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Rather writes: "Fear can be a great motivator, but also can be a great destroyer. Leadership decisions based on fear among a people seized by fear can lead to the decline and fall of nations. This has been known since at least the time of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks."

Dan Rather. (photo: USA Today)
Dan Rather. (photo: USA Today)


By Dan Rather, Dan Rather's Facebook Page

13 February 17


s reports flow in of raids and roundups of immigrants in the name of public safety and law and order, let’s pause to talk about fear—that most primal of human emotions, the one President Donald Trump seems determined to stir up in the breast of the American psyche. It is an effort that in my mind is so quintessentially un-American that it is destined to fail. Or at least I hope it fails... but even if it does, so much havoc and sadness will be wrought. It has already begun.

We are prone to fear for a reason. Fear of danger can keep you alive. But fear is a fickle beast that can distort and damage as much as protect. Fear prevents exploration, undermines growth and can poison society. Fear can be a great motivator, but also can be a great destroyer. Leadership decisions based on fear among a people seized by fear can lead to the decline and fall of nations. This has been known since at least the time of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks.

Mr. Trump is using fear of terrorism and lawlessness—real and legitimate fears—to advocate hurried, massive, radical changes to our immigration policy, indeed to our very self-identity. It was this fear, and the President’s methods for trying to use it, that the Appeals Court recently struck down, using our Constitution as a bulwark for their ruling, just the kind of check on power our Founding Fathers envisioned.

Those who founded our great nation were not fearful people. They literally put their lives on the line in the service of freedom. Those pioneers who forged into the frontier were not fearful people. Neither were those who fought to safeguard our liberty on foreign battlefields. Or those who marched for civil rights, facing down bigotry, dogs, and firehoses. For sure, many individuals felt personal terror - but the movements that made our country what it is today was built on improbable hope, courage that conquered fear.

Every American president I can think of relied on the rhetoric of hope more than fear - until now. Yes Franklin Roosevelt famously said in his First Inaugural Address, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." But you will find that spirit echoed in the speeches of those who followed.

To be sure, many demagogues in our past - including elected officials - have paved their path to power on fear. Race was a favorite target - but also religion, gender, sexuality, country of origin, social status and so many more. The purpose of these campaigns of fear was to divide America, not to solve our problems.

And that is just what is happening now. If we were to better calibrate our fears to our challenges, we would also be talking about the threat of homegrown extremists such as Nazi-inspired White Nationalists and the Klan, about gun violence, climate change, antibiotic resistance, Russian interference in our election, and so on. There are many important topics about which to worry. Terrorism spawned by violent, extreme Islamists is on that list. Rational, well-thought out, organized and Constitutional adjustments in policy to deal with it may be advisable. But it is not the only threat we face - far from it.

And when you add the fear-mongering Mr. Trump has done around immigration (especially of the undocumented or illegal variety, depending on your point of view), or these supposedly gang-ridden cities, or the fake high murder rate, it is plain what is going on. Mr. Trump is playing to his base, with lies and half-truths that seek only to further his political ends. While he attempts to ignite new levels of fear in what he hopes will be a majority of Americans, he shows no regard for the fear struck in the minorities most affected. For example, the fear he is stirring in men, women, and children who are living in this country as peaceful and contributing members of society but without legal status. Again, for clarity, this problem of good people without legal status needs to be address. But not with sudden roundups and raids that are designed to spread fear.

I think - I fervently hope - that these tactics and the whole strategy of fear-mongering will fail over time. Our history argues that, in America, the pendulum almost invariably swings back to common sense and tolerance after the fever breaks. But in the meantime, much damage can be done. In the present case, lives have already been broken. Anxiety and unease—and yes, downright fear—seeps into if not sweeps over so many.

But as I’ve said before, and I believe bears repeating: courage is being afraid but going on anyhow. your social media marketing partner


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We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

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Founder, Reader Supported News

-44 # RNLDaWy 2017-02-13 11:15
People use it .. parents use it .. coaches use it .. all politicians use it .. businessmen use it .. Dick Cheney used it .. G Bush used it .. WRITERS use it .. The Right uses it .. The Left uses it .. one side uses it against the other side .. that something scary will come down the pike with the current democratically elected President as well .. why dont' you write story books Dan .. because he'd be put in jail for scaring children no doubt ..
+6 # chemtex2611 2017-02-14 00:57
Do not fall for their false stories. Fear will destroy your mind. Take a deep breath. Think. What is important? Get out of your shell and help someone else meet a challenge. You can help a child at a science fair this week. You can provide toiletries and healthy snacks like nuts, dried fruit and cheese sticks and jerky sticks to someone who is homeless. Care for your family, read to a child or someone who is ill. Do not wallow in problems the Trump administration has made for itself by choosing the wrong people for the supporting team. The rest of the world will move on and the administration will figure out something. GOP Members of Congress are the folks who need to deal with what they wrought thru gerrymandering.
+38 # Buddha 2017-02-13 12:12
Autocrats, warlords and High Priests have been playing upon people's fears for their own personal acquisition of wealth, privilege and power for millennia. Trump is but one in a long line of such. We're entering an age where around the globe fascists and militaristic strongmen are carving up the dwindling resources of our dying planet, at the exact time when the only hope for our species is cooperation and positive innovation.
-2 # chemtex2611 2017-02-14 00:49
Cheer up. We are one of the wealthiest and educated countries on earth. Use your good sense and your resources. You can do this.
+3 # Buddha 2017-02-14 12:53
"Our" wealth is tied up in the offshore accounts and hedge-funds of a thin handful of Oligarchic families, it isn't going to solve our world's problems, it through their corporate stock holdings is actually causing our world's problems. In terms of distribution, median net wealth, America is #19 in the world. And we just elected Donald Trump...that says something about how "educated" we are too, doesn't it?
0 # Desiderata 2017-02-15 11:21
Quoting chemtex2611:
Cheer up. We are one of the wealthiest and educated countries on earth. Use your good sense and your resources. You can do this.

I think "were" is the operative verb here. Educated is as educated does and you now have Trump as your president.As for wealth ,a handful of Americans are wealthy, your debt is out of control and held by others.
The American dream is just that...a dream at this point.
+25 # mmc 2017-02-13 12:41
My biggest fear is that we citizens will not remove trump and his vile, violent cabal before they do lasing and permanent damage to our country. He is a cancer that must be excised immediately.
+32 # 2017-02-13 13:19
Close ranks in the face of the tyrant and let us move forward united and firm.
0 # harleysch 2017-02-13 14:51
It is true that the threat of mass deportation must be confronted, if Trump tries to go ahead with it, as it is anti-American.

But has anyone noted that, during his presidency, Saint Barack Obama deported more immigrants than all previous administrations ? Where was the outrage then?
+1 # Buddha 2017-02-14 12:55
Huh? Plenty of outrage came at Obama from the Progressive Left. No surprised you missed it, because the corporate media never covers Progressive views.
+2 # futhark 2017-02-13 15:28
Monger:"a dealer in or trader of a commodity."

Fear mongers trade in commodity of fear. The more afraid their potential customers become, the greater the amount of their liberty they will yield to the monger in exchange for protection against the threat being published. We have witnessed this done over the entire course of human history. It may well be among the world's oldest trades and has been in no way rendered obsolete by technical advances. Social media like Twitter may be the ideal vehicle for marketing fear, as it delivers the commodity directly from source to potential customer, without the intervention of investigative journalists. Censorship may no longer be necessary to prevent the spread of malicious and dangerous falsehoods.
+4 # janie1893 2017-02-13 16:27
I think President Trump does not comprehend what I know as fear. He is a psychopath who cannot empathize with the feelings of others and throughout his life has always been able to buy, bluff or bully events to go his way. He hasn't the slightest idea of what I mean by the term, "I am afraid". Therefore he will carry on with the behaviour that gets him what he wants and will continue to criticize and demean people who disagree with his words and behaviour. And he will never figure out why we disagree with him.

He is emotionally disabled. That is truly pitiful but frightening when we are all at his mercy. I can see him, some quiet day, pushing the wrong buttons just because he can.

Is there no legal means by which a mentally ill leader can be quietly removed from the White House?
0 # elizabethblock 2017-02-13 17:21
People who have read about resistance fighters in WW II, or people who sheltered Jews at the risk of their own lives, and wondered what they would do in such circumstances, now have a chance to find out.
-12 # CDMR 2017-02-13 20:24
I'm sorry. I just cannot agree with anything Rather says.

1. Fear is not the most primal of human emotions. Love is. Fear is rather remote. It can be activated and whipped up as people in Rather's profession are trained to do. But most people are not afraid. It is just the mass media who incessantly tells them they are afraid and they are desperately afraid. But they are not.

2. It is not Trump who is stirring up fear in anyone. It is the American media, which hope to blame Trump for fear mongering.

3. "Reports of raids and roundups" are purely a media phenomenon. Nothing has changed in ICE operations. They are the same as under Obama. But the media is in a hysterical frenzy.

4. "Every American president I can think of relied on the rhetoric of hope more than fear - until now.” This is just false. Reagan and Bush II were the worst. Rather just says things because they seem to fit his theme.

I just wonder what someone like Rather really thinks about. Is this it? God, he sounds like a ventriloquist dummy mouthing platitudes. No real person could be this obsequious.
+2 # ericlipps 2017-02-15 05:55
That's right. Blame the media. Don't hold Donald Trump responsible for anything he says or does; just attack people like Dan Rather for not acknowledging that tomorrow belongs to him.
+1 # Trish42 2017-02-15 11:00
Where did you get your psychology degree? Fear is built into our genes for survival; love has to be learned. And no person could be this "obsequious??" How about you?
+1 # chemtex2611 2017-02-14 00:47
Confidence is the basis of courage. You have confidence when you have done your best to understand the situation and then carefully move forward to deal with and solve the problem ahead.

Fear damages your thinking and your confidence. You will find yourself in the wrong place with the wrong equipment to meet the challenge.
0 # Vegan_Girl 2017-02-15 01:03
Remember how we were told that we should take candidate Trump seriously but not literally? Where are those aholes now to admit: we should have taken him literally.....

People who are not racists but voted for Trump have now a responsibility to step up and say that this is not why they voted for him. That he has no mandate for rounding up people Gestapo-style.

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