Tag Archives: Four Freedoms

Pursuit of Happiness

At our A Course in Miracles meeting yesterday one of our members asked during our break: “Why are there so many homeless and hungry people in America when we’re supposed to be the richest and most powerful nation on earth?”

It is a valid question and one whose answer includes the very foundation that the United States of America was founded upon. I have long found it irksome that our founding fathers skewed John Locke’s Natural Rights to Life, Liberty, and Property into Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. The Pursuit of Happiness, what a meaningless phrase that is in and of itself.

As part of our United States Government course I ask our high school students to write a Compare and Contrast Essay between the Bill of Rights and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms as outlined in his 1941 State of the Union Address. To iterate the Four Freedoms are: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear. While it is clear the Freedom of Speech and Religion are covered by the First Amendment most students do not grasp what Roosevelt’s Freedom from Want and Fear actually implies.

What does it mean to be Free from Want? How would the lives of the people everywhere change if they did not want for adequate jobs and living wages? If they did not want for adequate food and shelter? If they did not want for adequate health and dental care? If they did not want for respect and dignity?

And what does it mean to be Free from Fear? How would the lives of the people everywhere change if they did not fear aliens and homemade bombs? If they did not fear their neighbors armed with guns? If they did not fear the police shooting first? If they did not fear gangsters and drive by shootings? If they did not fear enslavement? If they did not fear pollution and the chemicals in our foods? If they did not fear losing jobs to younger and cheaper workers? If they did not fear not having enough to survive when you cannot get work?

Yes, how would the lives of the people everywhere change if they no longer lacked and were no longer afraid? Perhaps that would be the true Pursuit of Happiness.

The Undoing Of Fear

Today our A Course in Miracles study group started Chapter 28; The Undoing of Fear, and, as we read through Section 1, I recalled Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms Speech of 1941, which I understand was technically his State of the Union Address, but growing up with Norman Rockwell’s paintings forever at hand it will always be remembered as the Four Freedoms Speech. The Elementary School I attended had copies of the Rockwell paintings displayed along with portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Our family had reproductions as did most of my friends’ families whose parents were all of an age to have listened to the speech on the radio on that 6th of January, eleven short months shy of Pearl Harbor.

As we read about the Undoing of Fear I thought back to all the times I was taught to be afraid while growing up in Los Angeles County. The first thing I was taught to be afraid of was the Commies and their Atom Bombs all reinforced by the regular Duck and Cover drills in school, the monthly test of the air raid siren that could be heard for miles and miles, the atomic bomb bunkers on the nearby Palos Verdes Peninsula, and of course that was all capstoned by the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Then it was George Putman’s news where his conservative coverage of the Civil Rights Movement was portrayed as something we should all be fearful of and then brought home in August of 1965 when we all stood upon our rooftops and watched the flames and smoke rising from Watts. All too soon though it was back to the Red Menace and that dirty little Southeast Asian war and the Hawks were clamoring for a nuclear strike on Hanoi. It always amazed me how Ho Chi Minh, who stood 4’ 11’’ and weighed all of 90 pounds, caused so much fear in the self-proclaimed most powerful country on Earth.

China, the Ku Klux Klan, Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Iran, Iraq, and Terrorism comprise only a partial list of reasons to harbor fear. My wife and I were watching Brian Wilson’s news show last night and there was coverage of the TSA and their new scanners and footage of the heavily armed agents in the airports and it hurt to remember as a teen and in my twenties there was none of that. Loved ones could even accompany the passengers out to the plane and kiss them goodbye then wave as they walked up the stairs. The only fear of flying seemed to be restricted to mechanical failures and Acts of God.

After last nights news I’m not exactly sure what I’m supposed to be afraid of, the threat of terrorism or the worst drought in California History. I suppose we’ve been given so many things to be afraid of that maybe we’re being desensitized to fear itself. At least that’s the way I feel these days. I think the last thing I really worried about was a war with China. In fact, on the morning of September 11, 2001, I was away on a business trip and awakened by a phone call from my wife who declared that; “We’re under attack,” and my immediate response was to ask; “The Chinese?”

I’m sure it was also Franklin Roosevelt who declared: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” and that’s what The Undoing Of Fear is really all about – simply changing our perspectives and choosing not to give fear a place to roost.