Robin: Trusting is Believing

By Steve Robin

I belong to a small discussion group. The topics vary a lot. Deep sometimes; pretty shallow other times. Two weeks ago, the talk got around to trust and how important that is to how we get along with each other. 

After agreeing that trust is central to cooperation, the discussion got around to trust in our political entities. Numbers were thrown around about the percentages of Americans who had a high degree of trust in the Congress, the president and his administration, and the court system. Everyone agreed that the numbers were lower than we would hope to see and that they seemed on average to be going down over the years, not up. The theory was posed that if trust in our basic institutions is low, that lack of trust would tend to show up society as a whole. Pretty heady stuff.

I didn’t think about it again until two days later day when my dentist said that she had had a talk about her son’s grades with the school principal and doubted she was getting a straight story. “Why would you not get a straight story?” I asked. “Aren’t grades just numbers? What can be not straight about a number?” Well, it turns out that the principal had just transferred to the Loudoun school system from a rural area in the Midwest, and my dentist was pretty sure that the principal did not take kindly to the kids living in a “purple state.” I put that in my “think it over” basket.

The next day, my neighbor and I were talking about bank loans. He had been checking into mortgage loans and had talked to several lenders. Turns out he was quite sure that his activist activities in local politics had caused two of the lenders to turn him down. I pointed out that those two loan officers had each been operating without incident in the county for over 15 years. But that bit of information carried no weight with my neighbor, who pointed out that his politics and theirs were poles apart, and said they probably had it in for him. Beginning to look like my discussion group might be on to something.

Two days later we’re at dinner with friends. The man had been in a bad car accident a year earlier, and the young woman who had caused the accident had recently been criminally prosecuted in the local courts for reckless driving. The judge had heard the testimony and had dropped the charge to improper driving with a fine of only $100. Our friend, who had sustained significant physical damage, was livid. He wanted to know who appointed that judge. Must have been some kind of political quid pro quo was his view, and that remained his view the rest of the evening.

I duly reported these stories to the most recent meeting of my discussion group. We all agreed they were interesting, although they were after all only a small sample, just anecdotal. 

But then, two days later, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away … and now we’re off to the races, big time.

Steve Robin is a retired attorney, a resident of Loudoun for over 45 years and an observer of life for considerably longer than that.

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