Who ever thought you couldn’t trust a jigsaw puzzle, fresh out of the bag, fresh out of the box? Since we usually start with the frame, it became quickly apparent some pieces were missing in the lower left corner of the puzzle. When the rest of the pieces were all in place, the hole was still there, at least nine pieces worth.
We decided to take a picture and send it to the puzzle maker. It took a while, but eventually we received a new and different one in the mail, with their apologies.
On another occasion, the puzzle in the bag in the box was not the puzzle pictured on the box cover. So once again, we took pictures and notified the company that produced it, trusting they would send us the puzzle we thought we were buying. This time there was no response; no apology, no new puzzle.
In a time of pandemic, we’ve been doing more puzzles. 2020 kept us at home more often than not. It seemed natural to trust the puzzle maker, just as one normally expected to trust the health experts, the vaccine makers and the government officials making the rules; or not making them. Especially in a time of pandemic, trust becomes critical for the well being of all. And in this country, trust appears to have bottomed out at an all time low.
Might I suggest that our former president bears some responsibility for the lack of trust. It may have started with the term “fake news.” Whenever there was a report that seemed to put the president in an unfavorable light, he would just call it “fake news.” For instance, the Russian interference in our election faded in significance with each label, whether of “fake news” or “witch hunt.” The New York Times was labeled “failing, corrupt, and the enemy of the people,” perhaps because they tried to keep track of his thousands of lies and misinformation over his four years in office. The Washington Post counted 30,573 false or misleading claims in his presidency.
How does one build trust in the country if criticism is simply labeled instead of answered? How does one arrive at the truth of a situation if there is no debate, simply the dismissing of one’s opponent as the enemy and unworthy of any rational response?
Now we have the problem of trusting the democratic process, whether it’s the certification of election results or the security of the elections themselves. After nine months, 60 court cases and no evidence anywhere, the former president is still claiming election fraud and convincing Republican state legislatures to tighten election rules and carry out expensive, partisan audits. Some Republican candidates are even so bold as to claim election fraud, should they lose, even before the election happens. Whatever happened to our trust in facts, in evidence? Have we become so cynical about the quest for power and profit that nothing and no-one can be trusted? Must we surrender to authoritarian government since elections are being rendered meaningless?
As political trust fades and disappears in partisan blame and aggressiveness, so does trust disappear in other spheres of life that become politicized; like science and vaccines. Just think how low we have sunk in disarray as a people, that some would believe there is a government conspiracy to put computer chips in each one of us with a pandemic vaccine. Or consider the child trafficking ring at the pizza place. This nonsense says as much about the lack of trust in government by the average person as it says about the intelligence of the true believers.
It’s sad to say, but education is increasingly politicized as well. Do we confess our sins as a nation in history class or do we ignore them? Is it alright to talk about stealing native lands or can we dismiss it? May we mention presidential slave holders on Mt. Rushmore? Is it possible to trust that educators will share the big picture without making it a sermon? Is it possible to picture students as thoughtful and resilient human beings, able to decipher truth from falsehood?
Frankly, I’m about to suggest that we remove that long-held motto on our coin of the realm, “In God We Trust.” If we really trusted in God, we would find it much easier to trust another, not always suspicious of their motives and intentions. If we really trusted in God, we would have politicians working for the good of the country and all of its people, not just for their party and political persuasion. If we really trusted in God, we would get the vaccine out of love for the neighbor. If we really trusted in God, we would confess our sins as a nation and resolve to do better.
There are pieces missing in our national puzzle. Maybe the makers neglected to put them in our bag. Maybe we dropped them unknowingly on the floor. Maybe we’ve simply tired of trying to piece it together. Whatever the reason, trust that the completed picture is worth the effort, and beautiful.