Sometimes a columnist writes something that grabs people by the throat. I guess I accomplished that last week when I wrote about a recent article I had read called, “In Nothing We Trust.”
It hit me smack between the eyes that I don’t have much faith in any of our public institutions anymore. Don’t trust Congress. Don’t trust that government agencies are really looking out for me. Don’t trust that banking or investment institutions care about my needs. Don’t trust that public schools or organized religions operate with the common good in mind. Don’t trust that the court system or the police always operate with true justice as the goal. These, of course, are the pillars that hold up society as we know it. Apparently, many of you agree with me.
I received so many responses to last week’s column, I just have to share. Let’s keep the topic going — but let’s also think in terms of positive solutions. I’m tired of hearing myself complain! I seek solutions!
Reader Jim Dale wrote me: “Our forefathers, who founded this nation, declared our independence and wrote our Constitution, were very smart individuals, but one would think that our leaders today just don’t give a damn. I am 74 years old, and I care what kind of country we are leaving to our children and grandchildren. It seems to me that 80 percent of our elected representatives, of both parties, don’t care about anything but their own re-elections and could not care less about what kind of world they are leaving.”
Robin Spaulding agrees and offers advice: “You asked, ‘Any suggestions?’ To that I will say this: Leadership means doing whatever action needs to be done, but starting with yourself. The government needs to start behaving better. Before they start cutting what they call our ‘entitlements,’ they need to start with their own. Cut your own salaries and benefits ... (Pass a) constitutional amendment that Congress shall not be allowed to exempt themselves from the laws they create and pass. No separate retirement and salary and health care plans. Lead by example!”
Len Estill wrote: “My faith is gone, too. I think our government has morphed into something controlled by groups with mega-dollars, not the people. And yes, we the people are at fault because we let it happen. There is a candidate I like, one I could get behind, but there is no hope in our current system of elections that he can possibly win. ... It’s Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party.”
Estill blames the media for shutting out good candidates from presidential debates. All right, Len. Let’s put that on our solutions list. The media and the two major political parties need to hear that Americans want more of a choice when it comes to picking candidates — not just the anointed ones put forth by big-wigs in the Democratic or Republican parties. The mega-money-backed groups, Len? I’m not sure they’ll ever go away, but we, the people, can work to make sure they don’t matter so much.
Reader Vicki Weaver also hoped for a Gary Johnson for President Campaign. “I see all the problems you mentioned in your ‘Loss of Trust’ column, but I also see more good. We have a political system in which everyone can try to run for office.” And Weaver asks: “Have we lost our moral compass? (It’s) a good topic to continue to debate.”
I think so, too, Vicki, because a country is only as good as its people and the leaders who run for public office. Restoring integrity to and trust in government matters because, as reader Jerry Burke asks: “Is our great country becoming a tinderbox of frustration that could explode into fury and civil unrest at the slightest provocation?” What do you think would happen if another Rodney King incident were to happen right now? Burn, baby, burn?
Wow, I hope not, Mr. Burke, but after seeing some of the reaction to the Trayvon Martin killing in Sanford, Fla., where vigilante bounties were put on the head of the confessed shooter, I cannot rule it out.
Look, there are so many changes that need to be made in so many different American institutions that it might be best for each and every one of us to start small. And yes, that means all you politicians and civil servants out there, too.
As reader Bert Kortegaard wrote when I asked for ideas to give my faith a kick-start: “Suggestions? Well, I and my neighbors give positive support to our community by just trying to be good neighbors, in spite of all the negatives we see on all sides. That not only helps the community, we believe, but reassures us that we are not alone and are actually accomplishing something of value.”
I couldn’t have said it better. Progress always starts with small steps and a determination to change things. I have become determined to try to do what I can.