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Mistrust of the Government

In news that is not too surprising a new poll by the Pew Research Center shows that only 22% of the population trusts the government to do what is right. Of course, given recent discussions both here and in public, none of this is shocking.

Economic uncertainty, a highly partisan environment and overwhelming discontent with Congress and elected officials were all factors contributing to the current wave of public distrust, the report said.

The real problem is that this is a continuing trend that sees "trust" in the government steadily declining since the days of Eisenhower when nearly ¾ of the American public trusted government. And while it is a personal opinion, what we now see is the end result of a decade of the polarization of America. Witness what is happening (or has happened) in this country. It isn't just the politicization of issues, but the social implications of some of the things that have occurred in this country over the last few years. America has become polarized beyond all comprehension to those who during the 1960's and 1970's worked for freedom and the right to protest.

Labels like Democratic or Republican or liberal or conservative aren't the issue as much as it is that the extremes appear to be the leading edge of American thinking. While it probably started long before the Presidential election of 2000, the political landscape of this country has changed because people who might never have had an outspoken political position in their lives suddenly had greater access to the Internet, and therefore to discussion groups where it is not too hard to find like-minded people who share one's strongly held beliefs, however misguided or slanted they might be. Political discussion groups have proliferated the Internet.

Thus, this is a country divided, not by race, not by religion, not by income, but by extreme ideology. In the year 2000 it became fashionable to use labels as weapons. So the "staunch conservative" right said the word "liberal" with all of the venom that could be mustered as though it was a dirty word instead of an honored political philosophy. Today, the word "liberal" has moved so far to the left that people who might have grown up being "anti-war" and admiring Jacob Javitts (R-L Senator from New York), John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy (D Senator from New York), or Al Lowenstein (D-L, Rep. From NY) and many others could not possibly find a place in any group that called itself "liberal" in today's use of the word.

Disagreement with public policy is now branded as racist and un-American because of who we elected as President and because the levels of discontent are so high and so disparate across social groups and geography. Indeed, we are a country divided, not by race, not by religion, not by income, but by extreme ideology. Even if slightly out of context, we should remember the words of Abraham Lincoln: "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

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