I hate to launch my column with an often-derided cliche, but some of my best friends are black and that has always been the case. It could be my upbringing or my lifelong love of sports, but I count this collegial cocktail as a real blessing in my life.
So in the wake of Ferguson, it was natural to me to reach out to my friends to get their take, and what I got back surprised me and educated me. What I accepted as fact was questioned by my comrades who suggested that law enforcement and judicial representatives were simply lying.
And these men are hardly revolutionary anarchists. They are solid citizens, family men, businessmen and thoughtful people. They have just had different life experiences than I have. Each talked about bogus traffic stops and/or harsh treatment by law enforcement throughout their lives.
These life experiences have destroyed the trust they have in our legal system. To quote Benjamin Watson in his current viral Facebook post, "Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish." This reminded me of the importance of "trust" in life in general, but particularly in government. When we feel we can't trust the people we elect or whose salaries we pay, they lose their legitimacy. For my friends, it is law enforcement, and for me, it becomes the government, especially in Washington.
So, when Hillary Clinton said, "What difference does it make" during her testimony on Benghazi in front of Congress, she couldn't have been more clueless, in my opinion. The outrage about Benghazi goes beyond the deaths of four loyal and brave Americans who were just doing their jobs. The anger is driven by the idea that our government was simply not honest with us.
This is just one more thing that dilutes our trust in government. Let's add Obamacare on to the "lack of confidence" pile that our government is creating. First, the president earned the lie of the year by PolitiFact for his promise that, "if you like your plan, you can keep it." Then we have promise after promise being broken. Premiums have not come down. Deductibles have gone up. And the cost of Obamacare is now nearly three times what was originally promised.
If all of that was not enough to earn every American's skepticism, enter Jonathan Gruber. This MIT professor was unquestionably a key architect of Obamacare, no matter what Nancy Pelosi says. In a recent lapse into honesty, this arrogant elitist informed Americans that the law had been devised to intentionally mislead not only average Americans, who he called "stupid," but also the supposedly non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
All of these acts of deception, arrogance and outright prejudice erode the faith of the public in our government. Every police officer who pulls over a black man for some phony violation contributes to this erosion. Every politician who abuses the truth to get elected has violated his or her fundamental pledge and contributes to our country's overall mistrust of government.
This accumulation of mistrust in the government has been a team effort, and reversing it will take the same.
Part of the fix is making every police department look like the communities they protect. Ferguson is project No. 1. Why are there only three black police officers out of the 50 in Ferguson when Ferguson is 67 percent African-American? And don't tell me there aren't enough applicants. The city just needs to try harder.
The next part of the fix will certainly be the most difficult. We need our politicians to tell the truth. We are far from that today, but the good news is we control their fate with our votes. We need to pay attention. We need to become informed voters, and we need to vote the lying manipulators out of office. But a recent development gives me some hope in this area.
Charles Schumer, Democratic senator from New York, just admitted publicly that focusing on Obamacare back in 2009 was a mistake. He was not saying health care didn't have issues that needed to be addressed; he was just saying that it should not have been "the" priority at that time. Specifically, he said, "that was not the job we were hired to fix." I agree with him.
I'm sure he will be attacked, especially by members of his own caucus, but for me, his honesty gives me new hope that our government can work. It is this kind of veracity that can begin to rebuild the trust that we so desperately need in our government. I applaud you, Chuck.
KEVIN CANFIELD OF SPRINGDALE IS AUTHOR OF "MASTERING SALES." HE ALSO BLOGS AT KEVINCANFIELD.BLOGSPOT.COM.Commentary on 12/07/2014
Print Headline: The View from the Middle Lack Of Trust Core Issue In Ferguson, Washington