The C.S.O. and I recently watched and greatly enjoyed Mark Wahlberg’s star-vehicle Shooter, about a master sniper who’s used as the frame-up pigeon in an assassination conspiracy. It’s a high-body-count action movie and replete with entertainment throughout, but one particular bit will remain in my memory for a long time to come. Sniper Bob Lee Swagger, played by Wahlberg, is seeking information about an assassin from “Mr. Rate,” an old guns-and-shooters expert played by Levon Helm:
Bob Lee Swagger: Suppose I was looking for man who could make a 2200 yard cold bore shot. Who’s alive that could do that?
Mr. Rate: Seems I heard about a shot like that being made not too long ago, said the guy’s name was Bob Lee Swagger. Never met the man, so I wouldn’t know him.
Bob Lee Swagger: Yeah, they said that all right.
Mr. Rate: They also said that artificial sweeteners were safe, WMDs were in Iraq, and Anna Nicole married for love.
(For anyone who’s not in touch with considerations of long-range lethality, the shot Swagger refers to in the above is kinda tough. Most snipers couldn’t do it, and those who could would prefer not to be named here.)
Of course, Mr. Rate’s central point is the dubiousness, not merely of the claimed shot, but of just about anything “they” might tell you today. The diet of BS we’re fed daily by politicians, the news media, and well-placed persons in what I call the “disinformation clerisy” has inculcated a policy of default distrust in the average American. This is among the most significant sociological developments of recent decades — not because it’s uncommon globally, but because for many decades Americans were the exception to default distrust. We were the folks who give money to strangers and seal million-dollar deals with a handshake. The peoples of other lands viewed us as naïve bordering on insane.
Exceptions no longer. The BSers have re-educated us.
I’ve been somewhat bitter, recently. I was the victim of a theft. That theft cost me two things, and I can’t decide which of them I valued more.
The first thing I lost to the thief was a valuable rifle, one the state of New York has decreed I can’t legally replace. It cost me “deep in the purse” to acquire it in the first place. It cost me still more to hold onto it against the urgings of others. And now it’s gone, a total loss.
The second thing I lost was my ability to trust anyone who’s out of my direct supervision. You see, the thief had to be a member of a work crew that I allowed into my home, to labor without having me watch them, on the assumption that they were trustworthy. However, as there were several such crews, each of which had several members, I can’t know specifically who robbed me.
I know, as a general proposition, that most people are, to a certain degree at least, trustworthy. But “once burned, twice shy,” as they say. These days, I don’t trust anyone I can’t see plainly – and I prefer that anyone who enters my home should keep his hands where I can see them.
I’ve written about trust before. Indeed, one of those essays has achieved a certain notoriety. Today, on the day after we commemorate the keeping of the greatest promise ever made, trust is a particularly painful subject.
I lament what we’ve lost, but I can’t say how we might reacquire it. What I can say is that the America we remember from earlier times cannot exist without that default disposition to trust one another. It was a precondition for everything we loved and miss today. The willingness to trust in one another’s honesty in word and deed is what made that nation the crowning glory of human civilization.
Instead, we’re in the position of “Mr. Rate” in Shooter. We’ve been fed so much utter and complete horseshit, on every conceivable subject and from every imaginable point in our society, that we can believe nothing we hear a priori, without multiple confirmations from independent sources. It’s far safer to assume that anyone who approaches us, whether in person or through some channel of communication, might be one of “them:” a conspiracy designed to deceive and confuse us into immobility.
Whom do you trust these days, Gentle Reader – and how far? How many persons would you be willing to trust:
- With access to your most valuable possessions?
- With access to your spouse or children?
- With your personal secrets?
- With your reputation?
I paused after the above. I was about to write “It’s worth thinking about,” but realized that I could not. I could not decide, in this cowardly old world in which we live today, the majority of us unwilling even to shake the hand of the person next to you in the pew at Mass, whether thinking about it is worth the agita. And with that, I’ll wish you all a nice day.