In whom does one trust?
The weather crisis created by Hurricane Harvey around Houston has prompted some information on scams and misinformation being sent out via emails and social media. It is no surprise that a segment of our society — like any society — would try to profit from the tragedy in the lives of others. From fake websites and fictitious organizations to those who try to have “fun” at the expense of others over the status or conditions that surround the circumstances, the opportunities to cheat seem endless. The really serious scams take resources away from those really in need and we need to check our gifts recipient if we choose to give to help those in need.
As we search for a means of understanding people’s motives in times like this, the situation has brought to mind one of my father’s favorite quotes — “love many, trust few and always paddle your own canoe.” I don’t remember how old I was when he quoted it to me the first time, but it has been a staple in my memory of his teachings. It certainly is worth remembering in times like these where a national disaster of epic proportions is affecting millions and when our government leaders seem in disarray over how to actually help the needy.
In trying to find the source of the quote, my online search came up blank when trying to attribute it to an individual. One site said the author was unknown, but it appeared in a newspaper as far back as 1826. It is left to our imagination to determine what event might have prompted its origin. It is easy, but apparently inaccurate, to relate it in any way to the song “Tippacanoe and Tyler, Too” associated with William Harrison’s presidential campaign in 1840. The song had nothing to do with paddling.
We can go into great depth associating character qualities that might be gained by trying to make this quote a part of our lives. When I think of the phrase, “‘self-reliant” comes to mind first, but taking care in selecting our friends or associates can easily be tied to its meaning. How we define our sense of “love” makes a great difference in the opening thought but also contains a warning that puts the responsibility of who we “trust” back into our own hands.
The folks in Houston can take the “paddle your own canoe” literally if they happen to have one handy. It would beat waiting for rescue with a long list of others who need help. But, seriously we need to be careful and not go to the extreme and become anti-social and create a personality problem with the area of trust in our lives. However, growing up in Northwest Arkansas in the early 1900s as my father did and finding many situations in the family’s history that might affect one’s trust, it is easy to understand how and why the quote was so significant to my father and why he might have chosen it to be a part of his children’s training.
It might make an interesting topic of coffee group conversation to discuss how our president, Donald Trump, views this quote from a personal perspective. For a person who seems to need — even demand — blind loyalty, one would need to question how the president measures “loyalty.” In the realm of Washington politics, it must be difficult to find those he would feel comfortable trusting without a lot of personal exposure. And, finding enough qualified and loyal people for an outsider like Donald Trump would probably be very difficult.
Try to put together a staff of mostly unknowns who come from a pool of professional politicians and the odds look very slim for success. In the business community, investor Trump could measure one’s qualifications against a work record he would understand. And, he could always fire one for their failure and they would “go away.” In Washington, firing a politician only means they will appear on a television news show the following morning being interviewed about the relationship’s failure. I’m sure finding those to love (politically) is much easier in the nation’s capitol than finding those to trust.
And even Donald Trump can’t actually paddle his own canoe all the time.
Editor’s note: Leo Lynch, an award-winning columnist, is a native of Benton County and has deep roots in northwest Arkansas. He is a retired industrial engineer and former Justice of the Peace.