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OPINION | MASTERSON ONLINE: Lost art of saying no

by Mike Masterson | January 9, 2021 at 9:03 a.m.

My inability to say no--and stand behind it--has always been a personal shortcoming, beginning not long after the birth of son Brandon, and carrying through after daughter Anna arrived seven years later.

And it's not reassuring, when I look around at the world today, that I'm far from alone in my inability.

Based on what I see transpiring on the streets and in many major cities today, it's readily apparent that not nearly enough parents and/or guardians told their own children no when it mattered, and stuck to it. Yet the ability to say no with justifiable reason, particularly in families, businesses and government, is crucial to stability and success.

It requires absolutely no management skills or devotion to honesty if one always says yes. We have any number of "managers" who find it difficult to say no when appropriate, which in business can be quite often.

Why do we elect representatives to serve us who are willing to regularly say yes to big-contributing special interests and find ways to financially feather their personal and political nests using our money?

It requires zero dedication or management ability to freely hand out billions and billions of our dollars for so many frivolous reasons: Gender studies in Pakistan, really? And they do it without even reading or understanding reams of legislation.

It's just so darned easy to say yes, isn't it, especially when you're not held accountable by those who left to pay for your self-centered decisions. And by the electorate failing to say no to these officials, we are in effect also saying yes to dispensing our money in such an irresponsible manner.

The same can be said across the board in 2021 America as the ethical bumper lanes that once helped shape and direct the affairs of this nation on moral, financial and ethical paths have fallen.

Our country has become startlingly obese in two generations. The underlying cause is an inability to tell ourselves no when it comes to what and how much we consume, even when we realize it usually leads to disease and early death.

As we saw last summer, the elected officials in major cities in effect refused to say no to those who looted and burned and pillaged the businesses of hardworking, decent people.

The sad list of all we do that common sense says deserves a resounding no has grown to epic proportions over recent decades. And pray tell, how do you get that destructive genie back in its bottle?

Ready to 'ridere'?

I'm giving strong consideration to joining wealthy and influential elitists in our country by adopting an alter ego. In the increasingly unhinged society we've accepted, it's become normal for our highest elected officials, along with a celebrity or two, to simply pretend they are someone they aren't.

Best join in with such looniness since millions of Americans appear to have lost their sense of critical thought and common sense, right?

The latest well-publicized example of my point is Hilaria Baldwin (wife of the perpetually raging Alec), who spent 20 years claiming to be a native of Spain. She went so far as to fabricate slightly broken English when the truth was she's a plain-vanilla American citizen born and educated in Boston who moved to New York when she was 19, though she did visit Spain, where her parents moved.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat presidential candidate, assured the nation she was part Native American until DNA testing proved that wasn't quite the truth.

Remember when Connecticut Democrat Sen. Richard Blumental falsely claimed he'd served in Vietnam as a soldier when in fact, he never left this country? Yep, him too.

Former senator, first lady and Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was long said to have been named after famed mountain climber Sir Edmund Hillary. Husband Bill even said so in his book.

However, the renowned adventurer didn't achieve widespread fame until he scaled Mount Everest six years after Hillary Clinton's birth, prompting that version to disappear from public discourse.

Then there was her bogus statement about landing under sniper fire on a safely secured military base in Bosnia during a visit with daughter Chelsea. What the heck, it sounded exciting.

And on and on the widespread falsehoods and misdirections have gone, valued readers.

Amid all the imaginary, self-serving nonsense, and since I've always reveled in Italian food and music, I may soon join in all the dishonest fun, although I'm neither a celebrity nor elected "public servant."

I may begin by referring to myself as the Spanish-Italian writer of prose whose name will be ... hmm ... what sounds romantic and mysterious?

Wait, wait ... I've got it. My adopted avatar will be Don Alejandro Amore', cultured man of letters and lover of pizza pie, Galliano and tasty marinara (with pasta, of course).

Like Baldwin's wife, I will fittingly adjust my dialect and cadence from puredee Arkansas Ozark phrases the likes of "well, shoot, now, don't that shore 'nuff beat all?" and "Ya don't say?" to far more romance-language phrases that express the same sentiments yet in an enticing dialect: "Mamma mia! Most assuredly that eez resplendent weeth grandest allure," and "Do you truly mean what it eez you say to mee?"

If I can pull this off, I doubt many will still recognize the stale, old Ozarks Mike of Northern English descent. And, of course, like all others who have been playing the make-believe game for years, I doubt others will even care.

And they may even like the mutated me better. Who knows?

Meanwhile, I would continue reshaping this new me, perhaps with the help of some dark-hued Just for Men, fine leather shoes, and some tightly tailored silk suits. On second thought, probably not that tight.

The clock is tickin'. I realize my time to convert is short if I decide to create the new me. So I'll sign off for today as I contact Amazon for a language kit from Rosetta Stone where I could learn the Italian word for laugh is ridere, and continue working on perfecting the Italian dialect.

To enhance my credibility, I'll also need a good book on Italian wines, some appropriate music (I like Andrea Bocelli). Perhaps I'll even master the art of preparing authentic pasta e fagioli and the proper use of garlic.

Come to think of it, I wonder if I might regularly tote a mood-setting boom box on my shoulder that continually cycles the theme from "The Godfather." Maybe not.

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

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


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