Guest Column: A reflection on FDR’s ‘Four Freedoms’

As we approach Thanksgiving and the winter holidays, it seems like an opportune time to revisit FDR’s “Four Freedoms.” For those who have forgotten, or are unfamiliar with the term, it comes from a State of the Union address President Roosevelt made in 1941, 11 months before Pearl Harbor. It dealt with changing our non-intervention policy and addressed the threat to democracies around the world. It is as applicable today as it was then.

Freedom of Speech and Expression

To me, this freedom is about expressing one’s opinions without threat of retaliation. Our country‘s bedrock is based on this. As I hear hate speech, I frequently need to remind myself that this is exactly why the First Amendment is first: All good things begin with freedom. It is like a body blow when I hear the president malign the press. Some are biased, both left and right, but the vast majority of the press does their due diligence and provides us with facts that we need to make thoughtful, informed decisions. Hearing President Trump at his rallies say that the press is “fake” and “Lock her up!” and seeing and hearing his audience chant it and smile broadly chills me to my bones, but I defend it to the ends of the republic.

Freedom of Worship

The freedom of each person in the world to worship their God is as appropriate today as when the Founding Fathers began this great country. We have seen the hate between humans based on the God they worship. It is so sad and, yes, pathetic that people can feed on this hate. Call me naïve, but we are all humans first! Worshipping something that is bigger than us should be the tie that binds us. 

Freedom from Want

This is actually a very simple freedom. Economic stability in the world, not just here, is just plain common sense. One does not have to be a “globalist” (not a dirty word, by the way) to see the wisdom in this. Many wars have been fought based on inequality (see Germany in the 1930s). A country that has a healthy economy and prosperous people are much less likely to seek war as a way to level the playing field.

Freedom from Fear 

World War I was supposed to be the war to end all wars. At the start of the 1940s, FDR saw that was not a fact, and that the planet was rapidly heading toward another global conflict. He sought a planet where one nation would not attack a neighbor, hence the theory behind the United Nations, where people (do not forget that countries are just made up of people) could come together to work out differences peacefully. Today, the UN is under siege from factions in our country that have lost sight of the intention in its founding and have let egos (read: politics) rule reason.

Maybe we should all take some time and look at a view of planet Earth as photographed from space: our beautiful big blue marble. The lines between countries do not exist; they are man-made demarcations. I am not advocating becoming one country, but rather becoming more thoughtful about our fellow humans and how we interact.

The author lives in Southold.