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‘The only thing we have to fear…’

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered the above words during his 1933 inaugural address, he was reinforcing his belief that widespread fear, coming as a result of an enduring economic depression, was a crippling force.

Roosevelt hoped to convey how unreasoning fear could be an obstacle in efforts to move the country forward.

The President’s statement came nearly a decade before the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, and generations before the 9/11 terrorists’ attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. Still, Roosevelt’s words carried an interchangeable quality that could and should be applied to the American psyche today.

Less than two weeks ago our country was thrown into a tailspin when a crazed gunman killed 12 people and injured dozens during a shooting spree at a Colorado movie theater.

In a cruel instant this seemingly benign setting – a place that people regularly flock to in order to escape the shackles of reality – had been turned into a killing den. Not surprisingly, this prompted the question: Is any location truly safe?

The short answer is that there really is no answer – there is only our perception of that answer.

Philosophers, pragmatists and others have long argued whether human beings are subject to an inalterable fate bestowed upon them, or are captains of their own ships – able to change course midstream to avoid unwanted outcomes.

Many of us believe that there are things in life that simply cannot be avoided. Consider the unlucky victims of the now infamous Colorado movie theater attack. Not one of them knew the cruel fate that awaited them when they plunked down their money to buy a ticket. How could they? In this regard, they were no different than moviegoers in Kearny, North Arlington, Lyndhurst, Belleville, or anywhere else.

Put simply, life is a crapshoot. You pay your money and you take your chances, as the saying goes.

This philosophy squares perfectly with Roosevelt’s assertion. Since no one knows what comes next in life, what’s to be gained by fretting over it? Fear will only stymie our efforts at living a happy, productive life, and none of us wants that.

Additionally, this takeitasitcomes outlook robs terrorists and wouldbe terrorists of the very response that they seek, so that outcome, too, is a major selling point.

“Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be, the future’s not ours to see…” go the lyrics to a popular song that might just be the ideal anthem for our times. See you at the movies!

– Jeff Bahr

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