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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers

December 24, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Texarkana Gazette. Dec. 22, 2018.

It was 175 years ago that the Christmas celebration as we know it was more or less born.

No, we are not speaking of the Christ child who is the true reason for the season. We refer instead to the traditions and customs by which we in the English-speaking world mark that day. They largely come from a single work of literature. A remarkable and much-loved volume first published in December 1843.

It’s a tale of holiday redemption that has been translated into every known language and filmed dozens of times in motion picture and television adaptations. And it’s a work that gave the world perhaps the most universally known character in all of literature — a London financier and skinflint who is able to find the true spirit of Christmas. A charming old fellow by the name of Ebenezer Scrooge.

The celebrated British author Charles Dickens wrote the book originally called “A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas” as a quick way to pay off some debts. But the slim tale proved extremely popular, selling a then-remarkable 6,000 copies in the first week.

It has never been out of print since.

What Dickens could never have foreseen was the cultural impact his work would have. He wove commentary on poverty and want, cruelty and the class system into the story, as he so frequently did. But it was his simple message of Christmas that brought real and lasting change to the world.

Christmas had fallen on hard times in England, where dour Protestant leaders discouraged celebrations on the grounds that the holiday had become too materialistic, and it was not much celebrated in the United States at all. The themes of Dickens’ book — redemption, forgiveness, charity, family, feasts and good cheer — struck a chord with the people of England and America and the story is widely seen as reviving the celebration of Christmas in both lands and fixing in our minds how a proper Christmas is to be enjoyed.

There have been other influences on Christmas over the years, of course. But none so lasting as that of Dickens, Scrooge and company.

The tale of the three spirits has ensured the Christmas spirit lives with all of us right up to today.

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Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Dec. 23, 2018.

Reliability, the automotive commercials tell us, is an ability to count on future performance based on past results. In that context, auto manufacturers spend millions of dollars in advertising to tout awards for car models that have demonstrated they can be trusted to perform a certain way.

The wire services story on the front page Friday explained Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ resignation and President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. The move “raised questions about America’s perceived reliability as a wartime partner,” the story said.

Reliability? Say whatever you want about Donald Trump and his policies, but claiming reliability is one of his strong suits is about as accurate as suggesting he’s a humble man. So yes, American reliability as a partner for much of anything of significance will be highly suspect until a responsible, thoughtful president re-enters the Oval Office.

The turnover rate in Trump’s administration is the most visible marker of a lack of reliability. His mercurial leadership cannot sustain lasting relationships with people who respect themselves in their work.

Anyone else having visions of Charles Foster Kane uttering “Rosebud?”

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Dec. 23, 2018.

The holidays can be a wonderful time for many. For others, it can be a rough reminder of how alone they feel. If money’s tight, anxiety’s high and needs are many, Christmas might be hard.

Thanks to some leftover cultural attitudes regarding men and mental health, some guys feel as though seeking mental health care would make them . . . less? So they might ignore it, shove it away, deny it. Eventually the problem, unaddressed, becomes crisis.

It’s getting worse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Arkansas’ suicide rate is up nearly 37 percent over the last 17 years. The Economist reports that the suicide rate in rural counties is 78 percent higher than it is in cities. And reports say for every two women who took their lives in 2016, seven men did the same.

Any doctor will tell you it’s best to treat a problem early. But a 2014 study shows women are more likely than men to seek help for mental health issues. The perception among men that they can just tough it out needs to end.

Some groups are using marketing to combat this problem. One such campaign is called Man Therapy. It features a fictional therapist named Dr. Richard Mahogany. In short introductory videos, Dr. Mahogany sits in an office with wooden furniture and a moose head mounted behind him. He has a thick mustache. He looks and sounds like a man’s man.

The doc says funny things like, “Did you know that men have feelings too? And no, not just the hippies, all of us! Hello, I’m Dr. Rich Mahogany, welcome to man therapy.” The website www.mantherapy.org features humorous videos to address mental health while staying “manly,” resources to get in touch with therapists, a crisis hotline, a mental health quiz and more. It’s all designed to get men thinking about their mental health in a positive way.

And it works. Public health officials in Montana’s Lewis and Clark County launched a Man Therapy campaign to end the stigma of getting help for depression and suicidal thoughts about four months ago. Since the launch, a TV station there reports that the campaign’s website has seen nearly 1,000 new users, with almost 200 using the site’s mental health screener and 25 people using the red phone option, which connects them with a suicide prevention online chat and a lifeline phone number.

Similar campaigns have been launched in Colorado and other states. Public health officials hold events for Man Therapy, passing out humorous cards that say things like “You can’t fix your mental health with duct tape,” and “Therapy from the creators of pork chops and fighter jets.” They hope to head mental health problems off at the start and catch them before they devolve into disasters because of negligence — and denial.

It would be great to see this program expanded to Arkansas, so men suffering from depression get the message that it’s OK to seek help.

Arkansas can do more to address the issue, expanding crisis centers and offering economic incentives for therapists to expand their practices into rural parts of the state, particularly in the Delta and southern portions of Arkansas.

Mental health problems don’t always go away, but they can get worse if left untreated. The message should be: If you need help, man up and go get it.

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