May 2020 Election

Ballots await sorting at the Umatilla County Elections office ahead of the ballot deadline on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. Elections are one facet of American society that rely on trust.

Today, let’s talk about trust.

Our society functions on trust. We buy food from restaurants or grocery stores instead of growing everything ourselves because we trust it is safe to eat. We drive 70 miles per hour down the interstate because we trust that other drivers will obey the signs that tell them which direction to drive.

You are willing to trade people valuable items or work in exchange for cash because you trust other people will place the same value on the rectangular pieces of paper in your wallet. In terms of paper and ink alone, a $100 bill and a $1 are bill are no different in value, but you would be willing to put in far more work for a $100 bill than a $1 bill because you trust the system.

And yet, at every turn, people are falling prey to the constant barrage of messages telling them not to trust anyone.

You’ve heard the messages over and over, whether you realize it or not: You can’t trust journalists because they’re biased. You can’t trust police because they’re racist. You can’t trust teachers or professors or academics because they’re tools of liberal indoctrination. You can’t trust religious leaders because they’re bigots. You can’t trust scientists about climate change or COVID-19 because they’re just trying to control you. You can’t trust our national intelligence agencies because they’re part of the Deep State. You can’t trust the military because they only care about oil. You can’t trust doctors or hospitals or public health departments because they just want to make more money. You can’t trust secretaries of state because they’re trying to rig the elections.

At some point, when someone is telling you not to believe anyone but them because everyone else in the world is conspiring against them, that should raise a red flag. Think about how you would feel if a date or a job applicant acted that way — “I swear, every single one of my exes who says I’m an abuser are all crazy!”

Eroding trust in experts does not bode well for a society that relies on trust for everything from economics to elections.

I’m not saying that there aren’t people out there who are incompetent and/or corrupt.

Every single profession has people in it that are bad at their jobs and should be fired. For example, it seems at least once a year at least one person working in education or coaching in Umatilla or Morrow counties ends up in the news for being charged with sexual misconduct with a student.

And yet, if everyone suddenly started pushing the narrative that most teachers are sexual predators, and schools are full of rapists who will attack your child any day now, that would be untrue, unfair and unhelpful.

Instead, parents should talk to their child about appropriate boundaries, schools should put policies in place that help prevent abuse, administrators should immediately pass reports of abuse on to law enforcement and unions should not make it unduly difficult to remove abusers. Then, parents should trust that if they sent their child to school they will be taught by many decent people who truly care about their child and are helping them learn.

Think about your friends and family. What professions are they in? Do you trust their expertise? Now consider this — what do you think is more likely? That you just happen to know one of the few decent teachers, police officers, doctors, lawyers and mechanics around? Or that perhaps the good, competent people you know are the rule rather than the exception?

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