Make sure to blame God too
A recent poll found that nearly four out of five Americans don't trust the government. The survey, done by the Pew Research Center, reported that 78 percent of the people have little or no faith in the government's ability to solve the problems that beset us.
That's so unfair.
We blame the government for bad health care and for trying to improve it. We blame it for the lousy economy and wars that never end and for the education of our children, which is also lousy. We blame it when it runs a deficit and when it tries to lower the deficit by taxing us. We blame it for the high price of gasoline and the low price of corn.
In short, we blame government for pretty much everything, but ourselves for nothing. Neither do we blame God.
Have you ever noticed that? Most people believe in some version of an omniscient, all-powerful god who, in poll after poll, far outdistances all rivals in the Trustworthy Sweepstakes. The medical profession? Not even close. Bankers? Don't make me laugh. Bookies rank above bankers.
But we don't seem to hold this Omnipotent Being responsible for His or Her actions. Let the heavens open and dump a foot-and-a-half of snow on your street, and before the afternoon is out you're blaming the government for not clearing it off yet. But you never blame the Being that put the snow there in the first place.
Our money tells us "In God We Trust," but it doesn't tell us what we trust Him/Her to do.
Do we trust God to be just and loving? I hope not because He/She is not doing a very good job. Look around the world -- Africa, South America, the Middle East, slums anywhere -- and you'll see very little justice and what there is, is man-made.
Do people expect Him/Her to punish the guilty and reward the innocent? Perhaps, but too often, the opposite is happening. Brigands make tens of millions of dollars a year bilking the public, then beat it out of the backdoor unscathed while the cops are kicking in the front.
Imagine if people started to demand the same service from God that they do from their government.
When the economy collapsed they'd rush the churches with their hand-lettered signs and angry faces to demand an explanation.
If we were asked to send our sons and daughters overseas to be killed or maimed in a war we didn't understand, we'd threaten to change churches.
And God forbid that taxes should go up. We'd become atheists.
I'm not saying that government is doing a bang-up job and is above criticism, not by any means. All I'm asking for is a little fairness.
When, for example, you criticize the government bailouts of our banks and car companies -- and there's a lot to dislike about them -- you should at least acknowledge that they've rescued us from disaster.
And if you're truly upset about the federal deficit, you might admit that we're going to have to cut programs that you like and use, and that sooner or later you're going to have to contemplate new taxes.
You should also confess that denying health-care insurance to other people while you have it is kind of a shabby trick, one not worthy of a self-described "greatest country on Earth."
The next time government fails you, ask yourself what God would have done had He/She been the government. Say a water main has broken in front of your house and your basement is flooding. The government may be slow in repairing it, but if God were running things He/She might have added a torrential rainstorm that started a mudslide that crushed your house and left you penniless because you'd forgotten to pay your premium.
Never underestimate God's ability to take a bad situation and make it worse. But it's government that gets the blame.
OtherWords and retired Des Moines Register columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Mich.