J. Scott Applewhite, AP
The Capitol Dome on Capitol Hill in Washington.

The year 2019 may be framed as the year trust is on trial and integrity is under investigation in America. Trust in political leaders and government institutions continues to plummet. Lapses of integrity by community, business and political leaders have made it difficult for trust to thrive — or even exist.

Moral relativism has created shifting sands of the once sure foundation of trust and integrity in America. Situational honesty, leadership and ethics are crippling the nation’s ability to solve big problems and engage in critical conversations.

Complaints abound about conflict in government and an inability to negotiate compromise. But cooperative solutions must begin by trusting in other people's integrity — that they will do what they promise to do. Absent the combination of trust and integrity, leaders are left to focus on what divides them, which accentuates distrust in the motives of those with whom they disagree.

One need look no further for exhibit A than the day’s news.

Retired four-star Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal told ABC's Martha Raddatz Sunday, "I don't think (the president) tells the truth." When asked if he thought President Trump was immoral, McChrystal replied, "I think he is."

Two days before being sworn in as a United States senator, Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post that stated, “A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect.”

Romney’s piece continues, “With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.”

And on Thursday, New Jersey Democrat Sen. Robert Menendez will take office again despite being "severely adminished" by the Senate Committee on Ethics for bringing "discredit upon the Senate."

Further, the battle between Democrats and Republicans on funding the government and solving the country’s immigration issue has devolved into name calling instead of constructive conversation. This erodes the trust American people have in national leaders and institutions. Stretching the truth to fit a political narrative likewise stretches integrity beyond trust’s breaking point.

The bigger crisis for the country is that the distrust perpetuated by big government, large organizations and political leaders has begun to fray the fabric of trust in communities and even in personal relationships.

" Ultimately, gaining integrity and trust starts with a look in the mirror. "

Trust and integrity must begin in homes and neighborhoods. Living with integrity and building trust truly is an individual issue that carries immense repercussions.

Just as citizens should expect — even demand — integrity of national leaders, it is equally vital to trust that an accountant, doctor, teacher, financial adviser, contractor, spouse or friend will act with integrity.

But there is hope for the nation. Americans can learn by observing the integrity, or lack of it, in others. Ultimately, gaining integrity and trust starts with a look in the mirror.

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American educator John W. Gardner said, “Men of integrity, by their very existence, rekindle the belief that as a people we can live above the level of moral squalor. We need that belief; a cynical community is a corrupt community.” Every instance of someone acting with integrity strengthens and fortifies trust.

Trust is on trial in America, and personal integrity is the star witness. The Deseret News will cover the case over the coming weeks and throughout the year. Every citizen should join in the conversation about what trust and integrity mean for America now and in the future.