Should We Trust Authority?


Our nation was built upon an intrinsic and rather profound distrust of authority. Over the years, this attitude changed. However, this attitude might be making a comeback. Should we trust authority?

I was speaking with an active duty military member of 16 years recently. We discussed trust and the importance of trust regarding authority and leadership. She stated that as a military member, she would like to think that when most people see her in uniform, they will trust that she was there in their best interest or would have the best intentions in mind. Most who wear a uniform would LIKE to think that, and probably do. However, the reality is much different, and I think it’s important to understand why.

I don’t believe society has trust in the uniform anymore, and this goes for either law enforcement or the military. I have discussed this a lot lately, but I believe that it is because so many in uniform turn pseudo-transformational or even transactional after putting the uniform on, and the trust begins to leave by those on the receiving end. Let me explain.

Quite a few who put on the uniform eventually become self-serving authoritarians who are unwilling to encourage independent thought in “subordinates” and care little for their subordinates in general. For the record, I am using “authoritarian” in the context of someone who favors or enforces strict obedience to authority, especially that of the government, at the expense of personal freedom. Think about it: Are you comforted or alarmed when you see red and blue in your rearview? Do you feel safer when you think of being asked to disarm but still see military equipment in the streets?

Coming from a military and LEO family, this is a harsh reality. The sad part is that it is reaffirmed by the idea that all swear an oath to defend something that most don’t even take the time to know themselves. I think society is starting to see this and ask, “how can someone defend an idea when they don’t even subscribe to it?” and “How can I trust someone who gives their word and continues to break it?”

Trust is huge. We can all concede to the idea that actions speak louder than words, especially when we all know that trust can take years to build yet moments to destroy. The truth is that sometimes it’s not even the actual soldier or officer that broke that trust; it is someone else wearing the same uniform. One bad apple spoils the bunch sort of thing.

The harsh truth remains. Society is losing… if not already lost, most of their trust in the uniforms that “protect” us. Can it be restored? Perhaps, but I would imagine it would have to start with correcting the issues we face along with strict adherence to the document they swore to protect.

This will require learning that document. It would also require weeding out the bad apples, policing yourselves, and being the example to follow instead of quietly allowing tyranny. These are just some things to consider, I suppose. That is… if we even care about trust.

You might also like my article titled, “Is Contempt for Law Enforcement Justified?