In this Aug. 20, 2021, file photo, protesters against vaccine and mask mandates demonstrate near the state capitol, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Last spring, as false claims about vaccine safety threatened to undermine the world's response to COVID-19, researchers at Facebook wrote that they could reduce vaccine misinformation by tweaking how vaccine posts show up on users' newsfeeds, or by turning off comments entirely. Yet despite internal documents showing these changes worked, Facebook was slow to take action. Credit: AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio, File

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G.K. Chesterton wrote that when people lose their faith, it is not that they then believe in nothing but that they will believe anything.

Sadly far too many of our fellow citizens have lost faith in our basic democratic processes and have turned to tolerate or even embrace totalitarian governance instead as embodied in the Donald Trump-led Republican Party. Many also have lost faith in science, “experts,” and fundamental public health measures such as masks and vaccines.

Loss of faith in our values is verified by a recent poll reported by the Harvard Institute of Politics. They found that a “majority of young Americans are worried about the state of U.S. democracy” and said that they often felt “depressed and helpless.” Some 52% of those 18 to 29 years old believe that American democracy is either “in trouble” or “failing.” More disturbing, “nearly half of young Republicans place the chances of a second civil war at fifty percent or higher.”

What is to be done? Above all, not to lose faith in ourselves. Remain active in support of our best values and traditions. We can also take counsel from wise leaders.

How prescient Simone Weil was in saying that, “People who have lost their roots generally take one of two alternatives: to follow false prophets or to set about destroying those who retain their roots.” Yes, that is the Trump world in which we now find ourselves.

More positive encouragement is given by  Barbara Kingsolver in Animal Dreams: “The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. The most you can do is to live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right under it, under its roof.”

James Matlack