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OPINION | MIKE MASTERSON: A tragic number

by Mike Masterson | February 14, 2021 at 8:42 a.m.

An Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll says just 16 percent of Americans surveyed believe democracy is working well or extremely well. And that's among persons of all political leanings.

How tragic, valued readers. What have we allowed to happen in these United States to sink to such a dismal level when it comes to trust in government and preserving our freedoms?

Yet after witnessing what has been unfolding around us daily, it's little wonder such feelings are running high.

About half--45 percent--think democracy is not functioning properly. Just over a third--38 percent--say it's working just somewhat well.

Although the AP's findings are "broadly consistent with how Americans graded democracy before the election," a partisan pattern became noticeable since the election.

I find it interesting that we never hear much about the state of our "republic," since we are not purely a democracy, but a constitutional federal republic.

We don't see this kind of accurate reference to our nation as a republic used much in news accounts, do we? Who knows if that's by intent or ignorance of the reality of what our country truly represents?

Vaccine effective

The indomitable Martha Deaver of Conway has been honored many times for her tireless efforts on behalf of nursing home residents in Arkansas and beyond.

I honestly can't imagine a more deserving person to be praised in this critical field of ensuring the weakest adults among us are being properly cared for as their lives draw toward a close. Wouldn't we all be proud to depart this world leaving Deaver's meaningful legacy that greatly benefits the welfare of our frailest and voiceless brothers and sisters?

Still on the subject of nursing homes, a recent preliminary analysis by two health-care associations reports covid-19 cases decreased at a faster rate at nursing homes that had completed their first vaccine clinic, compared with nearby nursing homes yet to administer the vaccine.

Vaccinated nursing homes had a 48 percent decline in new resident cases three weeks after the first vaccination clinic; non-vaccinated nursing homes operating in the same county had a 21 percent decline. New staff cases declined by 33 percent in the vaccinated homes compared to 18 percent in non-vaccinated facilities.

Further study is needed to determine if such trends will continue in other clinics, or after the second doses. My bet is the results will be similar or even better. But I'm no virologist either.

Judgment over reason

Here's something worth contemplating in the latest juvenile tactic called "canceling" others with differing views: Critical reasoning can prove difficult, which is why many are often eager to choose uninformed and emotional judgment over logic and truth when it comes to their fellow Americans' thoughts and actions.

I'd venture to say this has become fairly routine behavior for millions, although we adults are clearly warned by spiritual admonitions about removing the plank of condemnation from our own eyes and sinners being first to cast the stone to harm others.

Demise of manners

In my youth, both my parents continually reminded me and both siblings to mind our manners and consider others in all we did.

Unfortunately, with a few exceptions, I see very little, if any, regard for teaching or observing proper manners today. Do you?

This failure makes it easier to see why the fabric of our nation continues to unravel, strand by strand, into a jumble of widespread disrespect, verbal abuse and selfishness.

Back in the day, as the grandparents might say, here are a few examples of good manners drilled into our young skulls.

Men should always treat women with respect, which translates to opening doors, helping seat them at a restaurant, and walking on the street side when accompanying a female, as protective and courteous gestures.

Wait for others to begin eating at the table before helping yourself. And be quick to pass food to others after you've had your share.

Ask if someone close to us needs assistance, then provide help if the answer is yes.

Always let others finish their sentences before jumping in to interrupt with comments, or offering a grander story (topper) of your own.

Use courtesy titles such as Mrs. or Mr. as a sign of respect and civility toward elders.

Never enter a home where you're not invited, or visit others' homes unannounced during the dinner hour.

Don't call others after 9 p.m., if avoidable.

Never dig through others' cabinets or refrigerators without being allowed.

Never ask personal questions about matters that don't involve you.

Resist temptations to brag on yourself to others, but praise them freely when deserved.

Treat others the way you want them to treat you (bet you've seen that one somewhere before).

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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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