The Only Thing We Have to Fear is…

J. Keith Hughey


Volume XX, Number 43 (Issue 995) October 24, 2022

The Only Thing We Have to Fear is…

Provided you have not spent your life under a rock, it is reasonable to assume you can complete today’s title phrase without resorting to Google. There again, younger readers along with those new to this country may not be familiar with that line so allow me to complete it for them: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Uttered by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his first inaugural address as President in the depths of the Great Depression in 1933, it is worth noting since there is a complex truth in that oft quoted statement. That is because the bulk of the decisions you and I make are heavily influenced by the things we fear. With Halloween and Día de los Muertos a week away, it is easy to relate to one of the more pervasive fears – the fear of death or loss of life. The thing is loss of life is not limited to one’s physical existence. It also pertains to loss of fiscal or economic life. Thus, the fear of losing one’s income can affect a host of our decisions. For instance, the mere idea of challenging a policy or procedure in place at one’s employer, let alone someone in authority there can cause many to bite their tongue rather than risk doing something an individual in charge might not like or welcome. In that context speaking one’s truth to authority can seem almost as scary as standing up to a tank in Tiananmen Square, the local schoolyard bully, a violent mob, or a lone actor with no regard for human life.

The second of the “big three” fears is loss of relationship. Our connections to others, even the highly dysfunctional ones, provide much of our identity. As a result, we are apt to avoid conflict with others in our circle lest the consequence of a confrontation be a strained or severed relationship. The perverse twist in that odd dynamic is that the body’s biological response to fear looks, feels, and sounds a lot like anger or anxiety. Thus, by embarking on that path, the near predictable outcome is an argument where the verbal blows exchanged produce the very result we feared most – alienation.

The last of the big three fears is loss of face. We can all relate to that one. After all, who among us likes to look foolish, uniformed, or be disrespected, particularly in settings where one of our goals is to impress and be seen in a favorable light? So, to avoid the risk of looking out of touch or inadequate, rather than ask questions or offer an unsolicited opinion, we keep our thoughts to ourselves.

My point in all of this is that amid the constant stream of campaign messaging we are being subjected to in the present season, be mindful and more than a little

weary of those attempting to prey on your fears. Whether the pitch is that their opponent is bent on limiting or taking away your rights, or that the opponent’s policy positions, if enacted, will hurt you in the pocketbook, or a dozen other ruinous things the opposition stands for (or so they claim), the goal is to make you afraid. I am old enough to remember the 1964 Presidential election and the ads the LBJ campaign ran with images suggesting that if Barry Goldwater were to be elected president, a nuclear war complete with mushroom clouds was inevitable. My guess is that in most election cycles prior to 1964, the same type of scare tactics were no less integral to campaigning, albeit a touch more subtle.

For more than a century there has been a concerted effort to first foster and then require truth in advertising – at least as it pertains to commercial products and services. The intent of this movement from inception has been to protect the consumer from unscrupulous advertisers and false and deceptive claims made in any form of marketing materials. Governed and enforced since 1914 by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), violation of applicable rules, standards, and regulations can and have resulted in significant fines and sanctions. First Amendment rights notwithstanding, it is too bad something similar cannot be applied to political speech. Then, you and I would not have to wade through all the hype, falsehoods, and half-truths being spun to make us afraid – very afraid – of what lies behind door No. 2.

Soli Deo Gloria

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

J. Keith Hughey

Mobile: (210)260-0955
Web site:

Transforming Potential into Unmatched Performance
Copyright 2022 by J. Keith Hughey. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for reproduction and redistribution of this essay as provided under the copyright laws of the United States of America. The entire early library of Monday Morning Musings issues may be found at Your comments are welcome and encouraged.

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