America needs to get over its tolerance for lying.
Lying is a one-sided weapon used to gain advantage(1), and in doing so
it attacks trust -- fragile trust -- the very basis of civilization.
During the Bush years, lying became the expected norm in politics, in
an era of massive dishonesty above, and bitter cynicism below.
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But cynicism is a cop-out -- a retreat into negative thinking. It
reveals unwillingness to deal with a problem, which can only be solved
Now that we have a seemingly trustworthy President, the public should
try to transcend its cynicism, for if the governing equation is to
work, there must be trust on both sides.
President Obama has stated his commitment
to building trust:
"My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of
openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public
trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and
However, as Russ Baker has recently written
, he is up against a national security agenda that is run by the CIA and the Pentagon,
"powerful and independent fiefdoms characterized by entrenched agendas
and constant intrigue, [which] have ways of dealing with those who
won't come to heel. Compound that with the Bush-Cheney administration's
aggressive seeding of its staunch loyalists throughout the bureaucracy,
and you have a pretty tough situation." (3)
This deep-seated inertia may help people who are disillusioned with Barack Obama to understand his obstacles. Howard Zinn recently expressed such disappointment
by saying, "there's an enormous weight left over by the Bush
administration. Unfortunately, he [Obama] has done nothing to begin to
lift that weight."(4)
Though this is not exactly true (Obama has made strides in urban
policy, educational assistance and highway projects), Zinn calls for
counteraction of the inertia by grassroots protest and pressure to
reduce the militarism that is currently bankrupting America.
And Zinn has a good point. Obama cannot turn things around by himself.
He cannot confront these deeply embedded interests, their hands on the
levers of power, without a strongly mobilized public behind him.
Obama's vision of a rebirth of democracy requires more than a mere
election, which scripts government as the authoritarian parent, and its
citizens as the helpless (and often resentful) children.
His grassroots democracy requires a fundamental change in the governing
relationship, with vigilant responsible adults actively exerting
influence at every turn.
Indeed we must relate to the challenge Obama faces, as equals.
Only equality between the population and its leaders will build public
trust. Governors and governed face one another like infinitely
reflecting mirrors, and neither can function effectively without trust
from the other.
Becoming equal partners with the President means rising above our
negative projections, and viewing the timeworn knee-jerk hostility to
political leaders for the lazy destructive habit it is.