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OPINION | MIKE MASTERSON: Endless anxiety

by Mike Masterson | February 9, 2021 at 4:01 a.m.

How much more troubling news in an endless stream of the stuff do you suppose this freedom-loving nation can absorb before we collectively crack?

Several obvious examples:

Covid-19 strikes and ravages our nation and the world, leaving us to wonder just when, where, and if ever we will awaken from the nightmare. Although multiple vaccines are now available to help protect us from the virus and its potentially fatal effects, even that ray of good news has become overcast by widespread problems involved with distributing and injecting the serum into the most vulnerable. Now Americans are told even the vaccine doesn't necessarily offer full protection and more uncertainty swells as other more contagious variants are upon us.

The thriving economy we enjoyed before this virus ran amok sank like a stone last year, driving untold thousands of smaller business into bankruptcy and closure while larger ones (offering generous political contributions) for the most part remained to thrive. Now millions are understandably worried, even panicked, by their inability to earn a living. In a matter of months they've wound up facing homelessness and hunger in midwinter as Washington plays politics as usual.

November's national election proved more divisive than any in modern history, and the resulting frustrations have continued among millions of Americans. The wholly unacceptable and criminal Capitol riot of Jan. 6 only exacerbated the condition.

Unsupported accusations of racism against millions of honorable Americans continue to plague our society. Certainly racism does exist as unfortunately it has since our founding. Yet the unconscionable and destructive tactics of throwing around such accusations to try and demonize and discredit others who aren't -- and never have been -- racist persists as a political weapon. Unjustified hatred (such as "canceling" those who dare think differently) has become commonplace in some corporations, universities, media, politics and especially on social media where casting aspersions and character assassinations from the anonymity of recliners has become our new national sport.

General uneasiness and confusion continue to spread among millions as they watch radical shifts in national policies toward energy, border security, women's athletics and other matters with no assurances where these changes will leave the country.

Both political parties have left so many Americans disappointed and distressed with their eagerness to discredit and destroy each other placed above their call to public service. So many are deeply distressed by the disheartening lies, greed, dishonesty, selfishness, flagrant double standards and stunning hypocrisies they see coming daily from our nation's Capitol.

The loss of credibility of the national news media has become significant, says late-2020 polling by Gallup. And that gaping hole has left an enormous number of Americans so concerned that they find it difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between truth and political propaganda. The media continue to fan the flames of hate and division with what they choose to report or not. In an attempt to ease the stresses from the endless stream of unreliable negativity, I believe an untold number of Americans have stopped watching news programs altogether.

Social media in its various forms of bias has proven to be a dangerous bane to any hope for restoring a unified country.

Many parents are beside themselves in states and communities where their children cannot attend classes, despite science that says classes can -- and should -- be open, leaving them to try to work at home while parenting and becoming de facto teachers when they aren't qualified to be.

Covid-related lockdowns have led many stuck at home for months to become increasingly depressed, angry, and even suicidal.

The widespread lawless trend to loot, burn and assault innocent businesses and people that we witnessed in major metropolises last summer, with the seeming acceptance of those cities' elected leaders, shook the nation.

It's become difficult at best to identify the true "victims" in our society with so many claiming victimhood by citing any number of justifications. Personal responsibility and integrity have become antiquated character traits.

Then there is a crippling and rising $27.9 trillion debt to repay, the assault on free speech and the Second Amendment, along with other concerns that fuel the turmoil within these once United States, keeping many citizens' nerves constantly on edge and our nation continuously roiled in consternation, dismay and mistrust.

It's all enough for me and millions of Americans to collectively swallow a buffered sedative in search of escape and relief.

Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.

--–––––v–––––--

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at

mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

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