When babies are born, they have little choice but to trust their caregivers, who are usually the parents. As they mature and are able to distinguish one person from another, they tend to show great preference for the parents with whom they have bonded. A trusting relationship develops that should remain intact throughout life, barring violation of that trust. Unfortunately, in some cases, the baby or young child suffers abandonment, abuse or some other form of emotional injury, and the trust is violated. Often the relational rupture cannot be repaired or requires extensive explanations and alteration of behavior to heal.
Relationships between the masses of people in the governing bodies can also be healthy or fractured. For decades in America, a guaranteed laugh line was, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.” As things exist now in our country, the situation has deteriorated to the point where this is no longer funny.
Years ago, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden would have almost unanimously been declared a traitor for having revealed government secrets to foreign sources. Now because so many people see the United States government as dishonest and untrustworthy, Mr. Snowden is viewed as a whistleblower worthy of praise for having the courage to expose secretive behavior by the government that involved spying on all Americans. Only by understanding his motives will we be able to appropriately characterize his actions. The larger question is, do we have an honest government that is transparent and trustworthy, or is there a legitimate cause for concern on behalf of the citizens of our nation? It is certainly not too late for our government to come clean about the many scandals that have been characterized as “phony” by the executive branch. Government officials say there is just a misunderstanding of the facts. If this is the case, why not just answer some basic questions and clear things up for the sake of transparency and trust? It should not be all that difficult to answer some simple questions, such as these:
Historically, we have never deserted our men and women in combat despite the danger or difficulty in attempting to save them. Our enemies have learned that we do not give up, and if they attack us, there will be a significant price to pay. Equally important, our troops have never had reason to doubt the commitment of our government to use all available resources to ensure their safety. Given this past commitment, why did the administration abandon our forces in Benghazi, Libya?
There are surveillance cameras in stores, private and public businesses, airports and other areas of public transportation. In almost all cases, there are signs posted informing the public that they are being monitored. Why is our government using the National Security Agency to spy on the telephone and email records of the American people, and who knows what else, without first informing them? Will officials commit to at least informing us in the future of their decisions to disregard the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits illegal and inappropriate searches and seizures? Why isn’t this kind of activity just another version of what happened in Watergate, but at a much higher technical level?
Many people have sought refuge in this country to avoid persecution by the governing powers. America was supposed to be a place where you can confidently voice disagreement with the government without fear of retribution. Now it has been shown without doubt that the Internal Revenue Service has been intentionally harassing perceived opponents of the current administration. Why isn’t this a constitutional violation, and why shouldn’t “we the people” be outraged that freedom of expression is being suppressed by the very people who are supposed to protect it? Since public trust in the IRS has been so badly compromised, why should this agency be placed in charge of compliance with Obamacare?
Those who have visited a prison might have noticed that most of the inmates are innocent of the crimes of which they were convicted — at least in their own eyes. Certainly, that shouldn’t come as a shock — rationalization is a very powerful mental tool for assuaging the conscience. In light of this, how can members of the administration accused of wrongdoing think they can investigate themselves in a manner that will prove objective and credible to the public?
Why does the administration continue to characterize the deadly Fort Hood shootings as “workplace violence” when virtually everyone else — including the suspect himself — says it was an act of terrorism? Don’t those who maintain that view realize that the public will not hold them responsible for an act of terrorism that occurred on American soil during their watch?
People want to have faith in their government. The current administration doesn’t have to be the most transparent one in history, as was promised, but a little transparency would certainly be helpful at this time.
Ben S. Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University.