Angst in the Heartland

Gretchen  Hamel
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Posted: Apr 08, 2015 12:01 AM
Angst in the Heartland

Amidst the worship and sugar highs this past Easter Sunday, some somber moments shed light on what the American public—especially in the heartland—is really concerned about.

I’ve always said that I grew up in the belt buckle of the Bible Belt, attending school and church in the small hometown of Chattanooga, Oklahoma. It’s in this town that you will find hard working, God-fearing people who have faith in the future, lift others up, and pray for our leaders.

In a town like this, pollsters would advise their candidate that this community’s top concern this week would be the news in Indiana surrounding religious liberties. However, this past Sunday, when it came time to pray in the church my great grandfather helped build and where he preached, the prayers revealed something different.

We always pray for the military, as we also pray for the leaders of the nation. But this Sunday there was more said in prayer about the brokenness and direction of country. It wasn’t by just one person in one prayer; it was in the opening and the closing prayer. The sincere concern and frustration for the country could be heard in their voices, and I had never heard that before in prayer at our church.

This may seem like nothing new, as all the polls show the frustration and distrust voters have for politicians. But this weekend, it felt palpable. During lunch, when politics came up it was quickly apparent why there’s more concern than usual.

First was disgust for Hillary and how she continues to mislead the public, from using her personal email for State Department business, to not being honest about her devices, to trying to skirt the law. Others brought up how involved the government is in our daily lives. Farm families in this community are especially aware of existing or proposed regulations that will restrict normal farming practices. And with taxes due next week, the conversation naturally flowed to how much is paid and how appalling it is that the IRS has targeted individuals. When it came to rates, someone said “If ten percent is good enough for the Lord, it should be good enough for the government.”

I was caught off guard by the next topic—outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. A conversation I thought was limited to inside the Beltway and talk radio was now regularly heard at kitchen tables in rural American. People remembered that during the 2012 election Senator Harry Reid went to the Senate floor and accused then presidential contender, Governor Mitt Romney, of not having paid taxes in ten years. Saying, "If a person coming before this body wanted to be a Cabinet officer, he couldn't be if he had the same refusal Mitt Romney does about tax returns.” He then went on to say, “ So the word is out that he has not paid any taxes for 10 years. Let him prove he has paid taxes, because he has not."

When asked if he regretted those comments by CNN”s Dana Bash in an interview last week, he said "I don't regret that at all." And then he suggested that he thought his lie had been worth it, "Romney didn't win did he?"

After hearing all of this in a matter of minutes at a dinner conversation that played out to a background of wheat pastures and cattle grazing, it’s clear why there is so much angst. We have a crisis in trust. Without the will of the public no major policy changes can happen, but with no trust there can be no will. Americans are sick of the current state of politics and the direction of our country. If our nation is to right itself and heal, it must start with leaders with integrity. It all begins with having faith in those who lead.