America’s Crisis of Faith

by Diane Dimond on April 30, 2012

Who or What Do You Trust?

“With liberty and justice for all…..” are the last six words of our Pledge of Allegiance. I’m just sappy enough to still hold on to that sentiment as the creed for my country. But to achieve a true feeling of justice you have to have faith, right? So let me ask. How’s your faith holding up? Mine is a little shaky lately.

I’m not talking about a religion-based faith. I’m talking about the faith and admiration we need to have in our government, our social institutions, our communities and our fellow citizens.

An article in the National Journal entitled, “In Nothing We Trust” got me thinking.

Losing Faith When Losing Homes

It is about a man in Muncie, Indiana who lost his home to foreclosure and all the hardships he and his family faced. “The subtitle of the piece was: Americans are losing faith in the institutions that made this country great.”

Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

Mind if I ramble a bit here?

Edwards With Daughter Cate at Federal Court Trial

I’ve been sitting in a federal courtroom in Greensboro, North Carolina this week watching the felony trial of former Senator John Edwards, the two time presidential candidate. He is a man, as you probably know, who destroyed his reputation and career by fathering a baby with a staffer while his wife was suffering from cancer and then boldly lying about it. He’s now accused of federal campaign financing violations for taking illegal donations to help hide the mistress so his campaign wouldn’t tank. It tanked anyway.

It is politicians like Edwards – and, oh, so many others – who have sapped me of my faith in our government. I don’t believe Congress works any longer, nor do the two main political parties. All they do is connive to make sure their side “wins” while the country’s most dire needs go unaddressed. In the meantime, we are left to hope to see some real leadership.

Any Real Leaders Left?

I worry about our over-burdened court system too. Too often it is people with money that get satisfaction while those who can’t hire a big law firm are out of luck. It is not supposed to work that way.

But let’s move on to other institutions we can’t rely on anymore.

Besides the Congressional branch the individual agencies of government are so deeply mired in creating work for themselves that I think hundreds of millions of dollars are wasted on needless bureaucracy and failure to streamline the duplication of effort. And don’t get me started on how many of our tax dollars are lost to plain ol’ fraud and abuse. Who will ever be able to wrap their arms around this monumental problem? We can elect a different president but it’s not going to suddenly mend the bloated and inefficient agencies over which the Chief Executive has control.

All branches of our government seem broken with no way to fix them.

Faith in Banks Crumbling

I’m also wary of our financial institutions. I realize their importance to the health of the economy but the mortgage and foreclosure crisis, the huge paydays for CEO’s of failing corporations, the inability of one major business group to stand up and challenge Washington to help – really help – create more and lasting jobs leaves me with a pit in my stomach. Banks don’t want to lend money in this unstable time yet that seems to be the only cure to our awful unemployment problem.

My confidence in our education system isn’t great either. All the teachers I know complain of two things: The lack of money and the myopic focus of public schools on testing, testing, testing which takes away time from actual learning. And private schools and colleges with their out-of-sight tuitions? At the rate we’re going many of them will have to shut their doors because so few Americans will be able to afford them.

Quality Education Pie in the Sky for Many

How’s that make you feel about the possibility for future generations to out-think and out produce foreign competitors? Yeah, not so great, right?

Organized sports don’t deserve my respect anymore. Professional athletes who take steroids and lie about it, offer each other money to maim opponents or father multiple babies with multiple girlfriends and think nothing of it make me cringe.

Organized religion still offers more positives than negatives, I suppose, but after the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal I soured on that too.

And let’s not forget the media – my chosen profession but another tarnished institution that now garners almost no public confidence. Somewhere along the line true journalism got lost in a tilt either to the left or right. What was left got lumped in with the product of raving cable TV hosts and untrained internet bloggers so that readers and viewers don’t know who to trust – so they trust none of it.

Fact or Bias? You Decide

The institutions America was built on and thrived upon seem creaky and rusty and in desperate need of repair. The phrase, In Nothing We Trust, has never seemed so apropos. But then again, we should admit that we have allowed the slide to happen by our silence and inaction. We’re busy with our own lives and believe someone else will figure it all out. Well, so far no one has.

Thanks for letting me ramble. I guess I need a good kick in my faith. Any suggestions?

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane Dimond April 30, 2012 at 6:54 am

ABQ Journal Reader Kay Jones writes:

“Dear Ms. Dimond,
I always enjoy your writings, and often agree! I read your “Loss of Trust Our Fault, Too”. in today’s paper.
I agree with so much of what you have said, but also see signs of hope, at least in my family.
My granddaughter is graduating from high school next month. She attends a charter school. One of her assignments as a senior was to give a presentation and write a speech about her high school experiences.
I am forwarding it on to you as an example of the hope I have for the future of our country and society. She is only one person, but I know represents many of her peers in her hard won wisdom. In no way can she be considered an optimist, but perhaps a realistic pessimist with hope for the future. She is aware that change comes one person at a time and she will be part of that change. She has been influenced by good teachers and has expressed an interest in teaching in the future.
I hope her speech brings at least a glimmer a hope to you. It has to me.

Sincerely,
Kay Jones

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Diane Dimond April 30, 2012 at 6:55 am

ABQ Journal Reader Richard Prairie writes:

“Right on. I really agree with everything in your article about trust. In our present environment it is very easy to be cynical. Thanks for expressing it so well.”

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Diane Dimond April 30, 2012 at 6:56 am

ABQ Journal Reader Miss Dimond,

“First, I really enjoyed your Loss of Trust article. If it rambled in identifying root causes for a not clearly focused but definitely deeply felt concern, I don’t think it did, it mirrored the feelings of just about everyone I know.

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. In that vein, I just hope you continue doing what you are doing. If you can’t change the evils you see, you at least encourage your readers to try … too.”

Bert Kortegaard

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Diane Dimond April 30, 2012 at 6:56 am

Reader Jane Johnson writes;

“Hello Diane Dimond,

You spoke for so many of us on your op ed, “Loss Of Trust Our Fault, Too.” I have maintained most of my spiritual faith (but not in organized religion,) but my faith in the survival of the USA is getting weak. I wish I had the answers.
Keep writing. Perhaps you will help us find solutions to the survival of our honest ideals.

Thank you for speaking up so well!”
Jane A Johnson

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Diane Dimond April 30, 2012 at 6:57 am

ABQ Journal Reader Jim Dale writes:

“Diane, I’m a big fan of your columns and today’s column in the Albuquerque Journal was especially good, in that
it expressed my views exactly.
These past few years I have come to lose faith in my government and the people running things in Washington.
I am 74 years old and I care what kind of country we are leaving to our children and grand children. It seems to me
that 80% 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.
One theory I have is that the hippies and left minded individuals of the 60’s are the one’s now teaching our children in high schools
and especially the universities. If they are not still teaching then they taught the ones teaching now.
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.
If Obama is re-elected then I don’t hold out much hope for the future of the U.S.
Keep writing great, informative columns.”
A fan.

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Diane Dimond April 30, 2012 at 6:59 am

Reader Ron McPhee writes:

“Ms. Dimond,

While there has been an erosion of trust in our government, media and institutions over the years, I think that any reference to “the old days” or “there was a time the parties could work together” is false nostalgia.

From the beginning, there have been vehemently opposing views on many issues. At the start, the debates between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson pitted the idea of an industrial power backed by institutional finance and a standing military versus a nation of landowners, artisans and tradesmen still using a Native American inspired barter system and a network of volunteer militias. The early parties had their own newspapers, just like today’s Fox News and MSNBC; National Review and The Nation.

The difference at the time though was voting rights. The Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian partisans were like concertgoers at a Van Halen show circa late 1970s/early 1980s, when singer David Lee Roth would be on stage with an unbuttoned shirt or no shirt and making numerous sexual innuendos. The fans, including the female ones knew it was part of the schtick to get the fans going but (yes, I am generalizing here) a 30 something grad assistant or professor of gender studies would likely not be amused by Roth’s insinuations.

Since voting at that time was limited to white males who usually owned property, they were the proverbial fans and the parties were the bands;getting their people going. Yet, their people, as it were, were generally sophisticated enough to read between the lines, just like a female Van Halen fan of that era.

Over time, as voting rights were expanded, many voters unfortunately are low information voters that are not in on the schtick and really believe the talking points and soundbites put out by partisans. I am not for disenfranchising anyone at all; just making an observation.

This is not limited to one party or ideology or the other. Recently, the right wing and modern GOP have used appeals to fear, such as claims that Obama is “an other” who does not appreciate or love America like they do and has secret Islamic Socialist tendencies. In the early 2000s, some leftist elements as well as oddballs like Pat Buchanan claimed that the Iraq invasion and subsequent occupation was undertake to satisfy Israeli aims and used as evidence that several Bush administration figures were Jewish and had done work at one point or other for Israeli political figures. However, the evidence linking those specific persons to a policy was rather tenuous and
found to be weak when contrasted against various other interests and personalities involved in the decision making process.

Of course, these assertions find a place among untrained Internet bloggers and sites, which do not have to meet the same evidence and liability standards as regular papers and news channels. But, the distrust of the media stems from not only allegations of bias, which have lost their oomph by now because it now sounds more like whining than any actual malfeasance, but the lack of actual meaningful content. The regular media, not just TMZ and Access Hollywood, inundated the public with stories about a 50 year old actor marrying a 16 year old girl who kept saying “rill”, which rhymes with grill to say her breasts and teeth were real and also bombarded the public with the whole Kim Kardashian wedding. When they did talk about the debt ceiling debate, it just was a Coke vs Pepsi approach: Bring on a Democrat to say why it needed to be raised, then bring on a Republican particularly a newer one with Tea Party credentials and let that person rant about “gubmint,” then claim they presented equal and opposing sides. No truly independent analysis. No commentary by real economists and experts such as Jeffrey Sachs, Bruce Bartlett, Paul Krugman or anyone who has been involved in these large scale issues and can approach it like an adult.

Recently, the media has been swept up in the whole Secret Service prostitution debacle. Brass tacks: One cheap asshole tried to renege on the deal. I would bet a dozen Dunkin Donuts that most people do not even know what the issues were at the summit in Colombia: Changes to the approach to narcotics, allowing Cuba into the fold after
50 plus years at next year’s summit and trade agreements between the United States and Colombia, which will have an impact on jobs, imports and exports, etc. Yet, the media is going on about something that really boils down to one single jamook who screwed it up for all.

Of course, the pundits and politicians dragged out the old cannard about how guys spill state secrets to a hot woman slithering on their laps. Reality check: Out of the major spy cases that have actually been prosecuted,all were driven by money (Ames, Hanssen,Army warrant officer James Hall, CIA agent Harold James Nicholson and Navy man John Anthony Walker) or ideology (Rosenbergs,Jonathan Pollard). Not one involved femme fatales. It makes for good tv, cinema or novels but no or little concrete evidence of any real life examples.

So, how do we build or rebuild trust? I believe we should not be afraid to look at other nations, particularly the Northern European nations a la Scandinavia, Germany as well as France and Germany. On average, even the German or Swede with just a high school education is better informed than many Americans of equivalent education or even some Americans whom have had some college coursework or a degree. How do their news outlets operate? Years ago, I would have been hesitant over taking press out of private hands because in the extreme case like the USSR and Iran, state ownership meant a media that simply existed as an organ of the government. But, a corporate media that is concerned with ad dollars and is simply a part of a larger complex that includes entertainment is also as bad. So, let’s look at European and Pacific Rim democracies that also rank higher in all important categories. The press also has to go beyond the Coors/Budweiser mentality. I know they have to not appear biased or “in the tank” but they
need to go beyond just letting each side espouse their talking points and then claim to be balanced and point out fallacies in each side’s claims and welcome true independent expert analysis. There was more in depth analysis of the Peyton Manning sweepstakes and how he would fit into each team that courted him than there was of Mitt Romney’s proposals for the economy, which are far more reaching to the mass of people.

I believe there should be term limits and that House members should have a 4 year term so they are not running for re-election practically the day they get into office. Terms should be 12 years each for senators and representatives. As for arguments that states will lose seniority and tenure, no state or district has a right in perpetuity to feed at the trough.

I believe public financing of campaigns should be adopted so as to take money out of the game and the idea that representative government simply exists to represent campaign donors and eliminate conflicts of interest. The filibuster should be eliminated because it is not in the Constitution and while originally meant to spark extended debate on an issue so as not to rush through something on a whim, it now is nothing more than a club used by a vocal minority to bludgeon the majority and make the other side look weak. Debate the issue on its merits and vote. I believe if an elected official has previously worked in an industry that may be affected by certain proposed laws and they have not been removed from it for more than 5 years, they need to disclose their ties to the industry in their votes if not outright recuse themselves from the vote.

Go to a popular vote. Yes, the opponents say only a few states will dominate a popular vote contest but as it is, the Electoral College system is dysfunctional, as candidates have to pander to a few swing states that have a significant number of electoral votes, which are in part based on population. Why not cut out the fat? Also, the counterargument to the opposition is that the big city states are where most of the commerce, industry, finance and people are in this nation. We elect mayors, governors and legislators by direct vote. Why not the top job? Maybe candidates would actually work to win over the most people rather than pander to their base constituencies and a few swing states to get 50.1%.

Lastly, end the two party oligopoly. There comes a time when parties simply become a collection of various constituencies that may even have conflicting aims. Within the GOP, it is a coalition of big business, particularly the oil/gas industry, defense contractors, pharmaceuticals and tobacco companies along with low information rural social conservatives whose big issues are gay marriage and abortion. The Democrats are divided among blue dog Democrats who are in the mold of Bill Clinton and David Boren; some old style LBJ or FDR liberals like Chuck Schumer or Dennis Kucinich and of course, their special interest supporters like trial lawyers, Hollywood and
Wall Street. If each interest had to run on its own merits and not the muscle and money of the existing parties.

The Mad Mick and Mad Pict

Ron McPhee

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Diane Dimond April 30, 2012 at 7:01 am

Reader Vicki Weaver writes:

“Ms. Dimond, 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. Nothing made me smile more than to see Gary Johnson running for president. We debate everything all the time—-openly.
We constantly reinvent ourselves.
I was a speech therapist in public schools. Most of the families I worked with were grateful for what the schools provided. I believe that post high school education is already being changed. Need will dictate that.

I only participated in organized sports in P.E., but enjoy watching amateur and professional sports. The talent and skill displayed is amazing to me.

Have we lost our moral compass? A good topic to continue to debate.

I enjoy your columns. I depend on you to keep us informed about what is going on in our justice system.”

Vicki Weaver

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Diane Dimond April 30, 2012 at 7:02 am

Santa Barbara Reader Bud Stuart writes:

“Hi Diane,

My hunch would be that you will receive quite a bit of support on your ideas about the state of our once proud country.
My conclusion quite some time ago was to trust nothing that came out of the twisted mouth of a politically elected
person. Even our Supreme Court sides with corporations against the rights of real voters. So what’s next, maybe a real
dictatorship?? Why not, since that is what we truly have when votes mean nothing!

Well (excuse my pessimism) but with the population growth this planet is undergoing each year (from 2 billion to over
7 billion in my lifetime) our world is headed for complete disintegration before long anyhow. So the thing to do is to
find Love where you can, and enjoy the feeling of being alive. Just don’t expect anything from a government apparatus
that puts the interests of the average American voter somewhere below our sewers!

All the best.

Bud Stuart DVM
Santa Barbara, CA

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Diane Dimond April 30, 2012 at 7:04 am

Facebook Friend Tracy Petry writes:

“Well done Diane. This country’s foundation is cracked, and there’s no quick fix. My faith & trust has been shaken for many years, and in several ways. Who can you really trust? Clearly not the government. The media is questionable at times. We all know the judicial system is divided. Many religious institutions are hypocritical and bigoted. It’s hard to find ‘faith’ when the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.

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Diane Dimond April 30, 2012 at 7:06 am

Facebook Reader Pat Melchionno writes:

“I’ve always disliked the word “justice” because people scream “justice for Caylee”, “justice for Dr. Petit”, “justice for Trayvon”, etc. what does that mean? A jail sentence makes up for a death? That’s “justice”? There is no word invented that can make up for a death.
Moving on, yes I agree with all the sadness in your pen but let’s try not to fault all for the sins of a few. Sure, steroids are/were a part of baseball as orange juice was to sunshine, as was hiding some priests from sex abuse and some men, feeling of entitlement who have tons of sex and babies with different women and women lacking self worth. Government, banks and the economy is at a all time low and frustrating time in our lifetime but we have to have faith because the alternative irreversible!
Thank you DD and keep on keeping on! Pat from Boston”

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Diane Dimond April 30, 2012 at 7:07 am

Facebook Friend Sara Huizenga Wagasky writes:

” Wow, I’ve been having the exactly same internal dilemma – the partisan divide seems to be destroying so many efforts to do authentic good. Am tired of it ….”

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Diane Dimond April 30, 2012 at 7:07 am

Facebook Friend Patti Petow writes:

“This is a very good piece. Thank God there’s someone out there who has the guts to write about their shaky faith in our system. I couldn’t agree more. It’s no wonder we’re all feeling upside down, sideways and as if we we’re “slip sliding away…” I’m in your choir!”

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Diane Dimond April 30, 2012 at 7:08 am

Facebook Friend (and former intern) Dave ?mbriaco writes:

“I’m with you 100% on this, and I leave you with a Queensrÿche lyric:

I used to trust the man, he had to tell me the truth
That was the truth
But now I see the payoffs everywhere I look
Who do you trust when everyone’s a crook?”

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Diane Dimond April 30, 2012 at 7:09 am

Facebook Friend Donald Tuttle writes:

“I belive you must have Faith.But it getting to be a crisis.”

Reply

Diane Dimond April 30, 2012 at 7:09 am

Facebook Friend Gabriel Dayan writes:

“The crisis of faith is when people have faith in those who are corrupt. The awakening from faith into the habit of due diligence is what inspired the Constitution.”

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Diane Dimond April 30, 2012 at 7:13 am

Creators Syndicate reader Steve writes:

” I have heard two things bring about change: the wanting and the doing.
Before change can occur one first must want change and then take action to bring about change.
To get from wanting to doing usually happens only when the camel’s back breaks. We still seem to be in a time of wanting. Some are in a time of wondering what will break that camel’s back. They say a straw can do it.
In the meantime, we all just bend over.”

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Diane Dimond May 3, 2012 at 8:26 pm

ABQ Journal Reader Robin Spalding writes:

“Dear Diane,

I’m not in the habit of writing concerning things I’ve read in the paper. I think I can count on one hand (quite possibly just a finger) how many times I’ve responded to something that appeared in a newspaper. First let me say how much I enjoy reading your pieces that appear in the paper. I make it a point to pick up the Saturday Journal and look forward to reading what you have written.

With that being said, your column in this past Saturday’s Journal really hit home for me. You touched on so many issues of my discontent. You were also correct when you stated that ” we have allowed the slide to happen by our silence and inaction.” I have never considered myself a political person. I always thought politicians will do and say whatever they think we need to hear so that we will elect them. Once they get in office, they do whatever they want, which is usually to their own benefit, and detrimental to the rest of us. They have yet to prove me wrong, with maybe a couple of exceptions. When I go to the polls to cast my vote, I have to decide not who the best candidate is, but the one I think will do the least damage. The really sad thing is this is not just on a national level, but also in state and local municipal/county government as well. We have so many who operate without impunity that it causes others to do the same. Congress creates laws for us but exempt themselves. Who died and told them they were God? They tell us, or want to tell us, how we should live, eat, act, etc., but then they do the exact opposite. Do as I say, but not as I do. There is no leadership. There hasn’t been for a long time. It doesn’t matter what party it is. It’s all the same. All of this trickles down through society. Everyone wants a handout, from corporations down to individuals, who on one hand, want the government to leave us all alone, yet on the other hand, expect the government to do be our parents and fix everything that we think is wrong.

I could go on and on about so many things, but for the sake of preserving what little sanity I have left, and to not bore you to tears, I will close with this. At the end of your column you ask “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. In my opinion, the most important constitutional amendment that needs to be added is that the Congress shall not be allowed to exempt themselves from the laws they create and pass. No separate retirement and salary and health care plans for the government. If it’s good enough for all of us, then it must be good enough for them as well. They need to rein in the spending of all the government agencies. A slap on the wrist for spending almost a million dollars on a Las Vegas “training” junket must change to felony convictions and paying back what was misused and stolen. If I don’t live within my means, I can’t go out and tax someone who’s wealthy to get more money. I can’t increase my debt ceiling and keep on spending like crazy. At some point, the bank is going to tell me to start paying or else. I think we have reached that point in our country. We can’t leave the next several generations the debt that the past several decades of our government has created. Lead by example! Now, how many politicians do you think will have the courage to do the right thing? I need a good kick in my faith as well, because sadly, I think the answer is none!

Thank you for making me think. Keep up the great articles.”

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