Patricia DeMarco Ph.D.

"Live in harmony with nature."

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FDR Four Freedoms of Democracy Revisited

August 28, 2017

The consequences of having a President who condones bigotry and disrespect have come to fruition this troubled summer of 2017. As White Supremacy rhetoric has become accepted as “free speech,” the moral fabric of America is shredded and all of us are more fearful and less secure in our homes, in our lives and in our communities. This violent bombast has obscured more substantive matters. Existential crises for which the possibility of consensus becomes increasingly elusive worsen while public attention diverts to the drama of domestic terrorism.

I view this tragedy of the Trump moral weakness through the lens of a visit earlier this summer to the Normandy World War II Memorial and the Omaha Beach where the U.S. and Allied forces landed in the summer of 1941 to turn the tide of the war against German Nazi armies. So many died there standing

Here Lies A Comrade In Arms Known But to God

in defense of Freedom, a concept sharpened by the contrast in the Western world between the rampages of despot Adolf Hitler, striving for world dominance in the name of an ideology based on exclusivity and hate, and the Allied ideology of liberty, inclusiveness and freedom of belief. I found it instructive to revisit President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union Address to Congress in which he called for a united stand against tyranny.

In this 21st century, we face global warfare of clashing ideologies, but we also face a common threat to the survival of life on earth from the cumulative effects of human enterprise on the environment and the life support system of the living Earth itself. WWII ended in a declared victory for freedom and a peace that lasted through diplomacy and mutual alliances until the verbal hostilities of the Cold War and arms race. Our nation in 1941 was “threatened from without” and confronted the threat of tyranny with a call for national unity and common purpose. Today we are a nation divided on lines of ideology as well as class, race and view of our role in the world. We are not united in purpose. While Roosevelt opposed the forces that argued for “enforced isolation behind an ancient Chinese wall,” our President is building walls, both physically and rhetorically dividing our nation from allies and presenting blustering threats on all sides. While Roosevelt called for leadership through “responsibility and accountability based on a decent respect for the rights and dignity of all nations large and small,” modern America looks at other nations as resources, markets or targets of opportunity for “deals.” Roosevelt wisely noted, “Enduring peace cannot be bought at the cost of other people’s freedom.”(1)

Roosevelt’s observations about democracy resonate to our time:

“There is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy. The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are

  • Equal opportunity for youth and for others;
  • Jobs to those who can work;
  • Security for those who need it;
  • Ending of special privilege for the few;
  • The preservation of civil liberties for all;
  • The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living for all.” (1)

Achieving these essential components of democracy in the 21st century can build unity of purpose. These are the true values of America that can unite us again. Achieving these freedoms requires that people accept responsibility as citizens to participate in the process of governing. It also requires that those elected to lead must be held accountable to a moral standard that puts the public interest first. Laws alone do not make a country great. It must be the priority of all citizens to protect and defend the basic things that allow all of the people to succeed.

In this current environment, the issue is still jobs. As we struggle to address the real and pressing dangers not to our nation alone, but to the very existence of life on Earth from global warming and global chemical pollution, we must provide for a just and equitable transition to a non-fossil based economy. This path is not only viable, but has proven productive of vibrant economic, social and environmental success.

The quadrennial National Climate Assessment, authorized by Congress in 1990, concludes: “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.” (2) Denial does not change the consequences. The laws of Nature are not negotiable. It is time to accept reality and act responsibly for the sake of life on Earth and all future generations.

Those who see the past as a secure and comfortable condition are often lured by the romanticized myth of “the way it was back in the day” without admitting the reality of living and working in dangerous, polluted and debilitating conditions. Many came to America to better their fortunes and improve the prospects for their children. They endured harsh conditions and dangers to give their children better choices. The altruism of the laborers for their children built the wealth of America, secured by the organized labor movement pressing for fair wages and safety in the workplace. As the strength of unions has eroded over the last thirty years, the wealth has accumulated again in the top 1% of the population, abetted by government policies and the Citizens United ruling determining that corporations have the rights of “persons” under the law. Corporations are NOT people. They do not bleed. They do not feel love or joy or pain. A government controlled by multinational corporate interests does not act in the public interest to secure the conditions of democracy!

1970 Earth Day Protesters

It is time to take the power of governance back to the people! It is time to recognize that the issue is still jobs. Providing good employment for willing workers to provide for their families is the function of the public and private sectors working together for the greater good of all. The trickle down theory has never worked except to enrich the privilege of the few. In the interest of long -term survival of our species, we must make a transition to new ways of running the economy. Establish value based on the natural capital of the living Earth and cease its exploitation and destruction. Convert energy systems from a fossil fueled economy to renewable and sustainable systems. Make products with green chemistry principles using components and processes that do not

Albatross killed by eating plastic debris

create toxic or poisonous products or by-products. Shift our chemical-dependent agriculture system to regenerative practices based on ecology that restore the fertility of the land and conserve water. These pathways offer the promise of shared benefits in economic opportunities, health benefits and environmental stability for another generation.

The Freedoms my father fought for in World War II will elude Americans of the 21st century if we cannot stand to defend the true values that can unite our nation to a renewed common purpose: to preserve a just and equitable future for those who have no voice at the table today. We must renew the altruism for the unborn and the living things of the Earth who depend on the wisdom of people today. It is only with care and foresight for the fate of the Earth that we will leave a legacy worthy of those who fought for our freedom. We must stand up to tyranny and demand accountability for the true freedoms that make America great. The Woodland Hills Academy seventh graders held a march on Earth Day 2016 to declare that “Guns and Violence Do NOT Define US!” We should heed their passionate leadership!


  1. Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1941 State of the Union Address “The Four Freedoms” (6 January 1941). Voices of Democracy. Oratory Project.
  2. Quadrennial National Climate Assessment, DRAFT.

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Democracy is Not a Spectator Sport

May has arrived with a burst of blooming trees and borders, the return of summer birds and lawn signs touting candidates for the spring primaries.  While the latest round of community protest and violence unfolds in real time on television, people sit and make comments either cynical, sympathetic or outraged, depending on their own perspectives. We witness another symptom of society in distress, another plea for help.

I reflect on the differences between today’s protests and unrest and those of the late 1960s.  There are two observations that concern me here.  First, the challenge to authority is specific,not general, precipitated by specific confrontations between an individual and police. Second, the protests have no specific focus or call for action, no equal rights, war protest, environmental protection themes.  The eruption of community outrage and protest we see today marks the call for attention to communities where the advantages of modern time have not penetrated.  Major employers that offer entry level jobs with a career path to promotion are scarce, often leaving the rusting hulks of closed factories as reminders of former days. The communities are isolated physically and culturally from the mainstream of the wider society.  With unemployment in double digits from 14% to 25%, drug trade and other forms of desperation abound, education and public amenities like parks, youth programs, elder care, even basic things like grocery stores and shops are scarce or below par. More resources for policing do not solve such problems. The protests in Ferguson and Baltimore call out for basic human respect, for recognition, for attention and help.

It is not okay anywhere in America for children to have poorly equipped and staffed schools.  It is not okay anywhere in America for children to go hungry. It is not okay anywhere in America for people to see no way out of poverty.  When our priorities place the wealth of corporations over the basic needs of people we are seeding the revolt of the oppressed.

A representative democracy requires the participation of all the people.  Organized protests on behalf of voter registration drives, and calls for elected officials to respond to the actual needs of people can be effective.  Government spending to rebuild the infrastructure of former manufacturing neighborhoods and training the people who live there to do the work would be helpful.  Empowering people to take initiative requires some investment of money as well as social capital.  People need to care about each other and restore a sense of common purpose.

This process can work when people care, receive support, and positive reinforcement.  I take for example the rebirth of the Hill District in Pittsburgh.  It has become a vibrant place full of cultural wealth from the Kingsley Center to the UJAMAA2011+group+shot Collective. (See here some of the Sisters of the Ujamaa Collective visit at

A restoration based on entrepreneurship and joint action, with urban farming and local investment now graces this area. Supportive policies from the City of Pittsburgh in zoning and community development policies help.  People have to care about each other, and make change a priority.

Democracy is not a spectator sport.  Democracy requires accountability of those who are in power.  Democracy requires taking responsibility for your own actions.  Democracy requires respect for all members of the society.  Democracy requires caring for those who need help, especially children, the elderly, and those who are disabled or ill.  Democracy requires that citizens vote, and hold their elected officials accountable.

In this primary election season, we see in the news the bantering and jousting of the Presidential hopefuls.  But, in every town, every county and borough and state across this country people are stepping out to run for local office.  Many of them stand unopposed.  Look around you, and if you do not like what you see, stand up and speak out.  Local communities have the most direct control of what happens in their own borders.  If you do not like what you see, you have the power to stand up and speak out to make it better.

Democracy is NOT a spectator sport. A government of the people, by the people and for the people requires that the people participate in their own governance.  Get involved, and make the change you want to see happen.  Do what you can with what you have where you are.

I am running for Forest Hills Borough Council in my own town to help build a community that thrives in harmony with nature – equitable, robust, and beautiful. You can do it too.