“With liberty and justice for all ...” are the last six words of our Pledge of Allegiance. I’m just sappy enough to still hold on to that sentiment as the creed for my country. But to achieve a true feeling of justice, you have to have faith, right? So let me ask: How’s your faith holding up? Mine is a little shaky lately.
I’m not talking about a religion-based faith. I’m talking about the faith and admiration we need to have in our government, our social institutions, our communities and our fellow citizens.
An article in the National Journal titled, “In Nothing We Trust,” got me thinking. It is about a man in Muncie, Ind., who lost his home to foreclosure, and all the hardships he and his family faced. The subtitle of the piece was: “Americans are losing faith in the institutions that made this country great.”
Yep, that pretty much sums it up.
Mind if I ramble a bit here?
I was sitting in a federal courtroom in Greensboro, N.C., last week, watching the felony trial of former Sen. John Edwards, the North Carolina Democrat and two-time presidential candidate. He is a man, as you probably know, who destroyed his reputation and career by fathering a baby with a staffer while his wife was suffering from cancer, and then boldly lying about it. He’s now accused of federal campaign financing violations for taking illegal donations to help hide the mistress so his campaign wouldn’t tank. It tanked anyway.
It is politicians like Edwards — and, oh, so many others — who have sapped me of my faith in our government. I don’t believe Congress works any longer, and neither do the two main political parties. All they do is connive to make sure their side “wins” while the country’s most dire needs go unaddressed. In the meantime, we are left to hope to see some real leadership.
I worry about our overburdened court system, too. Too often it is people with money who get satisfaction, while those who can’t hire a big law firm are out of luck. It is not supposed to work that way.
But let’s move on to other institutions we can’t rely on anymore.
Besides the congressional branch, the individual agencies of government are so deeply mired in creating work for themselves that I think hundreds of millions of dollars are wasted on needless bureaucracy and failure to streamline the duplication of effort. And don’t get me started on how many of our tax dollars are lost to plain ol’ fraud and abuse. Who will ever be able to wrap their arms around this monumental problem? We can elect a different president, but it’s not going to suddenly mend the bloated and inefficient agencies over which the chief executive has control.
All branches of our government seem broken with no way to fix them.
I’m also wary of our financial institutions. I realize their importance to the health of the economy, but the mortgage and foreclosure crisis, the huge paydays for CEOs of failing corporations, the inability of one major business group to stand up and challenge Washington to help — really help — create more and lasting jobs leaves me with a pit in my stomach. Banks don’t want to lend money in this unstable time, yet that seems to be the only cure to our awful unemployment problem.
My confidence in our education system isn’t great, either. All the teachers I know complain of two things: the lack of money and the myopic focus of public schools on testing, testing, testing, which takes away time from actual learning. And private schools and colleges with their out-of-sight tuitions? At the rate we’re going, many of them will have to shut their doors because so few Americans will be able to afford them.
How’s that make you feel about the possibility for future generations to out-think and out-produce foreign competitors? Yeah, not so great, right?
Organized sports don’t deserve my respect anymore. Professional athletes who take steroids and lie about it, offer each other money to maim opponents or father multiple babies with multiple girlfriends and think nothing of it make me cringe. Organized religion still offers more positives than negatives, I suppose, but after the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, I soured on that, too.
And let’s not forget the media — my chosen profession, but another tarnished institution that now garners almost no public confidence. Somewhere along the line, journalism got lumped in with the product from raving cable TV hosts and untrained Internet bloggers, so that readers don’t know whom to trust — and they trust none of it.
The institutions America was built on and thrived upon seem creaky and rusty and in desperate need of repair. The phrase, “In Nothing We Trust,” has never seemed so apropos. But then again, we should admit that we have allowed the slide to happen by our silence and inaction. We’re busy with our own lives and believe someone else will figure it all out. Well, so far, no one has.
Thanks for letting me ramble. I guess I need a good kick in my faith. Any suggestions?