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OPINION | MASTERSON ONLINE: Our pervasive turmoil

by Mike Masterson | November 20, 2021 at 3:33 a.m.

I doubt any of us can recall a time over the course of our lifetimes when anger, disrespect, conflict, contention and nasty name-calling have been so pervasive across these once United States. Some say the dark cloud of negativity is weighing ever-heavy on our national psyche.

City halls and once-respectful (and often boring) school board meetings have often become bitter battlegrounds filled with outraged parents.

What does it say about who we have become as a once-proud country stitched together into a tightly interwoven moral patchwork of patriotism, compassion and mutual respect?

Anyone recall our inspired mood of solidarity on the day after 9/11? Two decades later, it's become commonplace for many to distrust government and others' agendas and motives. I see unjust attacks on other Americans who happen to reason differently than their assailants, as though they're expected to become obedient and mindless sheeple rather than the complex human beings we are.

For instance, too many have become quick to demonize fellow citizens as "racists," as if that grossly overused slur still has any significance. When one mindlessly calls anyone with whom they disagree a racist, what does one then call a bona fide racist? A double racist?

I happen to believe the vast majority of ordinary Americans aren't racists. Yet many have this label hung on them simply because they happen to disagree with an ideology's radical views.

Instead, like me, the victims of these smears believe in what once was appreciated: living their life as they prefer while letting others live their own.

And in a nation of such diverse views, religions and cultures protected by a constitution, who among us is qualified to determine "acceptable" versus "unacceptable" reasoning?

When did one person's supposed offense take precedent over another's words or actions? Whose supposed offense is more worthy of attention, and who even makes such a decision? A panel of judges? A cadre of mind police?

Folks, this untenable situation must be resolved if our divided nation is to survive.

We should know from the ugliness we've observed at normally mild-mannered school board meetings (of all places) just how deep the anger has burrowed deep into the hearts and minds of decent citizens and parents who pay taxes to support their child's education.

It feels to many that such dissension and conflict can't be happening by mere circumstance. There has to be a calculated political force and agenda unfolding behind such spread of hate and mistrust.

Sadly, it's not effective to appeal to our higher angels to smooth the rising waters of heated contention, especially in the absence of authentic higher leadership. Few are listening to lame arguments and political agendas that make no sense to those adults whose precious children are at stake.

And that leaves our national state of affairs in a dangerous and difficult place as spending spirals out of control, inflation soars, supplies dwindle, crime skyrockets, fuel prices rise, airlines founder, covid continues spreading, and our sovereign America continues to be flooded with citizens of other nations hoping to collect a half-million of our tax dollars each just for illegally showing up in our nation.

Seems to me that prayer, and plenty of it, is in order.

Dearth of vets

We dropped Benji by the vet's office the other day. It was time for another shot and exam that he passed with flying colors. The only concern was the half-pound he'd gained since the last visit. Hard to fathom a 12½-pound dog might be overweight.

That started me wondering how our state might fare when it comes to vets, so I went searching for answers. I was surprised and somewhat disappointed by what I discovered.

A study by Vet Near Me ( determined our beloved Arkansas is No. 1 in the nation (Yay! Uh, well, not so fast) in having the lowest number of employed veterinarians per capita.

With our largely rural and farming population above 3 million (up from just over 2 million recorded in the 1980 census), I'd have thought we'd be in the thick of vet heaven for our size.

No need to consult with ol' Mike about his limited logical skills when it comes to animal husbandry.

Among the key findings in this study are the 14.2 vets per 100,000 Arkansans. And who, you might ask, was highest in the number of employed vets?

Well, that would be South Dakota, which would actually have been near the tail end of my guesses.

There is a 58 percent difference between South Dakota (48.3 per 100,000) and No. 15 Minnesota (28.6), and a 70 percent difference between South Dakota and Arkansas. The study reveals that one third of the states in the country's top ranking lie in the Midwest, where agriculture in king. Just five states boasted at least 40 vets per 100,000 people.

Veterinarians in Arkansas, West Virginia, Texas, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Florida--all in the bottom 15--earn between 115 and 146 percent more than their state's average salaries. Arkansas is the highest-paying state for veterinarians.

A computer analysis appears to reflect the popularity of veterinary services.

For instance, the term "vet near me" is searched more than half a million times monthly. In 2020 and thus far in 2021, Google searches for "online vet" achieved new heights, according to the study.

So, valued readers, if you, like us, already have a vet for your beloved four-legged fur child, be grateful he or she has the medical care they need in our state with the dubious distinction of being No. 1 in the fewest number of employed vets.

Pirates on porches

With the Christmas season fast approaching, I noticed a study that finds Arkansas is the seventh most likely state to be plagued by porch pirates. Online shopping is expected to approach $207 billion this holiday season.

CCTV Camera World reported that, last year, 20 billion parcels were shipped across the nation, and a whopping 43 percent of Americans reported stolen packages.

The wisest among us will make provisions to be available to accept packages when they arrive rather than leaving them alone on the porch for hours.

Sad we are at this state in a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles. Don't know what you'll do, but I'm attaching a doorbell camera.

Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly how 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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