Views from the Valley » Susan BOLAN


The Only Thing That We Have To Fear Is …


I never understood the famous words by Franklin D. Roosevelt during his inaugural address on March 4, 1933 but I am beginning to now. “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” 

These words were spoken during a time when the country had suffered a huge loss, now known as the Great Depression. Our President’s full message of hope told people not to be afraid, encouraged them to be good neighbors and impressed that it was crucial to get back to work. I believe these collective goals are still important today.

This country has seen a lot of upheaval and the responses to these crises have been varied. I remember my family’s stories of living in Los Angeles during WWII that described food rationing, blackout curtains, and air-raid drills. My mom was 5 years old when the war began in the U.S. and 9 when it ended. She said it changed her life completely. Her father left to join the Navy in support of the war effort while her mother went to work in an aircraft/munitions plant. This prompted her parents to send her to live with her grandparents. She said she was never afraid by the circumstances. She was just sad and lonely that her life had been ripped apart.

Consequently, I always wondered how it would be in the unlikely chance that I lived during WWIII. There were some close calls in my lifetime but 9/11 was probably the closest. I remember being glued to the television that morning as both towers fell and saying these words out loud, “Well, there is no doubt now; we are at war.” 

And yet, somehow, I felt comfortable enough to go to work and to send my kids off to school that day. Even being pregnant, I wasn’t afraid. I was just unsettled, waiting for all the planes to land. I watched as the events unfolded and felt heartbroken for everyone in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. It was a strange time that ultimately changed my view of the world but I was comforted by the fact that our country came together. I had seen this rallying before and since with natural disasters – the Sylmar and Northridge earthquakes; the fires and floods in the 1960s-’70s-’80s; and the Station fire. During these emergencies, the foothill community always stepped up. Do you remember during the La Tuna Fire, the ranchers who lined up their trailers to move displaced horses or the teams of people who fed the first responders? I was so proud to see everyone working together. I assumed that if I ever had to live during WWIII, it would be like that.

So, what happened to the compassion during the COVID-19 pandemic? The influence of the disease seems more like a social experiment called, “Every man for himself” than a supportive effort. It has prompted neighbors not only to run away from each other as if from zombies but to also be downright rude while scooping up every last paper product and food staple. It’s caused online shaming of those seen without masks and secret reports to the authorities anyone who fails to comply with the new rules and regulations. I can only imagine that this ugly behavior is being driven by a deep fear, one I have never seen before and frankly don’t want to see again. Fear makes us lose our humanity; the community I know takes care of one another.

Let’s resurrect an old message: to resist fear, be neighborly and get back to work. 

“This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper.”  Well said, Mr. President.


Susan Bolan