By: Jonathan S. Hogue ~Opinions & Editorials Editor~
On January 12, 2016, President Obama will address Congress and discuss the state of our union. People can expect the president to go through the normal political theatrics, but individuals who carefully watch the news and listen to our national discourse will notice that our union is in trouble.
From coast to coast there is a lack of trust in government. Last year, National Public Radio conducted a survey to gauge how large the trust deficit in American politics is.
The results showed only 19 percent trust government and 74 percent said public officials put their needs over those of their constituency. This data explain why government does not work, and also speaks volumes on the overall trust deficit that plagues America.
Whether the issue is police reform, land disputes or gun ownership, Americans do not trust anyone to have their backs. USA Today reported that only one third of Americans say most people can be trusted.
This rate is the lowest ever recorded since the poll was first conducted in 1972. So, if people do not trust each other, how do we expect government to work? As the faith goes, so does the ability for government to function. Pollsters warned that trust deficits have a tendency to lead to corruption and pessimism in public debates, and I agree with this warning.
When most Americans think about government or politics in general, corruption and pessimism are the only things we focus on. This is sad, because trust-deficits lead to dangerous assumptions about political issues and an “I Complex” begins to form.
What is the “I Complex”? It is when people ignore the “we” and solely focus on themselves when discussing controversial topics. I completely made this up, but I believe it accurately describes the state of our political discourse. Let me explain why.
When people do not trust one another, they believe their opinions are the only ones that matters in debate. If I watch the news or listen to debates, I often hear “I” used more than “we” or “others” if someone expresses an idea on how to move the issue forward.
This closes people off from the plight of others and removes the process of coalition-building from politics.
A lack of coalitions encourages our nation’s dangerous tendency of moving from crisis to crisis. The only time we remove ourselves from the “I Complex” is when a tragedy forces individuals to see the wrong in their close-minded perceptions.
It is now 2016. We have to move beyond pettiness and bickering. In terms of law enforcement, it is naïve for any person to minimize the work done by Black Lives Matter protesters and young people protesting police brutality. Segregation and discrimination were the law of the land for 192 of the 240 years of our nation’s history. Those wounds do not heal in one generation, and public institutions, like law enforcement, will have to change in order to heal old wounds.
The Oregon ranchers and citizens opposed to gun regulation have a right to voice concerns
about government intervention. It is fine to question law. U.S. Government has a history of passing completely stupid laws, but this does not give people the excuse to disregard authority whenever it is convenient for them. Two wrongs do not make a right.
Government is run by your neighbors, family and everyday citizens. The use of ignorance and fear by factions to voice discontent shows adherence to the “I Complex” and a complete lack of respect for the community.
There needs to be a public consensus on rebuilding trust in this country. If we want to tackle big issues in 2016, Americans need to learn that trust is not an option but a necessity. Americans need to feel comfortable in removing the “I Complex” from debate.
I do not want people to disregard their feelings on issues, but to just be quiet and listen as much as you speak. Pessimism does not work in the long run.
To all of you reading, I wish you a healthy and happy 2016. Please take the time to be good citizens and care for the places you call home.
I only hope that as the year continues, my title can be switched from “The state of our union is poor” to “the state of our union is strong.” Prove me wrong, folks.