We don’t trust our government. That’s it, that’s what’s wrong with our great nation. Simple, easy, there you go. There’s the big idea. There’s what you need to fix to make your life better.
Or is it so simple?
Well, to be honest, no. Which is why I somehow doubt it will ever be adopted. We have historically been characterized by our ‘distrust of government’, a notion so supposedly ingrained in our national identity that there’s just no shifting it. Too bad, that’s the notion screwing us all over the proverbial barrel.
But hold on a tick, isn’t being a skeptical, distrusting public a good thing? Wouldn’t that make it easier to question our public officials and make it harder to be lied to?
Well, it would be if we were a skeptical, distrusting public. We’re not, we’re just cynical and apathetic. We don’t think about the various scandals and travails. We just sneer, pretend to cut a clever remark, roll our eyes, and do nothing. Which is what screws us all over. Where is the shock? Where is the outrage? Where is the willingness to pick up the torches and the pitchforks of modern 24/7 news media and put a few heads on yonder pikes?
As said, it’s wallowing in cynical apathy, the thoughtless, easy alternative to actually being a nation of skeptics and questioners. When you don’t expect great things from a group of people, you are not shocked or outraged when they screw up. You just accept it, maybe complain a little, and try to move on. And then you let them do it again. And again.
This complicity bordering on acceptance is how corruption is allowed to take root. It gives a pass to bad behavior by never expecting it to get better, by never expecting it to be better in the first place.
In this great nation of ours (a phrase I use now, as then, in the most sincere way possible) there is a small piece of federal legislation called the Freedom of Information Act. This small piece of paper legally requires our federal institutions to operate under a dome of transparent glass. If you, an American citizen, want to find out what Social Security is doing with your money, then you can. If you, an American citizen, want to know where the federally funded (your tax dollars) Medicare program is allocating its resources, then you can. If you want specific blue prints of the latest generation of America’s active nuclear arsenal you can’t, but you get the idea. As an American citizen, your government is transparent as existing federal law permits, which is quite a lot.
The effort just needs to be followed through, and the trust enough to risk being disappointed needs to be allowed. I know it might sound radical, but history’s greatest figures were those brave enough to let themselves hope for a better tomorrow. They knew that there were three forces in life: God, work and government and only one answered to their calls for change.