As families sit down together for their Thanksgiving dinner, some may remember an illustration by Norman Rockwell in which generations of a family are gathered around a table as the grandmother brings in a large turkey. The painting’s title is “Freedom from Want” and it was one of the Four Freedoms series that Rockwell painted during WW II.
In addition to being thankful for the blessings of food, families and friends, and our communities, recent world events remind us to be thankful for the freedoms of the U.S. Another of the paintings in Rockwell’s series was called “Freedom from Fear.” It is a freedom we still need to defend today.
A big difference between how Rockwell’s paintings were viewed during WW II and how they are seen today, is a reflection of the confidence of our nation that was depicted in them. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had given a speech about not being ruled by fear, that the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself. Our leadership then had an understanding of the effect of war and how it consumes nations; of what fear is, and how it consumes a society. For them, the U.S. was the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave – not the Home of the Fearful, and the Land Led by Fear.
At the end of WW II, our country and the world saw that evil was defeated when Hitler and the Axis powers were gone. The problem was answered. Our parents and grandparents, who saw themselves in the family members depicted in the “Four Freedoms” paintings, saw an image, an idea greater than a thousand words, although for each person those words are different. They shared a common theme: those freedoms were what our country had been fighting for, they were the motivation for our goals, and the commitment for securing them was reinforced by the Allies’ victory. They knew that absolute victory is eliminating the threat. They had a lot to be thankful for.
Our leaders now are reluctant to provide answers. Instead of clear commitments, we are now being led by polls. But what we need is for our leaders to step beyond the emotions of the moment, and take the lead in setting the goals and objectives to eliminate the threat that the world now faces from terrorist activity. Imagine what it would be like, next year at this time, if this problem was eliminated. We need to realize that this is not a battle against ISIS – ISIS is just the current threat. There will probably always be a reactionary or terrorist organization somewhere in the world. Our leaders should recognize this and plan for it, identify the organizations, and position our nation to eliminate the danger.
The threat we are facing is a threat to our freedoms. It is not only our fear of terrorist activity being carried out in our country, but the fear that’s being used by some of our leaders in their decisions and in the explanations they give for them. We cannot respond to challenges or threats in fear.
We need leadership that will face our challenges boldly. We need the same response to those who would take away our freedom through fear, whether in other parts of the world or here at home. Absolute victory is eliminating that threat. Let us be thankful for those that recognized this in the past and achieved victory. Let us be thankful for the freedoms our Constitution gives us. And let us be vigilant as we plan and prepare in order to protect our freedoms.