Monday, August 26, 2013

What happens when we lose trust in our government?

The most recent episode of the Newsroom (HBO, 8/25/2013, created by Aaron Sorkin) is about trust. At this episode’s end, Charlie, played by Sam Waterston, offers his boss resignations from his top staff and himself because of a horrible “institutional” mistake. Jane Fonda, playing the owner Leona, refuses to sacrifice her brilliant news team so Charlie yells at her, “They don’t trust us anymore!” Leona yells back, “Then, GET IT BACK!”

If we cannot trust our nation’s government, our leaders, then who can we trust? Can they “get it back?”

In families, good-enough parents act with consistency and reliability so that babies learn to trust early on, so that they can feel secure enough to grow up and have healthy, satisfying lives. When parents fail to offer even an illusion of security and safety to the child, the child grows up being anxious, worried, insecure, and sometimes fearful. Growing up in a family where trust is absent is like growing up in our nation these days.

Perhaps earlier American leaders offered the illusion of safety and security because they hid secrets better. Maybe if we didn’t have 24 hour news coverage and our current media industrial complex, we wouldn’t hear about so many lies and deceit not just about leaders who sext and sexually harass, but about many atrocities like our government’s secretly collecting information about all of us. Even after the whistle got blown, our leaders tried to spin the facts, telling us more untruths.

Normally, we condemn the messenger of the truth, sending him and others like him to prison or death. Since we do not want to hear the bad news that our privacy has been violated, we create stories about our world, our nation and ourselves. We fight to keep the delusion of safety and security in any ways possible and if not able, we need much soothing by using avoidant behaviors like spending more money, using more alcohol, drugs, sex and other means to distract us from the truth of this nation, which is that appearances are not reality. Or, rather, what seems to be true in our experiences may be factually wrong but we don’t want to look too closely to find out any differently. Too scary to view with clear, open eyes.

Our nation is in trouble. It is easy to say that someone needs to resign, to be sent to prison, to be impeached. But, there is a more dire problem. Without excellent journalism, how to we even find the truth? We must not accept the lies we are told. We must not put our heads in the sand so that life feels a tiny bit better. We must work together to confront these truths about our government, our leaders and ourselves in order to make a more perfect union. Our leaders must win back our trust and we need to help them learn how to do that. 

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