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I'm no man of the cloth, or even an adjunct assistant lay minister. I'm simply an observer of life fortunate enough to be blessed with a platform to share my views on an endless variety of topics and issues, to include those of a spiritual nature.

That said, I can't help but notice how the Book of Psalms in Chapter 46 speaks of nations writhing in turmoil and "the Earth melts" as God raises his voice in response.

Then I see just how many nations today are indeed swept into raging protests and turmoil.

Here's an abbreviated list: Israel, Iraq, Iran, Hong Kong, Ukraine, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, India, Armenia, Taiwan, Ethiopia, Poland, Tanzania, Lebanon, Belarus, Libya and, right here at home in our sustained unrest that continues after questions surrounding the results of this month's election.

Some undoubtedly will scoff at this biblical reference and dismiss it as rhetoric. That's their prerogative. Still others will choose to heed the message as a harbinger rooted in divine wisdom and understanding.

As for me? Hey, I've certainly never been one to dismiss the Bible as unreliable. And a wise man once assured me I could live an honorable and fulfilled life by simply following the Psalms.

Data fiction

There's plenty of widespread turmoil and skepticism surrounding the results of our presidential election.

With that in mind, I read intriguing references to a 2015 novel by Patricia Cornwell titled "Depraved Heart," which features a passage dealing with so-called "data fiction."

Cornwell defines the concept this way: "It's what can happen if we're so reliant on technology that we become completely dependent on things we can't see. Therefore we can no longer judge for ourselves what's true, what's false, what's accurate and what isn't.

"In other words, if reality is defined by software that does all the work for us, then what if this software lies? What if everything we believe isn't true, but is a facade, a mirage? What if we go to war, pull the plug, make life-and-death decisions based on data fiction?"

To her point, I'll include fiction that appears on social media sites controlled and managed by a relative handful of technicians and computer geeks who can bring their political ideologies to bear on what information is--and isn't--released to the public.

I believe it's just such doubts regarding data fiction in 2020 America (and worldwide) that plagued our recent election, leading millions of Americans to question the outcome of the results, particularly in some instances nationally.

Even some registered poll watchers assigned to scrutinize the voting results as they were being processed (to ensure credibility afterwards) said they were barred from completing their tasks on election night. For me, that feeds into the data fiction narrative.

In light of the legal questions still swirling around the manner in which this election was conducted and results being processed for days on end, my deepest concern at this point is how such rampant suspicions and damaged trust bode for our future elections.

Even after the numbers are tabulated, in order to effectively govern a nation its people have to believe an election was conducted transparently and legitimately, free from data fiction, partisan bias and/or outright fraud. And who gave a clearly biased mainstream media the authority to call the winner of elections before the results are even certified? It certainly isn't our Constitution. That kind of thing also only fuels suspicions and damages voter confidence.

If half of Americans believe they can't place their trust in election results as honest and accurate, what will be done to restore full faith in the results come those pivotal January Senate runoffs in Georgia and again in 2022 when all House seats are at stake?

There must be credible security and transparency plans fully implemented before the coming elections to ensure every illegal or unsuitable vote is tossed while every legally cast vote is accurately counted.

And every certified poll watcher should be allowed to do their job up close and effectively.

Many issues and problems with this election, as I understand it, resulted from the extraordinary time and counting procedures involved with processing mail-in ballots. Regardless, it's apparent to me the American public must be assured their elections are indeed beyond reproach.

One thing I feel certain about: If, following this turbulent election, we as a nation can't restore the faith that the now skeptical millions among us must have in national election results, I fear we inevitably will experience chronic election problems and questionable results routinely experienced in some Third World countries.

Remarkable timing

Speaking of the election, what a remarkable and timely coincidence that within a week of the presidential election (and projected winner Democrat Joe Biden), the Pfizer pharmaceutical corporation announced it has created a covid-19 vaccine with estimated 90 percent effectiveness. It is expected to be released soon after the FDA authorizes its widespread use.

The stock market rocketed with this welcome news.

So hooray, well, sort of. I hear this vaccine requires 28 days after injected to become fully effective and likely won't be available to virtually everyone until early next year as this scourge continues to spread.

I also find it interesting that a friend with no previously recognized soothsaying skills predicted such a vaccine would suddenly appear right after the election. That has caused me to wonder just how long Pfizer might have held such positive information before the election.

It's a fair assumption that the multinational corporation took at least a month to get their ducks aligned, confirmed and a news release issued.

Farewell, Alex

Not even the iconic Alex Trebek of "Jeopardy" fame could escape the inevitable.

The popular television game-show host who shared many evenings in the living rooms of Americans was darn near a familiar family member to millions, which made his death last weekend from pancreatic cancer at age 80 all the more poignant and sad.

It's always difficult to bid farewell to a friend, who after 37 years on "Jeopardy" certainly felt that way to so many among us.

Can't count this

Food for thought, valued readers. The biggest difference between time and money is you can count your money, material possessions and shiny toys all you care to, but you can never count how much time you have remaining.

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 [email protected]

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