The One Thing Society Cannot Function Without

We are living in an age where everyone seems to have an opinion and those opinions seem to be based on wildly different facts. What we have is a crisis of faith on what is considered a credible source of new information, especially information that may challenge our individual confirmation biases. 

The real crisis, in the end, all comes down to a trust deficiency . TRUST. That is the single most important ingredient in a functioning society. We need trust for all kinds of different reasons: 
  1. We need to trust the environment: Individuals need to be able to trust basic existence, trust that their food is safe, their water is safe and the land on which they live is safe. If an environment is untrustworthy it becomes much harder to extend trust in other areas
  2. We need to trust laws: Society only functions when laws are clear and applied as equally as possible with clear consequences. Any parent worth their salt could confirm this. Children with no clear consequences, or unequally meted out punishments, will inevitably buck the system. Adults are no different. People will take more negative risks in an distrustful society and will often get away with it. The prevailing thought being, if everyone's doing it, I better get mine first.
  3. We need to trust sources of reliable information. People need to agree on a set of credible information sources, whether experts, leaders, journalists, or organizations. People can disagree on policy, or on how to approach a certain problem but at the end of the day, ideally, they should be working from a single set of agreed upon facts. There is a vast difference between shading the facts to point to our own point of view and breaking those facts outright. To quote Stuart, a character from the popular t.v. show, The Big Bang Theory, "It's a little wrong to say to say a tomato is a vegetable, it's very wrong to say it's a suspension bridge."
  4. We need to trust the ability for independent organizations to stay independent: Society really only works if we believe that certain organizations are working for the good of all fellow countrymen. Organizations like the Supreme Court, Military, CDC, Homeland Security, Department of Justice and Law Enforcement cannot be seen to be political in any way. They need to be able to function the same way regardless of who is president. Loss of trust in these basic organizations can be catastrophic.
  5. We need to trust politicians: The push-back on this probably started before the statement was finished. Yes, politicians are considered categorically untrustworthy, and often self-motivated. At the end of the day, though, a healthy society needs to be able to trust the President when he says that something needs to be done for the good of the many. This is even more important if it means short term pain or even outright discomfort for others. Let's say a new bridge needs to be built that will greatly improve air quality by rerouting traffic, but two neighborhoods will be negatively impacted. That leader would need to hold enough trust to be able to "sell" that bridge to his constituents. No trust leads to people who are unwilling to make sacrifices lest they be the one's who are duped
  6. We need to trust the process of government. People who trust their government to listen to their grievances and address them have little need to protest. Protests and riots happen when people feel they are being disenfranchised. Right now across the country cities are being over run with protests and riots from all sides of the political spectrum because people do not feel their voices are being heard. 
  7. We need to trust each other: This one is hard. People are inherently self-motivated. When presented with two options they will almost always pick the option that benefits them. We need enough trust between fellow countrymen so that they will at least consider that choices which benefit them might be actively harming someone else, and change course. It is impossible to remove all elements of predatory behavior, but when a majority, however small, trusts that their fellow man will take them into consideration, then they themselves will begin to do the same. It is the Golden Rule writ large. 
So, what the heck am I supposed to do about this? It is possible you are feeling overwhelmed and aggrieved by everything you see in the world today. It is possible the things going on around you and your family make you feel frustrated and sad, and that in turn leads to anger. There is good news however. There is something you can do:
  1. Check Yourself: Check to see if the decisions you are making are harming others. Make a decision to make more trustworthy choices. As so often used, but ever relevant, "Be the change you want to see." Challenge yourself to try and stick to only what you know to be true. You will know what is true if you follow the next rule.
  2. Check your Sources: The more we vet our information resources, challenge our own confirmation biases, and make sure that at least 3 sources from across the political spectrum agree with what we are about to share with someone, we can help return everyone to a single set of trusted facts. The more we can trust the source information, the quicker we can stop arguing reality and start arguing actual policy differences. Trust me*, we will get things done much faster and cheaper that way. (*Did you see what I did there)
  3. Surround yourself with trustworthy people: The more you trust the people in your life to have your back, the more you will begin to trust strangers.
  4. Hold Leaders Accountable: Leaders are a reflection of our nation; they are the face we put out to the world. We empower these men and women to make decisions for us that impact our daily lives in ways that we need to trust are for our benefit. There should be steep penalties and mechanisms to enforce them for leaders who break the trust of the people. Not all countries are lucky enough to be able to change leadership, but in the countries that are, trust should be the single most important factor in determining fitness for office.
Trust is the glue that allows people to function. Without it, people's world view shrinks to the circle around themselves and their immediate family. Things break down. Nothing works. No one knows who to believe. We need to work to build back trust across the spectrum. We need to do it. We need to do it worldwide. And we need to do it before it is too late.

The Top 2 Things Parents Need Most Right Now

The pandemic has everyone spinning right now. All of us parents seem to be in one of the 5 stages of grief. I have moved past denial and am currently sitting in a huge vat of angry. I am angry that we are in this mess. I am angry we opened too quickly, I am angry at all the Spring Breakers, Memorial Day party-goers, and Fourth of July revelers. I am very angry at all the politicians who allowed these idiots to ruin any chances our kids had of going back to a much needed in-person classroom.

The reality is, it doesn't matter how angry I am. The fact remains, as many before me have said, there are no good answers. There is only the least wrong answer. Regardless of the decision on where we end up schooling our children, parents desperately need 2 things right now.

1. TO PLAN: On one hand I felt bad for the kids in school districts who announced weeks ago that their fall semester was going to be online. It felt like giving up. On the other hand, I was jealous. At least they have an answer. At least they can make family plans.

Above everything, parents need to be able to plan. Sure we know in the back of our heads that the best laid plans are slated to go wrong at the worst possible moment. Working parents live with the uncertainty of that every day. It is inevitable that the morning of a huge presentation or non-negotiable meeting at work, a small child will come down the stairs and announce they just threw up and don't feel well.

But that is uncertainty we signed up for. We can deal with the minor daily inconsistencies of short-term interruptions as long as there is a larger plan. Constantly kicking the can down the road in the vain hopes that the numbers will get better, that more money will appear, that data will coalesce into a consensus is not helping. Childcare, tutors and other resources are scarce right now, and by putting off the decision we are forcing parents to compete at the last minute in a race for care solutions that will end up leaving some unemployed.

2. SUPPORT: This is an unprecedented time in history and we, as a collective society, need to decide if supporting the next generation is something we are invested in as a society or not. What I am talking about is money, resources, and solutions. Parents, working or not, need support for their families on every level.

The only solution that is going to work at this point is an all-in approach from every sector. Employers need to recognize the plight of working parents and support them by working with individual employees to reach an appropriate plan for both parties. Government agencies will need to deal with the economic fall-out of the unemployment rate and rising home insecurities. Schools, depending on their choice to go back or remote teach, need to provide parents with tools to address mental health and stress management issues. Healthcare needs to make covid (and influenza) testing and basic health care more accessible to all families so we can identify and mitigate outbreaks before they balloon.

Most importantly, and I cannot stress this enough, the fastest way to find long-term workable solutions for school aged children is to throw money at the problem. We have bailed out various industries that we have deemed "too big to fail" and considering 32% of the workforce also happens to be parents of school aged children, many who rely on the economic resource of public school, I would say that the public school system is definitely something that should be considered too big to fail. We need a full-scale economic bailout to bring school buildings up to date, expand services, hire more teachers, shrink classroom sizes, and add nurses and health care workers. 

Valuing Families has never been more important

For the last 3 years it felt frivolous to write about valuing families, supporting caregivers, or supporting childhood independence- not when it felt the very threads of the democratic republic we live in were, and are, fraying at the seams. It has felt so vitally important to engage on a base level, arguing against things like corruption, conflict of interest, and governing for the people that anything else felt like wasted breath. A drop of opinion in an ocean of partisan warfare. I took it all in and became overwhelmed. I allowed my voice to fall silent, to lose the mission and to fall out of love with the goal of changing hearts and minds on the topic of caregiver support.

This doesn't mean caregivers suddenly became less important. In fact, in the age of rising healthcare costs and the jury still out on issues like the Affordable Care Act, Medicare Expansions, and improved drug pricing, it seems even more critical. We need to encourage people to buoy up the individuals toiling without reward or recognition, often to the detriment of their careers in order to care for someone in their life whose needs exceed their abilities.

We most often think of caregivers in terms of young children and terminally ill adults, but there is a whole host of individuals who require extra care. Adding to the population of struggling caregivers is the epidemic of opioid addiction which is striking the very population we are set up to depend on as mid-level adult caregivers.

Calling for businesses to embrace caregivers has been a message that has felt lost- adrift on a stormy political sea, with no land in sight. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic upon us, this issue has suddenly been thrust into center stage. The question of how we provide caregiver support, safety and economic security has become a matter of immediate need at all levels.

Obsessively reading the news and wringing hands in worry is not going to stop the oncoming tide. This voice may still be lost in the din and clamor as we actively write history, but it no longer feels convalescent.

The voice of the Two-Penny Soapbox is still here, still fighting, and once again relevant. We may have other things we need to tackle first, but we absolutely need to remember that our caregivers aren't getting a break, so neither should we.