In what do we trust?

The phrase “In God we trust” is on our currency…

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

In <God, progress, America,> something, we Trust.

It would be easy to make the argument that America has become a very different place in the past few years.

In those innocent years virtually all of us agreed with, and identified with, our history, our legal system, our government institutions, our political processes, our health care system, our educational system and too many others to name.

Our Founding Fathers have come under unprecedented questioning, if not judgment. Our major law enforcement systems from the Department of Justice to the FBI to local police have come under scrutiny as never before.

Many police departments and health care facilities report record low morale among those workers and first responders when we need them most.

As our economy, our health care system, our schools and our infrastructure teeter on the verge of collapse, a COVID vaccine is seen as either the ultimate cure-all, or the final move of a One-world, global surveillance state.

The vaccine is seen as either a bulwark against catastrophe or the literal injection of a micro-chip to track us all.

Nothing, from food to cars to the TV we watch is neutral in the 2020s.

And in the season of holidays just past, we saw not only the semi-traditional “war on Christmas,” we saw that not only what holidays we celebrated, but how and where and with whom we celebrated became a volatile topic in every conversation.

As a result of all this, new social media emerged and “traditional” social media (if there could be such a thing) reframed its rules on political discourse.

These new rules are seen as “censorship” by many, long overdue by others and confusing by almost everyone –

In these, and many other areas, virtually everything we have valued and believed in common has become a labyrinth of shadows and fantastical paranoid schemes.

Meanwhile, back in the real America (far below the clouds of conspiracy theories) most of us go to work, pay our bills, take care of our children and keep the economy, our friendships and our lives going.

The phrase “In God we trust” is on our currency. Most of us assume that it has been there forever – but it hasn’t. You can see the details on the use of the phrase here: It wasn’t until 1956 that the phrase became standard on our currency.

But what, if any, meaning does it hold?

Does “In God we trust” on our bills and coins imply that our currency is somewhere in the neighborhood of divine? Or does it mean the opposite; that it is God, not our currency, that is the object of our trust? And in an era of debit cards, online payments and cyber-currencies, who of us sees or handles cash anyway?

If we don’t use or see cash with that slogan, do we somehow forget that it is in fact “God” that we “trust.”

I can imagine already, conspiracy theorists activated by the thought that the decline of America is the result of our loss of sight or handling of currency with that little reminder on every coin and dollar bill.

Perhaps, just as many of them urge us to avoid the COVID vaccine (or any vaccine) and make public pledges not to take it themselves, they will urge us to forgo the use of online payments and cyber-currencies.

If there was ever a fear of the future made manifest, it would be this philosophy in action.

If there was ever a time when every aspect of society was suspect, and when every crisis, from storm to pandemic to power outage highlighted, if not exacerbated, existing social fractures, this is that time.

When even a potentially life-saving procedure is questioned, we have entered a heightened state of suspicion, if not paralysis, that we cannot inhabit long.

Cultural, racial and economic barriers have kept opportunity, vaccines and prosperity from far too many.

Conspiracy theories keep them from many others.

If 2020 taught us anything, it is that there are countless barriers, invisible to many of us, throttling if not stopping entirely the participation and contribution of many promising and energetic hands and voices.

The vaccine is just another essential feature promising to many, threatening to some and closed to others –

There’s an old saying that the future will be like the past, but even more so.

If there is anything we have learned in 2020, it is that the phrase “more so” means just about everything – or nothing.

As that well-known mis-quoter of aphorisms, Yogi Berra, put it, “It is very tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

You can see a few nearly accurate and wildly ridiculous projections about the future here –

The future, as always, is what we make it.

It would be easy to make the argument that the real threat of our times is not a virus – no matter how lethal or contagious, but is instead a crisis, an implosion of trust. (

If we don’t trust our systems, neighbors and institutions, who are we?

We are certainly not citizens or even good neighbors if we don’t actively engage with and participate in our local institutions and processes.

We can always question – if not improve – them – in fact we are called to do so, but we only do better if we have a shared and worthy vision in mind – which means that we must trust each other.

But in the current environment, how can we?

Facts, votes, even court rulings and guilty pleas, literally mean nothing in the current passionate swirl of rumors, accusations and schemes

The primary point of propaganda and disinformation, after all, is not to discredit any particular source or medium but to hollow out even the idea of truth.

Could any of us argue that we are not in such a society now?

An old saying tells us that “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

Those wacky Qanon rumors might be exciting, but what we all need right now is some solid, reliable truth, a friend, a news source, someone who can assure us through difficult times, not undermine our faith in each other when we need it most.