ONE photo that often is highlighted in our gallery Images of America when we ask discussion groups to choose pictures that especially resonate with their lives today is Norman Rockwell’s Freedom from Fear. This is one of four classic paintings by Rockwell during the darkest days of World War II to illustrate what Americans were defending at home and abroad.
As the Wikipedia history of these paintings explains: These four images have become a cornerstone of exhibitions on the artist’s life. The most famous of the four is Freedom from Want, which is best known to most Americans as “the Thanksgiving picture.” The others are Freedom of Worship and Freedom of Speech.
Today’s question: What are our biggest fears right now?
The first thing we notice, when pondering the Four Freedoms is that these values differ widely. They were described by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his State of the Union message in early 1941, before Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into the war. FDR was reflecting on the long struggle to lift Americans out of the Great Depression. Two of these values are “freedoms” from something and two are “freedoms” to do something.
In the summer of 2015, Americans still are struggling with the balance of these Four Freedoms. Since the Supreme Court has ruled that gay and lesbian couples can marry (and many churches are willing to perform such ceremonies)—these LGBT families’ freedoms from fear and freedom of speech and worship are colliding with other Americans’ understanding of these same freedoms.
Pollsters don’t have a single answer to today’s question. At any given moment, nationwide surveys about fears may include everything from ebola infection to the rise of Russia’s military power, from the loss of our jobs to global warming.
Gallup recently reported that Americans’ fears of losing their jobs—which spiked as high as 21 percent of us naming that as a serious worry after the financial crisis in 2007, back down to a more “normal” 13 percent.
Pew posed the fear question in a different way and, after a nationwide poll, summarized the results:
Americans are somewhat divided on their biggest fear. While many name inequality (27%), around a quarter also see religious and ethnic hatred (24%) and the spread of nuclear weapons (23%) as top threats. But as with many issues in the U.S., there is a party divide. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to name ethnic hatred as a top concern. And Democrats are more apt to name the gap between the rich and the poor as the greatest danger. Independents are more divided.
That makes today’s image—and today’s question—a great way to spark spirited, healthy discussion in your class or small group.
Your opinion matters …
The United America photo gallery Images of America was developed so you can freely share these inspiring images with friends. This method has been used successfully with groups nationwide to spark spirited and constructive discussions about what unites us as Americans. Then, to fully understand the 10 core values, get the book United America. So, come on! Start your own discussion …
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- Images of America: Are we still a Melting Pot? Were we ever?
- Images of America: Feeling good on the Fourth? We all are.
- Images of America: What’s not an American core value? (Hint: It’s our home.)
- Images of America: What moves you outdoors?
- Images of America: What does the Statue of Liberty symbolize?
- Images of America: Freedom from fear? What worries us now?
- Images of America: Do you recognize the ‘WE’? Do you recognize Atticus Finch?