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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “It’s OK, Tom Hanks, we trust you”

    Whom do you trust?

    Do you trust your parents not to sell all your childhood toys in a yard sale while you’re away? Do you trust your friends to take care of your dog while you’re on vacation? Do you trust Amazon.com not to sell your credit card information when you buy a book online?

    Do you trust President Bush?

    Do you trust Tom Hanks?

    If you answered “”yes”” to the last question, you’re not alone. As Forbes – a magizine that has long busied itself with ranking public figures – reported a few weeks ago, Tom Hanks is America’s most trusted celebrity, followed by Rachael Ray, Michael J. Fox, Oprah, and James Earl Jones.

    That’s nice for them. But if you think about it, the idea of trusting a celebrity is kind of strange.

    If we trust our parents and friends with our possessions, and Web sites with our most personal information, what do we trust celebrities with? Book recommendations, for Oprah. For most of the others, nothing at all.

    Since trust goes hand in hand with responsibility and caring, if we’ve got nothing to entrust to celebrities, our trust in them is pretty meaningless.

    Actually, when we say we “”trust”” a celebrity, what we mean is that we like them – we really like them. But liking and trusting are not the same, and we should be careful not to confuse one for the other. Celebrities should be liked – that’s their job. Trust, however, is not their domain.

    Trust is the domain of politicians.

    Okay, have a good laugh. We may like a politician, or respect her, or even agree with her, but trust her?

    That’s right. The purpose of a politician is to be a custodian of our state. Senators and congresspeople and governors hold the reins of our nation in their hands. When we vote for them, we should consider their fitness for this position. That fitness is defined by trust.

    Likeability really has little bearing on a person’s ability to care for their constituency. You might like your friend a lot, but that doesn’t mean you’d trust him to remember to feed and walk your dog for a week. Likewise, a senator might be unattractive or a poor public speaker, but these things have nothing to do with his ability to do his job.

    In fact, the untrustworthiness of politicians may be partly our fault. We want likeability, and so likeability is what we’re sold. Then, of course, we’re cynical, because we know that politicians are just playing a part to gain our approval. “”At least celebrities are openly acting a part,”” we think.

    But if we began placing more weight on trusting our leaders and less on liking them, I’m certain they’d cater to that too.

    In the end, likeability is a terribly ephemeral and shallow value by which to judge someone. Being “”well-liked”” is so lacking in deeper meaning, especially in today’s society, that Arthur Miller wrote a play about it. Of course, likeability’s very superficiality makes it the right value by which to judge celebrities. Politicians, however, require a more meaningful measure.

    Trustworthiness is not only more meaningful; it makes for a far more valid argument against a person. It doesn’t mean a lot to complain, as I hear people doing, that President Bush is ill-spoken or dumb-looking or has a silly accent or whatever else people don’t like about him. To be frank, being ill-spoken and dumb-looking and having a silly accent does not preclude being a good president. Indeed, there have been presidents who were smart and decent-looking and well-spoken who were not good presidents.

    It would be a better argument to say, “”He lied to us. He has failed in the office which we entrusted to him, because he has proved himself untrustworthy.””

    Sadly, according to the Gallup Poll, our trust in our government is just about the lowest it has been in a decade. But what else can we expect when we elect politicians on the basis of liking them, rather than trusting them?

    Well, at least we’ve got Tom Hanks and Rachael Ray to trust – for now.

    Lillie Kilburn is a sophomore majoring in psychology. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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