"Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.”Exodus (18:21)
Recently at a wedding, I met a woman who is an operating room nurse. After telling her that I write op-eds, she said that she does not follow politics. But, in her next breath she succinctly summarized the state of American politics saying, “I don’t know what side you are on, but I don’t know who to trust.”
Her profound dilemma resonated with me because trust is a key foundational concept upon which our nation was built, grew, prospered and emerged as the undisputed leader of the post-war world.
According to Merriam-Webster, trust is defined as, “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something” and “one in which confidence is placed.”
This definition further complicates the question, “Whom can we trust?” because what should be a simple answer has become convoluted, multi-faceted, relative, and wholly dependent on one’s political leanings, race, age, gender, education, faith, economic status, and occupation. Therefore, the lack of a cohesive political answer speaks volumes about where we are as a nation and what the future holds.
Now, don’t forget that the U.S. government offers an official answer to, “Whom can we trust?” Engraved on coins, first starting in 1864 and printed our currency since 1957 is the motto, “In God We Trust.”
According to Wikipedia, “A law passed in a Joint Resolution by the 84th Congress (P.L. 84-140) and approved by President Dwight Eisenhower on July 30, 1956, declared ‘In God We Trust’ must appear on American currency.”
Daily, we all carry this powerful motto in our wallets. However, its meaning is vastly diminished in an increasingly secular society, when this is coupled with a distrust of government institutions.
According to Gallup poll released in June entitled, “Americans' Confidence in U.S. Institutions, 2018” — the historically low levels reflected the national political distrust expressed by the nurse.
For example, the three branches of government did not fare well with only 37 percent of adults expressing confidence in “The presidency” and “The Supreme Court.” Even worse, “Congress” earned the confidence of a mere 11 percent of adults.
Furthermore, only 38 percent had confidence in “The church/organized religion” while “The Military,” at 74 percent, earned the highest confidence levels of all the federal institutions.
Trust starts at the top. Lack of trust has birthed our current leadership crisis.
President Obama famously and ineffectively, "led from behind" as he decimated his party (and many would say the nation) along the way.
Conversely, President Trump leads by chaos and divisiveness — a unique style approved today by 42.6 percent of voters — and why we are what I call, the “Divided States of America.”
As our nation begins 2019 with both a Republican president and Senate attempting to legislate with a Democratic-controlled House, will our leaders work to earn the trust and confidence of all the American people? Or, will they exhibit a self-serving strategy that plays to their bases with an eye toward 2020?
Americans inherently want to trust their leaders. We want them to find solutions to a myriad of national problems. For that reason, it was painful to hear the nurse say, “I don’t know who to trust” because such thinking, multiplied by millions of voters, will eventually reduce our great country to a shadow of its former self.
Today and moving forward with the government partially shut down and our nation in the midst of a leadership crisis, I offer two suggestions:
First, support leaders and vote according to the ancient wisdom cited at the top of this piece in Exodus (18:21) — and of course, add “women” too.
Second, revisit and ponder the words displayed on our currency, “In God We Trust.” It is easy to forget that it’s there. But, given the current state of our nation, it is wise to depend on, and look to, a higher authority.