I’ve been thinking a lot about trust this week.
Many of you may have seen the conversation with Frank Sesno and US Senator Cory Booker last week. Senator Booker made a passionate case for our political system and the belief that by working together we can make it better. The Senator’s view relies on trust both in each other, and in what we can do together.
Our democracy is premised on this trust. As political philosopher, and one-time candidate for governor in Massachusetts, Danielle Allen told an interviewer, “...the healthy functioning of the institutions of liberalism depends on both a willingness of participants to prove their trustworthiness to others and the capacity of a society to build and sustain trust among its members.” (Allen was referring to the political theory of liberalism, not a particular political point of view).
This trust is under assault. For many, the federal budget drama is one more reason not to trust Congress to do the people’s work. Election officials are quitting in droves because of ongoing lies about the 2020 election. Some in Congress and the media are shouting that we can’t trust researchers, professors, public health officials, the courts, and law enforcement. Too many in politics and power are telling us not to trust those who look, pray and love differently than we do. We are being told not to trust those with whom we disagree.
This assault on trust hits home in our community. Most of us in SMPA who have made public statements have received hate mail and even death threats. Some of the students who took part in the focus group that started the event with Senator Booker said they are afraid to express unpopular political views in classes. And all of us are guilty of assuming a mistake or misunderstanding is the result of a conspiracy or hidden agenda.
Our SMPA community, like our national community, relies on trust. Even as we know that sometimes people act and speak out of hatred or fear, we need to believe that most people, most of the time, are trying to do what they believe to be the right things for the right reasons. We have to take the same leap of faith to trust in MPA 307 that Senator Booker urged us to take when he spoke in JMA. Our community in our corner of GW, like our national community, cannot work unless we trust that it can.