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Al Martinez

Whom to trust, what to believe? It's a tough sell

August 20, 2007|Al Martinez

When I was a kid, I had infinite trust in God, government and Pepsi-Cola.

I trusted the Catholic Church as the Lord's secular link, the president of the U.S. as the keeper of my patriotism and America's merchants to mean what they said.

Today, I'm having a hard time with all of them. I just don't trust anyone anymore.

Trust has become the antiquated property of fools, manipulated by liars and con artists to empty our pockets and our brains.

What emerges from the mouths of politicians are words of self-preservation; from corporate CEOs, words of shaded truths; and from God's flawed advocates, words to lure the innocents into their evil webs.

It's a question of belief.

Who, for instance, believes the billion-dollar oil companies when they say they're jacking up pump prices in order to spend more money to explore the development of alternative fuels?

I don't.

Who believes the superheroes of sports who say they're drug-free in a chemically enhanced arena when they hit mile-high home runs and race their bicycles at the speed of the wind?

I don't.

Who believes that diet pills, canned liquids or special foods will allow you to eat all you want and lose weight overnight?

I don't.

Federal laws allow for loopholes in labels, so that when Pepsi-Cola says its bottled water Aquafina is derived from "P.W.S.," it doesn't mean from a pure water source, as one might have supposed; not from a bubbling alpine brook, but from a public water source. That's tap water, Dude.

Only when caught did Pepsi offer to clarify the initials and add, to soothe our silly fears, that it is purified tap water. Coca-Cola's Dasani water also emerges from public sources and is also, all together now, Purified.

Public dishonesty has been a developing rant for years in my lexicon of mistrusts and fading beliefs. It has been building exponentially as corporations have assumed the credulity of televangelists in hustling their wares at any cost to vulnerable consumers.

Who do you think turned us on to bottled water in the first place? Who said it was healthier? Who said we had to carry the damned stuff wherever we went and sip it every 15 minutes like alcoholics licking at a vodka bottle?

I'll lay odds there was a corporate mind behind all of that, a bottled-water Karl Rove, who seduced a lot of trusting health nuts into believing that if Pepsi-Cola said it or Coca-Cola said it, or if an actor in a TV commercial wearing a white coat and a stethoscope around his neck said it, it must be true.

It isn't just corporations or self-preserving politicians who are dishonoring truth in a pork barrel culture. Lies come in different shades. Presidential appointees don't lie when hauled before a congressional committee -- they just don't recall. If caught in a contradiction, they misspoke. "Truth" is a word subject to interpretation and convolution.

Con artists abound in a nation that values money more than honor and profit more than human lives, and they've got all kinds of ways to get to us.

We are assaulted by computer, telephone, fax machine, television, radio and print to buy that which may or may not live up to its ads, deluded by hype into pursuing false dreams of easy money, overnight beauty and eternal youth. Ego makes us easy victims.

And as we pass around our credit cards, our Social Security numbers, our dates of birth, our home phones and our addresses, we lose our identity, our cash, our reputations and our very souls to predators who strike, steal and vanish into the anonymity of criminality. We trusted. We lost.

I take little pleasure in realizing how a nation of truth has declined into a nation of greed. We are preyed upon by companies, politicians, gangs, blocs and crooks who have discovered a million clever ways to turn our daydreams into their financial gain.

At this very moment, I am cutting into pieces the size of postage stamps a dozen unwanted and outdated credit cards from department stores and banks. If I don't chop them up, somebody may be clawing through my garbage to kidnap my life. Paranoid? Sure -- with good reason.

Where did honesty go? When did it become an unnecessary burden? Sometimes I wish I were a kid again and knew that dipping my fingers into "holy water" at the entrance to St. Bernard's would protect me from the devil. When I began wondering what made tap water holy, it was my first flash of doubt in the veracity of religion.

Now I fear that the devil himself has his own brand of water from a source that I hesitate to consider. If it harms the health of half the world, he doesn't care, because there is money to be made in a bottle, and if we don't like it we can, well, go straight to hell.

And that's just the way it is in America today.


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