Lost in the mist of time, as these things often are, is the fact that the most religious President of the 20th century prior to Jimmy Carter was FDR. Yes, that is correct. Our two most religious Presidents were Democrats. It's true Ike did more to drag religion into government than any other President; but, that was to fight the godless commies. Ike reacquired his religion while President. Roosevelt and Carter brought theirs with them to the job. Why is this of any importance on Memorial Day when the feelings of another great American, General Smedley Butler, the Fighting Quaker, are usually what I think on? FDR's beliefs on religion and war are important on Memorial Day because he defined the reasons the people of the USA go to war in a speech called the Four Freedoms Speech. It's one of those speeches that doesn't get listened to or read anymore. It should. Like the Gettysburg Address, what it contains is almost exactly the opposite of what most the worst of our political and religious leaders would have us fight and die for:
No realistic American can expect from a dictator's peace international generosity, or return of true independence, or world disarmament, or freedom of expression, or freedom of religion -or even good business. Such a peace would bring no security for us or for our neighbors. "Those, who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Might want to re-think portions of the Patriot Act.
For there is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy. The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:
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.
The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.
These are the simple, basic things that must never be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of our modern world. The inner and abiding strength of our economic and political systems is dependent upon the degree to which they fulfill these expectations.
Many subjects connected with our social economy call for immediate improvement.
We should bring more citizens under the coverage of old-age pensions and unemployment insurance.
We should widen the opportunities for adequate medical care.
We should plan a better system by which persons deserving or needing gainful employment may obtain it.
Americans do not think being born rich is a qualification for running a business, public office or being an officer or a pilot. If capitalism were as cruel as it should be and if our armed forces were the meritocracies they theoretically are, Crash McCain would have been flying a desk as soon as he dumped his first plane,
A part of the sacrifice means the payment of more money in taxes. In my Budget Message I shall recommend that a greater portion of this great defense program be paid for from taxation than we are paying today. No person should try, or be allowed, to get rich out of this program; and the principle of tax payments in accordance with ability to pay should be constantly before our eyes to guide our legislation.
If the Congress maintains these principles, the voters, putting patriotism ahead of pocketbooks, will give you their applause.
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.
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.
To that new order we oppose the greater conception--the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.
Since the beginning of our American history, we have been engaged in change -- in a perpetual peaceful revolution -- a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly adjusting itself to changing conditions--without the concentration camp or the quick-lime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society.
This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women; and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose. To that high concept there can be no end save victory.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, January 6, 1941, Annual Address to Congress - The "Four Freedoms"
Note that the things we are willing to fight for if they are threatened at home are things we hope to secure for others through peaceful example abroad no matter how long it takes. FDR does not call the USA the world's policeman. He calls us the world's example.
"A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear...Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere...Our strength is our unity of purpose. To that high concept there can be no end save victory." This is what Americans willingly fought and died for on foreign shores in the past. When did we lose this vision for ourselves at home?
When did the idea of being Goliath become an American ideal, except for very young boys who did not know any better? That's not what the USA's military dead laid down their lives for. The troops of the USA have always fought for principle, not principal. The latter is what guns for hire fight or run away for. And, they would have assuredly run from Bunker Hill, the Battle of the Bulge, and Heartbreak Ridge.
This Memorial Day let us remember with gratitude our casualties and the principles for which they fought. Let us measure our leaders by those bloody yardsticks, remembering how imperfect all people are and our history has shown us to be.