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  • Robert Farago

In God We Trust


So there’s this guy. Let’s call him John (because that’s his name). John plays hide the sausage with a fellow Atlantan we’ll call Delilah (because Biblical reference). One day, Delilah tells John she’s pregnant with his child.

John’s a little, how do I put this nicely? Suspicious. So Delilah takes a DNA paternity test. The baby-boy-to-be is John’s.

John (below) buys a house and a kid-friendly car to give his son his best life. When Travis pops out of the oven, John is elated! He has the kid’s name tattooed on his upper arm. All’s right with the world…


John’s relationship with Delilah “sours.” It devolves into an expensive legal bunfight surrounding custody. Those old suspicions are back.

So Delilah takes a court-ordered postnatal paternity test. Uh-oh. Turns out John’s not Travis’ biological dad.

Thank you Toronto-based Viaguard Accu-Metric. Their thousand-dollar prenatal paternity kit was a scam.

Dr. Mohammad Akbar, the director of research at the molecular genetics lab at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto the at-home tests Viaguard was providing its customers would not actually work because it required pregnant women to only prick themselves for a blood sample — but a DNA match would require a lot of a mother’s blood. Even those who went to a lab to get their blood drawn for the tests, though, said it wrongly identified the biological father.

Back to John…

“There’s not a handbook on how to handle raising a kid for eight months and then finding out that it’s not yours… You’re left in a mysterious, dark place mentally.”

We can’t blame John for trusting Viaguard’s prenatal paternity test. I’m sure it looked legit. But John’s dilemma highlights a wider conundrum: whom do you trust?

Trust - Who Needs It?

We trust people all the time. Society couldn’t function without it. We trust fellow motorists to stop at a red light. Restaurants not to poison us. Airlines to transport us from place to place without falling out of the sky. And yet…

Motorists run red lights, restaurants poison people and planes crash.

By the same token, lovers cheat on us. Friends and colleagues betray us. And scammers are everywhere: on-line, on text and playing three-card monte on the Vegas strip.

As we grow-up, we learn how to identify people and organizations who don’t deserve our trust. It’s a painful, imperfect, ongoing process. For some more than others?

Given the success of obvious online scams, you’ve got to wonder whether intelligence makes people better or worse at knowing whom to trust. Are stupid people more gullible?

Maybe, but intelligence is no defense. Gullibility is influenced by various factors: emotions (e.g., greed and lust), general susceptibility to persuasion and the quality of the scammer.

The Political Angle

America was founded by people who pretty much trusted no one.

Save directing the President to defend our borders, the U.S. Constitution is a testimony to our Founding Fathers’ profound distrust of government power – including their own. The vast majority of that document dictates what the government can’t do.

A key turning point in the electorate’s trust in Uncle Sam: President Roosevelt…

In the aftermath of The Panic of 1893 (to 1897), Teddy moved to break-up and regulate large monopolistic corporations. The self-styled "trust buster” sold his efforts under the banner of fair competition and consumer protection.

How did that turn out? Big Tech, Big Pharm, Big Ag – it seems we’re back where we started – assuming we ever left.

Teddy’s fifth cousin, President Franklin Roosevelt, gave America a “New Deal” issuing-in our current era of Big Gov.

The weird thing: Americans accept the existence of our now-ginormous federal government - taxing and regulating the bejesus out of every aspect of their lives - but they don’t trust it.

Busted Trust?

According to a 2023 The Pew Research Center poll, fewer than two-in-ten Americans trust the government in Washington “to do what is right.” Specifically, one percent of the respondents said that statement’s true “just about always.’ Fifteen percent says it’s true “most of the time.”

Congress, the Supreme Court, the media – public trust in our major institutions hovers in the single digits. The rise of AI – complete with hallucinations and convincingly fake images, voice and video – is eroding it further.

Or is it? Voters trusted Biden to “return the country to normalcy” and “reach across the aisle.” Others trusted Trump to “make America great again.” Are we too trusting or not trusting enough in ourselves not to trust the wrong people?

All Others Pay Cash

"In God We Trust" first appeared on the two-cent coin in 1864 (during the Civil War). President Theodore Roosevelt removed it from all U.S. currency in 1904 – calling it “artistically of atrocious hideousness.”

In 1955, Congress passed a law requiring all currency bear the motto. In 1956, it became our official national motto, making its debut on paper currency in the following year, on a $1 silver certificate.

Sometime in the 60’s, I saw this semi-satirical riff on the motto at a bar: “In God We Trust. All Others Pay Cash.”

Point taken?

In God We Trust isn’t just about believing in God. It’s a statement that trust should be reserved for God. Definitely not something you should give easily. Especially not politically.

As for personally and practically, same as it ever was. Our once-trusting lothario John has altered his tattoo from “Travis” to “Travesty.” Lesson learned.


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