today the middle class that he literally brought into being is in danger of total extinction. The privatization of America, begun during the administrations of Reagan and Bush I, passively enabled during the Clinton years - and accelerated under under Bush II - has decimated the quality of life in a country which used to be a nice place in which to live. From the early 1940s until well into the 1970s, working men and women in the United States thrived because of the programs put into place by President Roosevelt and the brilliant men - and one woman, Francis Perkins - who comprised his cabinet. Home ownership was at an historical high and the chances for the children of people of modest means to receive a college education were better than they had ever been before and, sadly, might ever be again. During this period, the rich - the plutocracy - had to contribute their equitable share to the nation's tax burden. Corporate America was also obligated to pay into the system as the price of doing business in a country with such an abundance of wealth and prosperity. The result of this was a social and economic infrastructure that was the strongest, most envied in the world. All of that has changed - possibly forever..
On a recent broadcast, Rush Limbaugh informed his mostly clueless listeners, "Franklin D. Roosevelt is dead. His policies survive but we're doing something about that." That blatantly arrogant statement is indicative of the real motivation of the right wing. Their rape of our beloved, tarnished country has been in overdrive for over a quarter of a century now. It has not a thing to do with "moral values". It never has. The enemies of the New Deal have used divisive issues such as flag burning, abortion, homosexuality, and Monica Lewinsky only to distract us while they looted our national treasure - and this massive thievery has had a devastating effect: Our bridges and highways are in disrepair; our health care system is broken down. And I don't think I need to remind you that the state of public education, as of September 2007, is a sick joke. This is a tragic, unforgivable situation which did not exist thirty years ago. The voodoo, trickle-up economics of these past twenty-seven years has achieved the desired result: The rich have, indeed, gotten richer; the middle class has gotten poorer. The poor don't even matter anymore..
During the campaign of 1936, Franklin Roosevelt said of the "Captains of Industry", as they were then called, "They hate me and I welcome their hatred." (Fortunately, he had the good sense not to declare, "Bring 'em on!"). What those words reveal is the undeniable fact that the man really was on the side of the people. Why is it, then, that so many otherwise intelligent human beings would turn their backs on the legacy of FDR and the New Deal? How could they possibly embrace the perverted ideology of a political party which exists only to their detriment? Why would the masses of working and middle class men and women want to return to the conditions that existed at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (an era that Mark Twain dubbed The Gilded Age) when the robber barons controlled most of the wealth of the nation while the overwhelming majority of the American people lived in grinding poverty?
The dreadful social inequities of that period were placed in check (if only temporarily) by another Roosevelt, Franklin's distant cousin Theodore (who was also the older brother of Eleanor's father, Elliot). Teddy Roosevelt's advocacy of "a Square Deal for every man and every woman in the United States" was such an inconvenient truth for the GOP's plutocratic power brokers of that day and age, he would be denied the Republican nomination in the summer of 1912 in spite of the fact that he arrived at the convention with all the delegates needed - and then some - to seize the mantle of standard bearer. What had so alienated him from his party's elite was his novel belief that big business exists only at the pleasure of the people - not the other way around. That is why today you never hear or see the name "Theodore Roosevelt" mentioned in any Republican campaign media or literature. He is anathema to the right wing fools and extremists who have hijacked that party..
Every once in a while, I visit the Roosevelt mansion and museum in Hyde Park, less than forty miles from where I now sit. It is the birth place and the final resting place of the man who saved America from the corruption and greed of its elitist class, and more than likely prevented a Communist revolution. What is largely forgotten is the fact the the American Communist Party, in response to the economic horror that riddled the American landscape during the administration of Herbert Clark Hoover, was gaining serious ground by 1933. It was only after Franklin D. Roosevelt was able to prove to his fellow countrymen that the American way of government could work for the benefit of all the people, that it withered and died. I always walk away from the Roosevelt Library feeling better about America. The place is a gentle reminder that, what once worked so beautifully for "WE THE PEOPLE", can indeed be made to work again..
The Republican party used to be called the "Party of Lincoln". But that is so obviously no longer the case that their most blatant propagandists don't even attempt to use that sort of language any longer. Unless today's cowardly, incompetent Democratic Party wakes up and realizes that it is still, in fact, the "Party of FDR", America will only continue in its present, downward spiral..
The New Deal that Franklin Delano Roosevelt offered to the people of the United States of America needs to be resuscitated..Tom DeganGoshen, NYtomdegan@frontiernet.net .SUGGESTED READINGNo Ordinary TimeBy Doris Kearns Goodwin**************************AFTERTHOUGHT:Yesterday morning I had an epiphany:.Do you want to know the major difference between the right wing and the progressives?.
The right wing loves America for her body. The progressives love America for her mind..That's pretty much it in a nut shell, isn't it?
To read more recent postings of this nasty, commie-loving site (And Heaven knows why you would!) please go to the following link:
"The Rant" by Tom Degan
And remember, if you find yourself in the beautiful Hudson Valley, make a pilgrimage to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library and Museum in Hyde Park. It's open all week long except Monday.