As I See It: Trust, love and the American baby 

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Published: 12/3/2022 10:32:31 PM
Modified: 12/3/2022 10:32:08 PM

It is ironic that, in our season of festivity and spending, we observe that one of the sure casualties of capitalism is the disappearance of trust in America. Distrust is inevitable as consumer capitalism’s art and science of persuasion advances toward its more sophisticated state of perfection. Surveys show how distrust has grown among us, and the latest has the absolute majority of Americans (75%) saying they distrust other Americans. It’s not easy to live with peace of mind with that much distrust among your fellowmen.

Trust, like loaning money without collateral, is a concept totally alien to the capitalist system which is based on scientific proof, legal contract, and enforcement of the law, none of which is based on trust among human beings. Capitalism requires that everything be signed, witnessed, and notarized in proper legal form. Unlike frontier America with transactions done on handshakes, we must now dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s, and other minor technicalities so that we don’t regretfully end up in court. Unsurprisingly, an average American business contract requires 50 paragraphs, as opposed to 3 paragraphs in Japan, the differences made up in trust.

However, there is one group of people even in capitalist America who defy this way of life by devoting themselves to loving somebody from whom they get no dividends whatsoever: They are the parents who raise their children with such sacrifice and devotion that we should wonder how that is possible. Indeed, what makes such an act of love possible in general and American parents in particular who should otherwise begrudge every morsel of food they feed their children and every penny they spend on child-rearing expenses with no return benefits? What, indeed, inspires the parents to do such an anti-Capitalist and, in a way, anti-American thing for their children? (Don’t mention “instinct” or “human nature” as neither, as tautology, explains anything).

To find the answer, we should look at the common, and mostly effortless human creation — that inspires parents with the acts of love — called the “baby.” Newborn babies, created by simple biology, are the most helpless being in the universe. For their survival, they must depend on the goodwill (or love) of their caretakers, namely parents, for everything. On the other hand, unlike the helpless baby, his parents are in possession of the most awesome power in the universe: The power to do anything they want with the baby, whose life can be snuffed out with hardly any effort, or easily thrown out the window with the bathwater, or slowly neglected with indifference. In short, parents can do anything they want with the baby in their possession.

What inspires or guides the parent to go God’s way of wisdom and love toward the baby, but not the devil’s wantonness with the baby? What creates this exception for the otherwise average American parents (who are selfish about everything else) regarding their babies? The answer is quite simple: It’s in “human trust” in general and the trust that the baby inspires in his parents in particular. By trusting his parents with absolute abandon, the baby in fact is saying to them: “Dear Parents, you can do anything you want to with me: You can kill me off or starve me to death or deprive me of love and care. But you won’t do any of these things. Why? Because I trust you that you will love me and take care of me. The proof of my trust? Just look at me, the most helpless being in the universe right in your arms, just trusting your love for me.” The power of the baby’s absolute trust is pure and godly, strong enough to melt any human wantonness. In all of human existence, nothing is more innocent and powerful than the baby’s purity of trust.

This power of trust is so great in the baby that even the coldest of human hearts is converted by its power. It is in the nature of trust that when a person is shown unconditional trust by others, his “trustworthiness” tends to go up, not down. Distrust, with suspicion, fear and hate thrown in for good measure, on the other hand, tends to lower the person’s trustworthiness. It has been shown in many human instances that virtually all of us reciprocate trust with higher trust, and love with deeper love. The baby, the helpless thing, is so fragile that his very helpless fragility inspires the greatest response of love and trust in another human being.

The line of defense for the baby is indeed fragile. But, amazingly, Providence has instituted a stout defense to protect the baby (and humanity’s survival) by creating our ability to respond to the baby’s trust with reciprocal love. This human ability to respond to trust with love is so strong that it has overcome our lack of animal instinct or DNA codes to love and protect our babies and our own posterity. Once trust is gone from society, so is its most important shadow-product — love — from human hearts.

Still, good parenting is an everyday struggle for average American parents who must withstand the assault from selfishness largely inspired by consumer capitalism, above everything else, even above good parenting. The baby’s innocence is a mighty power, but so is the unceasing attack from consumer capitalism, going beyond babies to neighbors and strangers — to not trust anybody. We should remember how Willie Horton was used by the Bush campaign against Dukakis’ prison furlough program in 1988, whereby distrust defeated trust.

In America’s capitalist society, trust — and the love it inspires — is always under assault. How long can our babies hold out against such a social system?

Jon Huer, columnist for the Recorder and professor emeritus, lives in Greenfield. 


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