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The election countdown for 2020 mercifully comes to an end later tonight. Even then, who knows how long it will take for millions of votes to be tallied?

Questions about the results certainly could take weeks, as mail-in ballots are painstakingly counted, then likely challenged by teams of attorneys assembled for just that reason. Hard to imagine this is how far our system has spiraled in such a short time.

Short of a landslide by either party, we can expect the nastiness, contention, and resulting collective anxiety we've survived for months to continue.

The depression and anger seething in so many, alongside covid-19 fears stoked daily for political purposes, economic and stock market concerns, hurricanes, corruption, police killings, rioting, looting, murder hornets, incredibly destructive fires, gross mainstream media and social media biases, etc., is unprecedented.

I've come to wonder of late if a majority of citizens in our combative and easily offended country have the character, moxie and devotion it takes for our once United States to even survive.

Even as a lifelong journalist, I found it all but impossible over the past week to listen to, or watch, the national media and its talking heads. Endless rehashing of polls and rhetoric flat wore me out. I also ran clean out of Pepcid as the stress created by this Gawd-awful deluge was disrupting my sleep and triggering painful gas. Perhaps you, too.

Believe it or not, there was a time not all that long ago when the two major political parties fashioned ways to work together to achieve common good for all Americans. Democrats and Republicans largely acted like civil adults whose sacred responsibility was to govern in the public interest.

They each wanted power. But their desires were largely muted in favor of compromise and relative gentility to do the work of the nation.

In the words of my late uncle John Paul Hammerschmidt, who represented the state's 3rd Congressional District for 13 terms as a GOP congressman: "Once elected to Congress, I represented all my district's constituents regardless of political party."

That's just what he did, which is why people of both parties continued to elect him over 26 years.

But no more, friends. The decline has been sad and shameful to witness, as the mainstream media decades ago began abandoning objectivity and fairness to become open apologists for one ideology, another dangerous disservice and disgrace to all citizens.

So, valued readers, we will wait to see which road our United States will follow for at least the next four years. Tightened government control and increased taxes, or individual freedoms? The stakes have never been higher for certain.

Mature adults also can decide where the fault for today's deeply polarized state of affairs began.

As for me? Personalities aside, I'll always "radically" choose individual freedom and liberties, a free-market economy, a democratic republic of laws, individual responsibility and the divine blessings of our Constitution that inspired this nation long before self-interest and political power-mongering at the expense of our national well-being assumed control.

No mercy

I don't know how you feel about those who intentionally set fires that too often destroy homes and lives. To me, they are among the worst criminals among us.

And so when I read the other day that 28-year-old Jacob Walls was being federally charged with intentionally setting a fire in the forested areas near the Buffalo National River at Pruitt in 2019, my thought, should he be convicted, was a 20-year prison term without possibility of parole. Just ask all those poor now-homeless folks out west today how they feel about such people.

To let anyone convicted of such crimes off with even a moderate sentence sends a terrible message to other prospective arsonists who need only a single match to destroy so much. The penalty for that action should be severe.

Arresting Walls was a joint effort between federal law enforcement agencies and the Newton County sheriff's office. Good work, fellas.

If honor prevailed

A meme on social media the other day set my wheels to turning.

Imagine how strong our nation could be today if our elected Congress spent its days working diligently for the people who elect them to serve with honor, and would only govern with our needs continually at the forefront, rather than first serving their party's agendas and pleasing those who offer the power we grant for personal financial gain.

I suspect the majority of Americans are fed up with the self-serving corruption that has taken control of D.C., to include the throng of politicized bureaucrats who shift from one congressional office to another as elections force change, but who never leave the swamp.

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 [email protected]

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