CPR for our nation

I urge everyone to see Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story." In spite of his comedic theatrics and preposterously insulting style, Moore shows us what is unhealthy in our American culture and where we need to go. Read Chris Honoré's movie review in Thursday's Revels; how lucky we are to have Chris on our team. But Chris, when you paraphrase Moore: "all that can really be done is to sigh deeply," I'm wondering if you left the theater early?

For me the stunning conclusion of this film is the long-lost footage, rediscovered by Moore in a film archive, of Franklin Delano Roosevelt reading his "Second Bill of Rights" for America. Born wealthy, FDR teaches us in his "economic bill of rights" how to repair the perennial ills of America's broken promises. His lesson stands today as an agenda for moving from dog-eat-dog class warfare toward a lasting peace.

In this remarkable speech, FDR was anticipating the end of World War II — during which Americans had set aside our own wishes for the good of the whole — and spelling out as his legacy an agenda for a lasting time of peace and prosperity:

"We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. Necessitous men are not free men. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

"In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all-regardless of station, race or creed.

"Among these are:

  • The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation.
  • The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.
  • The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living.
  • The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad.
  • The right of every family to a decent home.
  • The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.
  • The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.
  • The right to a good education.


"America's own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for all our citizens. For unless there is security here at home, there cannot be lasting peace in the world."

I do hope everyone will take the time to consider Moore's critique and dare to think with our grandfather FDR how we might perform CPR on the unhealthy body of our great nation and breathe back its promise: of a union "of, for and by the people," that is, for all the people, not just for the wealthy.

John Fisher-Smith, a California immigrant born in the U.K., has lived in Ashland with his wife Dot for 28 years. He's a retired architect, counselor and author of "Opening My Eyes: Readings on Place and Value." Listeners may remember his frequent commentaries on Jefferson Public Radio.

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