WASHINGTON (AP) – You can take our word for it. Americans don’t trust each other anymore.
We’re not talking about the loss of faith in big institutions such as the government, the church or Wall Street, which fluctuates with events. For four decades, a gut-level ingredient of democracy – trust in the other fellow – has been quietly draining away.
These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question.
Why such mistrust? Perhaps looking at changes in other trends over the same period might reveal some clues:
– By 1970, immigrants comprised about 4.7 percent of the U.S. population. As of 2010, fully one-quarter of the population under 18 were immigrants or their children… and an estimated eight percent of all children born in America were born to illegal immigrants.
– Nearly 55 million children were never born, because of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing most abortion.
– At nearly the same time the Immigration Act of 1965 threw open the door to more expansive, more diverse immigration than ever before, a growing attitude of disdain toward ‘assimilation‘ ensured many of those newcomers would never be confronted with a need to master the culture and foundation of the land that drew them.
– This ‘salad bowl’ of incongruous groups is now packed into cities and suburbs, as formerly agricultural America now has an urbanization rate of 82% of the population.
So here we are, four decades later, with radically different demographics packed into U.S. cities and a weakened cultural narrative to hold them all together. Instead of just English, we conduct official business in scores of languages, lest we inconvenience the adopted. At the same time society rebels against the Judeo-Christian heritage that nurtured Western Civilization and the development of America itself, our nation and its legal system carve out increasing protection for alien faiths and philosophies that used to be known here only through National Geographic… not via the neighborhood.* Those who have been discouraged from making the effort to adapt often find themselves at social and economic disadvantage. This leads to resentment and charges that ‘the Man’ is somehow keeping them down. At the same time, those who pay taxes resent the increasing rolls of aid recipients.
In short, this decades-long process has balkanized America, in the very worst sense of that word. We many be ‘one country,’ (though no longer necessarily ‘under God’), but we are many nations. The ‘e pluribus’ has long been emphasized at the expense of the ‘unum.’
But without the ‘unum’ — shared experiences, beliefs, language, legal expectations, or perspectives on governance and social responsibilities — how can there be trust? More importantly, the question of qui bono arises: who benefits from this deliberately created conglomeration of mutually suspicious groups?
Those with the power to mediate between them, of course. And thus does the power of Government grow ever more…
* A personal anecdote illustrates this for me. My sister and I used to spend some of our summers swimming at the YMCA in our moderate-sized town. That facility was bought out years ago to create a Buddhist meditation center. I should point out I harbor no ill will against Buddhists, Muslims, or any other religious or ethnic group, provided they desire to live in peace with me and mine, and do not expect me to deny my heritage or beliefs in favor of any of theirs. What I do resent is official policy that, despite the deceptive claims of those who soothed fears of the 1965 legislation, created a radically different America. As I’ve said many times, I’m not a racist, but I do believe some cultures result in better societies than others. One cannot change their race (nor should they ever need to), but one can certainly acclimate to a different culture if incentives exist to do so. Official policy in this land for the past four decades has seemed deliberately antagonistic to the cultural legacies that gave rise to one of the most successful societies in history. To ask me not to resent that is to ask too much.