"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

On trust

carlson CHRIS


Once lost, can trust ever be restored? That question lays at the heart of an increasingly polarized world in which contestants rarely argue whether one is correct or incorrect, but rather whether their view makes them good and your view makes you evil. The first victim in such conflicts is the truth and the second is trust.

There’s no question many institutions we once posited with our trust have forfeited and lost it. The Roman Catholic Church is a classic example. This bastion of supposed moral authority turns out to be populated with priests who prey on vulnerable children and don’t begin to practice the Gospel message of love they preach. They just don’t get it that there’s an obligation to the truth that comes with the territory.

When the truth began to emerge, from the canonized Pope John Paul II to cardinals to bishops of various dioceses, many engaged in covering up outright illegal, immoral behavior or at a minimum implicitly condoned reprehensible acts by moving offending priests to other parishes.

The Boise diocese’s own Bishop Mike Driscoll, while serving as an administrative Vicar General in Orange County, California, admitted to transferring several priests suspected of engaging in abusive behavior to new parishes. He later apologized and profusely asked for forgiveness. On April 27th, Bishop Driscoll hailed the “fast-track” canonization of John Paul II and of the beloved Pope John XXIII. The latter deserves it, the former does not.

Many Catholics, even the few still in the pews, rightly question the propriety of canonizing the pope who sat on the Throne of Peter and did little to address the priestly abuse of children. Such “see no evil” destroyed the laity’s trust in the Church hierarchy. Can anyone blame their cynical reaction to a “public relations” exercise to the dual canonization?

Likewise, too many Federal institutions have forfeited our trust by engaging in cover ups of unpleasant truths. Every large institution operates on a principle of survival first, even if that means lying to the public that pays their salary and rationalizing that the end justifies the means.

From lies about the health impacts of atomic bomb testing in the atmosphere in the 1950’s to lies about outright power grabs by agencies like EPA, which today seeks total control over all Idaho’s waters, not just navigable waters, it should come as no surprise that the public posits no trust.

Once trust is lost, whether it is between two people or between governors and the governed, like virtue itself, it is never totally restored. Not to over-generalize, but as a society we have little faith anymore in any level of government or any large institution. This is true whether the institution is private or public, or the media that supposedly is a watchdog, or the police agencies supposedly charged with protecting us.

This disconnect can give way to fear which manifests itself in the growth of militias and the search for “white knight” leaders who pander to our fears rather than call on our better angels.

The glorification of scofflaw Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy is disgusting, but Idaho First District Congressman Raul Labrador was absolutely correct in pointing out that while Bundy should be held accountable to the law it was also wrong for armed BLM agents to try to enforce the law at the point of a gun. His nuanced response to the situation saved him the embarrassment experienced by other “jump on the bandwagon” politicians like Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who had to back away from earlier expressions of support once Bundy began espousing his racist views.

With this loss of faith in government and institutions neither should it come as a surprise that those living in fear espouse the view they will have to rely on themselves for protection against a predatory government in a predatory society increasingly polarized by the growing gap in education and wealth.

An integral part is the belief that the Second Amendment is an absolute right of the individual, not a qualified right as defined by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in the 5-4 D.C. vs. Heller decision.

No question either that excessive government response to incidents from Ruby Ridge to Waco inevitably leads to more reasonable, rational, sane folks becoming if not radicalized then fearful of a government that indeed someday could try to confiscate one’s firearms.

Can trust, once lost, ever be restored? Perhaps, but it behooves all levels of government and all institutions to remember public trust is a function of always obeying the law and operating transparently.

Trust is the sine qua non of all relationships. Without it, society cannot and will not function. Fear is the antithesis. President Franklin D. Roosevelt once famously said “all we have to fear is fear itself.” He was absolutely correct.

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