Edward R. Murrow, the renowned journalist who brought the crimes of McCarthyism to light, urged, “We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.”
Although Murrow’s words were first uttered almost 60 years ago, his message could not be more applicable to this presidential election season. During the past months of campaigning, advertising and rhetoric, we have been lambasted with messages about key issues, about broken promises and things to come. Both sides are guilty of their share of mud-slinging, yet the Republican campaign has done significantly more to create a tone of fear.
The Romney campaign has been quick to paint an alarming picture of another Obama term: trillions of dollars in debt, millions out of jobs. They have preyed on our emotions and our insecurity to try to push a platform of intolerance into the White House. They have exaggerated and manipulated facts and have failed to offer reasonable alternatives to the Obama platform.
Yet, as Murrow remarked, we cannot be driven “into an age of unreason.” We are indeed descended from courageous men and women. We have reaped the benefits of tireless leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Susan B. Anthony, Harvey Milk and Cesar Chavez. This country has grown and flourished because of people like this, people who were unafraid to “defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.”
During his four years in office, President Barack Obama has worked to continue the legacy of these trailblazers: giving 3.1 million young Americans access to healthcare, helping hundreds of thousands achieve an education, granting equal rights to those who had been neglected. The efforts of these leaders of both the past and the present have built upon each other, leading to where we are today. We are on the threshold of a nation in which “liberty and justice for all” could be a reality.
Are we prepared to sacrifice all of this progress in the face of fiscal fear mongering? Do we really want to turn the clock back to an era of intolerance and inequality?
We cannot allow transitory woes to cause permanent regress. We cannot allow baseless hyperboles and false promises to coerce us into poor decisions.
In his attack on Senator Joseph McCarthy, Murrow stated, “This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent … We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result.” Indeed, this is no time for those who oppose Romney’s methods to keep silent. We must not be among those who can stubbornly close their eyes to the past, because nobody can escape the consequences of the future. So as Election Day draws nearer, remember our obligation as descendants of these courageous people. Make sure to register to vote or request an absentee ballot.
Moreover, remember that the decision we make on Nov. 6 is not isolated to Nov. 6. The choice we make in 2012 is one we must live with until 2016. And when we make that decision, keep in mind the legacy we wish to set.
In this election, do we want to be remembered as the society that allowed itself to return to the darkness?
No. In 60 or 100 or 1000 years, we want our descendants to “dig deep into [their] history and [their] doctrine” and recognize that they, too, did not descend from fearful people.
Hansler is a member of the class of 2015.