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Friday, January 19, 2018

Losing that simple little thing called trust

My parents raised my brother and me to understand the word “trust”.  We learned early on that telling the truth established that sense of trust whether it was in our family or wider spread relationships.  In the early days the phrase, “A man’s word is his bond”, meant the individual had integrity and by experience people knew he could be trusted to do what he said he would do.

I think that is why I feel so adrift these days and I know I am not alone.  Who can we trust?  It seems we cannot trust our political leaders and we are told we cannot trust the news media.  A new player in the ‘trust’ game is social media. Too many people depend on this as a reliable source of information; here they seem to feel safe and secure.  And we are learning by sad experience that Facebook and Google, like the wolf who meets Little Red Riding Hood in the woods, are not to be trusted. 

Today, 2017, we have to read and listen and attempt to sort out what is trustworthy and what is bunk.  Ryan Zinke was Montana’s U.S. Representative, a supposedly trustworthy position.  When Trump appointed him Secretary of the Interior he quickly broke any position of trust when he immediately began bilking the U.S. taxpayers out of thousands of dollars for jet trips for political fund raising (which is against the Hatch Act, i.e. illegal) and personal junkets.  He is not alone, being joined by several other Cabinet officials, some who have resigned and others, such as Zinke, who should resign.

Since the election we have been blasted with the term “fake news” to the point we don’t know where to turn for reliable information on current events.  It is part of the old adage that if you say it often enough, people will come to believe it, especially if they never read or they listen only to people of like mind.  The problem we are learning is that during the last election “fake news” filled social media and it was all from Russia.  There is a new world facing us and Russian hackers planned and executed a cyber attack on our political system that turned our democracy on its head.  Congress is still investigating the attack and whether or not the Russians had assistance to get into our system and will this become a common problem. It will if we remain as gullible as in the past.

Once again I am trying to understand how winning becomes the all important goal to the point that Americans would work with a foreign power to undermine our voting system which is the very basis of our democracy.  But, of course, we can go back to Watergate where winning was the end game.

Now there is great concern that a news conglomerate is working to buy up as many networks as possible making real the fact that we will not have access to an unbiased news source, that everyone will only hear what we are fed by a single point of view.  I have read about Henry Luce, the founder and editor of TIME magazine.  Luce was the child of missionaries to China in the pre-World War II era and always showed Chinese issues and leaders in good light.  His propaganda fed the American people a line about the Chinese leaders, Chiang Kai-Shek and his powerful wife that served only their purpose and was not always what the Chinese people needed in their war against the Communists.  Senator Joseph McCarthy stained the post World War II era with his lies against so-called Communists causing people to lose trust in American government and what it stood for. President Truman called it “the big lie.”

Today what is happening within the walls of the White House is released only through leaks from people who work for the government.  The president’s inability to work to ‘promote the general welfare of our people’ has resulted in chaos.  One result of Cabinet positions not being filled is that FEMA, run by the Department of Homeland Security, has not had a leader since July.  Puerto Rico is in ruins and the death toll is beginning to rise from things like unclean water.  Puerto Ricans are Americans and people in trouble who need help.  The President, tossing rolls of paper towels into a crowd of suffering humanity revealed a lack of understanding and immaturity.  I am wondering if the victims of the California wildfires can trust the government to be there for them in their disaster?

Can we trust the government to deal with our trade negotiations, nuclear issues with North Korea and Iran?  Do I trust the people who have access to the ‘nuclear button’?  

Much of the good will we have built up in the 300 years America has existed is disappearing faster than we can explain what is happening.  One foreign advisor said, “We cannot trust America any more.  If every decision that is made changes with each leader, no one will want to work with your country any longer.”  I have relatives in Sweden who write to me and say, “We are afraid of Trump and what he could do to the world.”  The trust level we have built up over years of helping others in national disasters, of welcoming the stranger to our nation, of being a trustworthy friend to those allies who supported us as we them in past wars, our bank account of goodwill, is fast disappearing and we are becoming a bankrupt nation.  

The purpose of trust is to build up a feeling of safety among our people.  With the white supremacy issues and the rising tide of racism, no one feels safe and our government seems only to stir up the flames of hatred.  Anger and fear rule as the shootings in Las Vegas reveal and we allow it to happen every time we look the other way or say, “Well, it isn’t affecting me.”

Rebuilding broken trust in any relationship takes a long time.  Without an informed electorate, ready to stand up and be counted where it matters most, it could take another 300 years to regain what we have lost.

Avis Anderson lives in Glendive. Her online blog can be found at www.prairienewdays.com.

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