The Trust Gap
What worries you? Terrorism? A worldwide financial collapse? Maybe you worry about both. Well, sorry but they are both just byproducts of something much more worrisome and far, far more destructive.
We Americans have been fixated, as usual, by the endless As America Turns soap opera – reds vs. blues, Christians vs. secular Satan, supplysiders vs. deficit hawks, FOX vs. CNN… etc….etc…
While all that captivates us a worldwide phenomenon has been spreading that, unless reversed soon, threatens to throw social order into turmoil around the globe has mesmerized Americans.
What is it? In a world -- distrust.
This cancer has been growing slowly, but steadily, for decades. Only recently did it take root here, in US. But it’s a familiar foe in places like the Middle East where people distrust just about everything, every institution and everybody.
It’s a distrust of politicians, distrust of government, distrust of the media, distrust of religious groups, distrust of the courts – even distrust of elections.
Distrust of election results, common in the underdeveloped, authoritarian and Third World nations, took root here after the U.S. Supreme Court decided the 2000 election. That was a two-fer for distrust, sparking distrust in both the election results and the motives of the nation’s highest court.
Look at Ukraine where both the election and the media were trust casualties. The election was fixed in such an obvious and ham handed manner that it showed just what contempt the government had for laws and democratic institutions. And, the Ukrainian media, passively allowed itself to be used by the forces of evil, supporting only government candidates and then refusing to air footage or even news of the mounting public demonstrations. (Ironically it was that formerly authoritarian nation’s Supreme Court that honored its people’s trust.)
But Ukrainian Supreme Court decision stands like a frail reed against the rushing flood of distrust sweeping societies around the globe. When trust is lost it can only be replaced by distrust. And once that happens nothing – and I mean nothing – “works” anymore. Trust is the glue that holds all man-made social structures and institutions together. Remove trust and the whole thing tumbles into a disorderly heap, every man, woman and child for themselves.
Yet it spreads. Distrust of stated intentions. Distrust of motives. Distrust of “evidence” justifying actions and policies. Sunnis distrust Shiites in Iraq, Palestines v. Israelis, Muslims v. Christians, Muslims v. Jews, Turks v. Kurds, Canada v. Americans, Europeans v. America. India v. Pakistan, Iran v. America, North Korea v. Everyone.
Sometimes distrust takes physical form. What else can you call the wall being built between Israel and Palestine but a wall of distrust? The Israelis, one of the world’s oldest --and once wisest – races busily walling itself off.
Until recently we Americans have been spared the cancer of distrust. Elections happened every two years for over two centuries. There were winners and losers, but rarely distrust of the results. There was always “next time.” And, even though the other guy won and his/her policies disliked, they were seldom distrusted and their “real motives” the source of suspicion or conspiracy. Back then we just disagreed then went on with life. Why? Because we trusted that our traditions and institutions were stronger than any one person, party or policy. And, that if push came to shove, the courts would stop stupid, prejudiced or repressive legislation before it became an enforceable law.
And, if the courts failed then we trusted that a free press would rip the bad guys a new one and that would be the end of the matter.
This last US election showed that each of those trust-factors has either been weakened or wiped out. Large numbers of Democratic voters still refuse to accept the election results as honest. And, while they challenge the results they fear the courts are now so stacked with Bush appointees that they have little chance there. And, should this election reach the Supreme Court, well, they are still complaining about what the Court did in 2000.Congress, now under complete GOP control is sure not about to do a thing about it.
That leaves the media. Trust in the media is weaker than it has ever been. Over the past decade 0r so America’s once scrappy and fiercely independent media has morphed into just another corporate asset. Major media outlets are now owned and controlled by the same companies that make and market toilet paper, light bulbs and toothpaste. Viewers/listeners and readers now expect only entertainment out of them – even if it is being served up under the guise of news. Questioning the legitimacy of the very federal authorities that dole out broadcast licenses and spectrum is not the kind of thing corporations do for living. And, the public now knows it.
So there we are. Below all the noise and fury over terrorism and economic collapse is distrust driving it all. Yet no one is doing a thing about it. Just the opposite in fact. Daily we create more distrust as distrust feeds on distrust.. Need I explain… attacking nations on trumped up allegations, voting machines that leave no paper audit trails, Halliburton contracts, changing the rules for Tom DeLay, stacking the courts with conservative fundamentalists.. etc.
It’s not terrorism that's going to get us. Terrorist attacks have no more real affect on this nation or its economy than the routine natural disasters, earthquakes, hurricanes or forest fires. We pick up the pieces and move on. And my parent’s generation not only survived a major financial collapse, but also came out of it stronger.
No, there is only one thing that can unravel the whole ball of yarn and it’s distrust. Once we distrust our institutions, the people who run them and the very processes by which those people are chosen, then it’s straight downhill.
Having said all that, I have no global solution the problem. At this point there may be none. After all, it’s not just us. We are just this virus’ latest host. It is already disabling and dismantling social structures right and left. Even religions have lost trust. The Catholic Church revealed as the world’s largest organized pedophile ring, Islamic groups are seen as seedbeds for terrorism, and Jews – of all people on earth -- supporting collective punishment and defacto apartheid for Palestinians.
Drip, drip, drip,…. Trust, replaced by distrust.
What about the United Nations? Sorry. Too late. Oil for Food… Kofi Anan’s son… and that’s just the latest..
Trust. We are running on empty. Where can we get a fill up?
Well, Democratic State party heads begin meeting today in Florida to pick a new DNC leader. This would be as good a place as any to start by first firing everyone in management at DNC national and replacing them with fresh faces from the “grassroots” – a place DNC party leaders like to talk about but with which they have only the most superficial acquaintance.
Then choose a new leader – Howard Dean. Yeah, that’s right. Howard Dean. I would rather have a guy who yells “EYYYYYYYYHAAAAA! when he is pumped than a rich dude who goes windsurfing when the chips are down.
And, I trust Howard Dean.
If they have the balls to pick Dean to lead the party, then I have advice for him too.
Howard, your first act as DNC chairman should be to publicly apologize to Joe Trippi for ditching him during the primaries in favor of that pack of worn out Gore opportunist hacks. Then appoint Trippi head of communications for the DNC. Gawd knows they need one.
(Oh, and them make everyone left at the DNC read this: The Nov. 3 Manifesto. )