It is hard to feel good about living in a community where so many of us feel the system is rigged. Are we being controlled by a small, powerful few who have found ways to grab hold of all the major levers? The politically right thinks the system is controlled by liberal media and too much government. Fringe conspiracists from the right think there is a “deep state” at work. The left argues that the system is rigged to serve the wealthy. The Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court is seen by the left as permission and support for the few to outright purchase representatives in Congress.
A good definition of “rigging” is to arrange an event or money in a dishonest way. For me, the most disturbing characteristic of our current political and media systems is the constant use of “alternative facts” while accusing the opposition of the same thing. Also disturbing is that there is a ready and enthusiastic audience for it. I worry about this because when we normalize the rigging of facts, it leads to rationalizing behaviors that go against core American ideals and values like honesty, fairness, freedom of speech, and the pursuit of scientific discovery, to name just a few. If we continue to look the other way with lying, we are contributing to increased “rigging”, rather than the dismantling of it.
A populist campaign won the White House in part because so many people feel, on both the right and left, victimized by what is seen as an elite corporate-government class of wealthy people who seem to be working together to serve the bidding of special interests over the general citizenry. The right leans towards blaming government while the left leans towards blaming corporate and wealthy influences. According to Gallup polls, approval ratings of Congress have fallen from 28% in February to 20% in July. There is very little confidence by the public that Congress “has their back.” The use of alternative facts has only amplified division and suspicion.
I believe that we as a nation are going through a necessary moral crisis that will demand resolution in some unique way soon. We have divided ourselves into ideological camps, each with its strong communications systems validating our every belief about how the system is rigged, and by whom. What most of us have in common is the sense of being victimized. The theme that “they” are doing something to hurt “us”, needs to be replaced with an awareness that the United States is a democracy-in-the-making. We are not there yet, but we can each make a real contribution to help the US become a mature democratic society. One place to start is practicing honesty and rejecting the use of alternative facts by our political leaders.