Shouldn’t America Be Happier?

[cartoon id=”247600″]

Despite the many blessings of living in America, why aren’t more Americans happy?

According to World Population Review, the 2021 World Happiness Report ranks America as the 19th happiest out of 146 countries.

The report bases happiness on six categories, including gross domestic product (GDP), social support, life expectancy, generosity, perceptions of each country’s corruption levels, and the freedom for citizens to make their own life choices.

GDP is a general estimate of the total value of finished goods and services that a country has produced within a specific period of time, usually measured in a year.

America has the highest GDP in the world, yet that isn’t producing the highest happiness ranking in the world.

To be sure, money isn’t everything where happiness is concerned, according to Time.

Several studies show that once your basic financial needs are met and you have enough money to enjoy a few niceties, more money does not necessarily equate to more happiness.

Though, as my Uncle Bert has wisely noted, if you’re going to be miserable anyway, you might as well be rich!

America’s life expectancy ranking is awfully disappointing. Out of 227 countries, we rank 46th. Other advanced economies are doing much better than we are. Our neighbor Canada is ranked sixth.

Understanding why we aren’t living longer requires deep examination, but a report by the National Institute of Health explains why it would negatively impact our happiness ranking.

That brings us to generosity.

According to the 2019 World Giving Index (PDF), Americans had been the most generous people on Earth for the prior decade, reports Marketwatch.

However, the 2021 World Giving Index (PDF) says the USA “has seen a significant decline across all three scores since 2016 — a trend which accelerated in 2020.”

Why are Americans giving less? When the downtrend began in 2016, The Atlantic tried to identify the underlying causes.

Cynicism could be one of them.

“Fewer Americans feel that their volunteer work and donations actually make a difference in their communities,” reports The Atlantic.

Since helping others brings you a lot of joy, is our reduction in giving another source of our unhappiness?

Then there is our perception of corruption.

If you live in a country where government corruption is high, you likely feel powerless in your ability to influence your government’s policies with your voice and your vote.

When President Trump won in 2016, half the country thought he stole the election. Today, the other half of the country thinks President Biden stole the 2020 election.

With perception of government corruption running high, I suppose it could contribute to the unhappiness of many Americans.

The last measure of happiness in the World Population Review involves the freedom of citizens to make their own life choices — a basic freedom that has been significantly limited by some state governments during the COVID pandemic.

States like Florida and South Dakota generally kept their economies and schools open and preserved their citizens’ freedom to make their own decisions, but states like California enforced strict lockdowns and mask mandates — making many people very unhappy.

Now that I think about it, given what we’ve gone through the last year and a half, maybe we should be happy we didn’t rank considerably lower than 19th on the 2021 World Happiness Report.

Copyright 2021 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Tom Purcell is an author and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at [email protected]

Comments Off on Shouldn’t America Be Happier?

The Pitfalls of Daylight Savings Time 

[cartoon id=”207741″]

Be extra cautious when you “fall back” on Nov. 7, 2021.

That’s the date we must set our clocks back one hour in honor of daylight savings time.

But watch out.

The jarring shift to our daily sleep patterns and routines each Fall — and each Spring — is linked to an increase in heart attacks, strokes or automobile accidents, according to Business Insider.

In the Spring, when our clocks “spring forward,” hospitals report a 24 percent spike in heart-attack visits around the U.S.

After the time change, groggy drivers are also more likely to rub fenders with other groggy drivers.

In fact, researchers estimate that car crashes caused by sleepy daylight-savings-time drivers likely cost 30 extra people their lives every year over the nine-year period from 2002-2011, reports Business Insider.

“That’s how fragile and susceptible your body is to even just one hour of lost sleep,” sleep expert Matthew Walker, author of “How We Sleep,” told Insider.

The reverse happens in the Fall when clocks are set back one hour. Heart attack visits to hospitals drop by 21 percent — but pedestrian deaths increase.

According to NBC News, “pedestrians walking during the evening rush hour are nearly three times more likely to be struck and killed by cars than before the time change.…”

Two Carnegie Mellon University researchers explain that the increase in pedestrian accidents is due to people having difficulty adjusting to the sudden darkness that comes one hour earlier.

I’m no fan of daylight savings time, but starting Nov. 7 I hope to take advantage of the extra hour of morning daylight.

I’ve long dreamt of becoming a morning person.

I’ve dreamt of having a very healthy sleep cycle the way morning people do — waking early and refreshed from a good night’s sleep after going to bed at a decent hour the night before.

But morning — which begins way too early — has always held me back.

The evening has held me back, too. It goes by way too fast, causing me to stretch it out into the wee hours.

That’s why I’m groggy and moody in the morning. People know it’s best to not even look in my direction until two cups of coffee — and a couple shots of espresso — have been downed.

Regrettably, morning people and I have been at odds for years.

They’re giddy and chatty before the sun comes up, whereas I’m surly and removed.

If daylight savings time legislation is the law of the land, then giddiness and chattiness should be outlawed before 10 a.m.

But I am trying to make better use of my mornings. I am not alone.

Because millions have been working from home due to the pandemic, a lot of people are struggling to regain their “morning mojo.”

The Wall Street Journal interviewed sleep and productivity experts to share some tips.

In a nutshell, you have to will yourself to become a better morning person by turning-in early — 10 p.m. is best — and rising at 5:30 a.m.

This gives you time to ease into the day with coffee, a walk or a bike ride or any other healthy activity. Plus, exposure to morning sunlight helps you to reset your circadian rhythm.

After two weeks of such clean living, the experts promise, you will own your mornings and be more rested and productive than you have ever been.

At least until March, when the clocks spring forward and your sleep mornings will be screwed up all over again.

Copyright 2021 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Tom Purcell is an author and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at [email protected]

Comments Off on The Pitfalls of Daylight Savings Time 

The Rise and Fall of the Shopping Mall

[cartoon id=”252746″]

My buddies Ayres and Klinger and I walked its crowded corridors for hours on Friday nights, hoping to meet girls.

That’s what we did at South Hills Village Mall in the late 1970s, when we were teens and the American Mall was in its heyday.

Built in the mid-1960s, and the very first indoor mall to be constructed in Pittsburgh, “The Village” was a typical, large two-level structure with “anchor” department stores at each end, a Sears Roebuck in the middle and a variety of retail stores in between.

No mall visit was complete without stopping into the pinball and games arcade or Spencer Gifts, a novelty and gag gift store that sold everything from lava lamps to Farrah Fawcett’s famous poster.

The mall became the town square for suburban kids. Our younger siblings spent so much time there their generation would earn the name “Mall Rats.”

We were clueless teenagers. We had no idea why or how the suburban mall had evolved, but its birth — and its recent rapid decline — is an interesting, though complicated, American story.

According to a 2014 article in Smithsonian Magazine, the explosion of malls across America was fueled by urban flight, suburban growth and economic prosperity after World War II.

But that’s not the full explanation, the magazine said. The unintended good intentions of government economic policy and federal tax codes tell the rest of the story.

Smithsonian said that in 1954 Congress was eager to stimulate investment in manufacturing. To that end, it accelerated annual depreciation rates for new construction.

Depreciation is a tax concept that assumes that a piece of machinery or a building has a finite lifespan — that upon being built, it begins to lose value until it eventually needs to be replaced.

The Smithsonian’s article turned to the New Yorker magazine’s great writer, Malcolm Gladwell, to explain how mall developers were allowed to “ ‘deduct much larger sums, which would be counted, technically, as depreciation loss — completely tax-free money.’ ”

“ ‘Suddenly it was possible to make much more money investing in things like shopping centers than buying stocks,’ Gladwell writes, “ ‘so money poured into real-estate investment companies.’ ”

Over 1,200 shopping malls shot up in the U.S. after the earliest examples were built in the 1950s, according to World Market.

A massive amount of money was made by investors in new malls, but there was an unintended social cost.

As millions of suburbanites switched their shopping to the malls, many large retailers in the downtown cores of major cities and small stores on local main streets were devastated and put out of business.

Malls had their Golden Åge, but they’ve been in decline for years.

They’ve been bleeding shoppers and revenues because of the growth of online shopping and now, after being crushed by a year and a half of covid lockdowns, they’re being shuttered in big numbers.

Some malls, like my old teenage stamping ground, appear to be hanging in there. Sears is long gone, but Target and Dick’s appear to be doing well.

Some mall owners, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, are introducing innovative ideas to remain relevant — and viable.

Others, says NPR, are remaking their vast, rarely busy spaces into apartments, medical facilities, office spaces and other important re-uses.

I wish all of them better luck than Ayres, Klingler and I had 40-some years ago. We spent hundreds of hours walking up and down our mall’s crowded corridors, but never once met any girls!

Copyright 2021 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Tom Purcell is an author and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at [email protected]

Comments Off on The Rise and Fall of the Shopping Mall

Is It Autumn for America?

[cartoon id=”244497″]

The autumn leaves are expected to be extra vibrant this year in Pennsylvania, though they are changing colors a week later than is normal.

That’s fitting. Very few things are “normal” this year.

According to Merriam-Webster, “autumn” is “the season between summer and winter comprising in the northern hemisphere usually the months of September, October, and November.…”

Autumn is also defined as “a period of maturity or incipient decline.”

Fall has always been my favorite time of the year. The chilly air and vibrant colors fill me with calm.

This time of year I become especially reflective about my life and my future, but I also reflect about our country and its future.

Political discourse and basic civility grow worse by the day. Just follow the news — if you can bear it.

Our massive federal government is demonstrating massive incompetence on a host of issues — the Afghanistan pull-out, the Southern border, gigantic proposed spending bills — yet a growing number of voters seems to think a bigger, socialistic government is a dandy idea.

America’s systemic optimism is hitting new lows, as a majority of us believe the country is heading in the wrong direction.

Is it really autumn for America? Have we reached a period of maturity and incipient decline? I hope and pray it isn’t so.

I’ve long believed you should never bet against the resilience, ingenuity and productivity of the American people. But in this reflective time of year, I admit that I have a growing sense of unease about our country’s future.

It’s best if you try to focus instead on the many enjoyable events that autumn brings: hayrides, hot apple cider and the entertaining haunted house venues that are back in business after covid shut them down last year.

It’s best to marvel at the creativity and hilarity of the characters and costumes people come up with for their annual Halloween party — the one social event, or at least it used to be, at which adults can really let themselves have fun.

As far as characters and costumes go, I increasingly identify with the “oddest” character in the 1960s sitcom, “The Munsters.”

The Munsters are a family of silly monsters: Grandpa, an eccentric vampire; his daughter, Lily, also a vampire; her husband Herman, a Frankenstein monster; their son Eddie, a werewolf.

The Munster who’s the oddball in the family is their niece, Marilynn, who is considered plain and unattractive by Munster standards because she is a normal, attractive woman by traditional standards.

With so many supposedly normal characters in Washington attempting to pass the largest government spending bill in U.S. history, you can feel like an oddball yourself for suggesting that some of the measures in the bill are way too radical and way too costly.

In fact, fewer American “oddballs” — people worried about the country their children will inherit — are willing to share their thoughts in public.

According to a 2020 Cato Institute survey, 62 percent of us say we hold political views we’re afraid to share — with good reason.

The survey finds that “50 percent  of strong liberals support firing Trump donors, 36 percent of strong conservatives support firing Biden donors, and 32 percent are worried about missing out on job opportunities because of their political opinions.”

Freedom of speech has long been the very foundation of our country, but a majority of Americans are now afraid to exercise it?

That sad fact has become the new normal in America.

And that’s a lot more frightening than the scariest haunted house anyone will enter this autumn.

Copyright 2021 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Tom Purcell is an author and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at [email protected]

Comments Off on Is It Autumn for America?

Let Them Eat Kix

[cartoon id=”254756″]

I never parted with a $20 bill faster.

It happened at one of my favorite diners. The Western omelet and Diet Coke I often get wasn’t the $11 it had been for as long as I remember.

It was $16.

That expense, with my tip for the excellent waiter, consumed my entire $20 bill.

I feel bad for the diner’s owner. He told me that soaring food costs have been killing his profits for months. He’s been forced to raise his prices, yet he’s making half of what he used to.

Why?

First, his labor costs are up because there is a shortage of workers and he has to pay them a higher hourly wage or they won’t take the job.

And second, because he has to charge higher prices, his customer base is dwindling.

As wonderful as a diner breakfast is, more people, getting hit by inflation across the board, are choosing to stay home and eat a bowl of Wheaties or Kix instead.

I’m certainly no economist. But I know this: inflation stinks.

According to one financial advisor quoted in Forbes, there are a few driving factors behind our current spike in prices – high demand and low supply.

COVID-19 lockdowns caused Americans to sit on their money for months but lately they’ve been injecting those dollars back into the economy with abandon.

The nearly zero-percent mortgage interest rates we’ve been enjoying since March 2020 are driving up the demand for houses – and therefore their sales prices.

And global supply chains for many products are all goofed up because of the pandemic’s disruptions.

For instance, due to a shortage of vehicles for sale — new vehicles are being held back by car makers because of a shortage of computer chips — new and used car prices are ridiculously high.

I bought a new Toyota Tacoma Off Road truck in December of 2019 and it’s done something no other vehicle I’ve bought has ever done in my life: gone up in value.

Kelly Blue Book tells me that my truck with 11,100 miles on it is worth $3,000 more than I paid for it brand new.

That is one of the few upsides to inflation. Owning property is another. If you have a fixed-rate mortgage, but the dollar “value” of your home keeps rising, you at least keep pace with inflation.

But if you are retired, as my parents are, and living on a fixed income, inflation is an invisible  tax that nibbles at the buying power of your money.

Your limited dollars buy fewer groceries and other increasingly expensive basic items you need to sustain yourself.

I trust in the efficiency of the many very talented business people in our mostly free economy to adjust to inflation and get our markets running smoothly again.

But I don’t trust our government leaders who have been spending recklessly for years and are currently attempting to ram a massive, ridiculous spending bill down our throats that could make high inflation a lasting problem.

I fondly remember the Clinton presidency when, for a blip in time, our government actually took in more money than it spent.

But since 2001 Presidents Bush ($6 trillion), Obama ($9 trillion) and Trump ($6 trillion) have reversed that trend and added trillions to our total debt.

Way too few people in Washington seem to care about our $28 trillion national debt or the inflation they’ve caused.

They don’t care a whit about struggling diner owners or cash-strapped patrons who now eat cereal for breakfast.

Copyright 2021 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Tom Purcell is an author and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at [email protected]

Comments Off on Let Them Eat Kix

Save Water, Shower with a Bureaucrat?

[cartoon id=”254914″]

If you’re like me, you enjoy few things more than a long, hot shower.

Nothing loosens the muscles or washes your worries away better than gradually turning up the hot knob until you’re red as a boiled lobster.

Unfortunately, the Biden administration intends to re-enact a federal regulation that will limit my ability to enjoy my daily hot shower in the name of water conservation.

I’ve long taken my daily shower for granted — as sort of an unwritten Constitutional amendment — but I was unaware that it’s a luxury that has only been around a couple hundred years.

According to the website Amusing Planet, in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia only the very wealthy could enjoy showers. They had their slaves pour jugs of hot water on them from above.

The first “modern” shower was not invented until the late 1700s by an English stove and heater manufacturer named William Feetham.

“His contraption consisted of a basin, where the bather stood, and an overhanging water tank,” reports Amusing Planet.

“The bather used a hand pump to pump water from the basin to the tank, and then pulled a chain to dump all the water at the same time over his head. The process was then repeated.”

It wouldn’t be until the water heater was invented in 1889 that the hot shower as we know it became more practical.

All I know is that by the time I was a kid in the ‘70s, the daily shower was a regular part of American life. There was no need for the federal government to monitor how much water we were using.

Our mother did that.

My poor sisters sported the Farrah Fawcett shag haircut that was popular at the time. Washing and conditioning their long locks required lots of shower time, which meant high water and heating bills — until my mother found the master shut-off valve.

If any of us went one second over our allotted time limit, off the water would go.

Nowadays, we have the federal “mother” limiting our water intake — which is why a crazy showerhead debate is raging in Washington.

According to The Hill, the Biden administration’s  shower regulators intend to propose a rule reinstating the Obama administration’s 2013 definition of “showerhead,” which the Trump administration had changed to allow more hot water to flow upon America’s tired and groggy heads.

In 2013, you see, President Obama’s environmentally conscious shower bureaucrats had classified a “showerhead” as a single entity, regardless of the number of nozzles it had.

They decreed that each showerhead must be limited to 2.5 gallons per minute (GPM), but Trump’s showerhead officials wanted to apply the 2.5 GPM limitation to each individual nozzle on a showerhead, not the entire showerhead.

A showerhead with four nozzles, then, could allow 10 gallons of water to flow per minute — which is shower Heaven or Hell, depending on which side of the issue you are on.

If you like the freedom to choose among hundreds of innovative showerhead options, including options that limit water flow and cost, you’ll want the Trump rule to remain.

But if you want the power of the federal government to control how much water and energy every American is permitted to consume, you’ll want the Biden administration to reverse the Trump rule.

Whatever your position on the showerhead issue, one thing is for sure: The federal government has got so meddlesome, you can’t even take a shower without it joining in.

Copyright 2021 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Tom Purcell is an author and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at [email protected]

Comments Off on Save Water, Shower with a Bureaucrat?

A Revival of Horse Sense?

[cartoon id=”225005″]

Here’s another interesting COVID-enabled trend to ponder: More Americans are leaving big cities and the suburbs to live in rural communities, according to NextAvenue.com.

I hope the trend grows because it would be good for the American psyche.

As it goes, the move to the country makes a lot of sense to some people.

In rural America, you can buy more land and bigger houses for a lot less money. That’s great for retirees.

With crime on the uptick in big cities, more Americans are seeking low-crime rural areas.

And now that remote work has become common, why not move into the wilderness and enjoy nature every day?

My house is located on the edge of the suburbs on a tract of land surrounded by trees. While the suburbs are on one side of my humble homestead, rural America is immediately on the other.

My rural neighbors have long been suspicious of me.

I barely know how to start, let alone fix, a tractor motor. Worst of all, I hire people to do work on my house, instead of doing it myself.

It’s hard for me to forget one regrettable instance in which I got a flat tire on my wheelbarrow.

I strapped the thing into my sedan’s trunk and headed up the long hill to my neighbor’s house for help.

As I neared his home, I saw him with his friends: the first friend was the guy who bulldozed my driveway, the second was the guy who painted my house and the third was the guy who gave me an estimate on my gutters.

I saw in their eyes a look of sickening distress — a distress that turned to disgust when they saw a gun rack in the rear window of my Nissan Maxima, which I’d installed with the hope of ingratiating myself with them.

My suburban neighbors on the other side are equally suspicious of me.

I told them I’m a writer who works out of his home, but they are certain I’m in the witness protection program.
Suburban people don’t understand rural folk.

Suburbans are sheltered from many of life’s difficulties. A man is celebrated, not shunned, by other suburban men for hiring a landscaper to mow his lawn.

If our government’s reckless cycle of spending and debt eventually causes everything to come crashing down, my suburban neighbors will likely lose their jobs and their homes, but my rural neighbors will carry on without missing a beat.

Rurals are self-sufficient and fiercely independent. They grow and hunt their own food. They build their own homes.

They preserve the ingenious “can-do” American spirit, never backing down from a problem until they resolve it.

This was once the land of hardy pioneers who only wanted to be left alone to create their own homesteads and freely pursue their happiness.

That sentiment, no longer alive or well in urban America, still thrives in rural America.

People who resettle in rural communities soon realize they must be more self-reliant. Big-city hospitals are far away. The niceties of suburban malls require a long drive.

But working with your hands, fending for yourself and reconnecting with nature has a way of making you sensible. We used to call it “horse sense.”

Goodness knows our country is running short on horse sense these days. Hopefully, as more Americans relocate to rural America, we’ll get more of it.

Copyright 2021 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Tom Purcell is an author and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at [email protected]

Comments Off on A Revival of Horse Sense?

Praise Be to the Family Potato Salad

[cartoon id=”253152″]

I face a huge responsibility this Labor Day weekend: I’ve been tasked with making my mother’s sacred potato salad recipe.

According to “All About Potatoes,” it is widely believed that Germany is where the American version of potato salad originated.

The potato, which is native to South America, was brought by explorers to Europe in the 16th century. It eventually spread throughout Europe.

As Germans immigrated to America in the 19th century, they brought their potato salad recipes with them.

A few decades later, the French invented my favorite condiment, mayonnaise, which was “the starting point of the potato salad that many Americans know to this day.”

There are surely a million or more potato salad recipes across our country. Every family has its own version and every family is certain its recipe is the very best.

My mother’s potato salad recipe is based on the one she got from my dad’s mother, Grandma Beatrice, who was of German descent.

But unlike German potato salad, which is typically served warm, my mother’s recipe includes ice cold potatoes, sliced hard-boiled eggs, crisp celery and a watery, vinegary mayonnaise mix.

It’s my favorite dish on Earth. I think I know why.

The only time we enjoy my mother’s potato salad is during festive summer gatherings. In a good year, it might be served only four or five times.

My greatest potato salad memory as a kid involves my school district’s “Kennywood Day,”  when we spent the whole day at the Kennywood amusement park.

My mother packed the cooler full of her amazing fried chicken and potato salad. We’d arrive at the picnic pavilion in the morning, hit the rides and roller-coasters and play all day.

Then we’d return to the pavilion for dinner at 5 p.m. absolutely famished. The chicken and potato salad were ice cold and to this day the most delicious things I have ever devoured.

Since potato salad is a fairly labor-intensive creation and hard on my mother’s aging hands, it’s now my turn to carry on the family recipe.

Unfortunately, the festivity long associated with my mother’s recipe — the festivity of family gatherings and forgetting our adult worries — is not so strong anymore.

With COVID variants spreading still — my sister recently caught one, and is back to good health, but two elderly family members died because of their infections — we have to keep our distance from our elderly parents.

Members of our large extended family, as is probably the case with most extended families, hold differing points of view about the efficacy of the COVID vaccine and those differences are causing squabbles and discontent.

There’s also great sadness from the chaos in Afghanistan and the deaths of 13 young U.S. soldiers. We’re sad, too, that it seems nobody is in command of our government affairs and we’re worried that even greater unpleasantness is about to visit our world.

As hopeful Americans, however, we will do our best to carry on. We will pray for our political leaders, our country, those suffering around the world and our family.

But at the small gathering at my mom and dad’s this weekend, we’ll do our best to momentarily forget the troubles of the world and concentrate on the joy that my mother’s potato salad always brings.

The pressure is tremendous, but I can’t wait to see how well I did.

Copyright 2021 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Tom Purcell is an author and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at [email protected]

Comments Off on Praise Be to the Family Potato Salad

Service Dogs Heal the Trauma of War

[cartoon id=”254704″]

Our botched withdrawal from Afghanistan is hard to witness, but hearing the reports of Taliban brutality is even worse.

The U.S. Sun reports that “women face having ‘fingers cut off for using nail varnish’” and that the Taliban “reportedly shot a woman dead in the street for not wearing a burqa…”

My heart aches for all Afghanis.

It especially aches for the young women who’ve flourished during the last 20 years by freely developing their minds and talents in school, but who now must submit to the Taliban’s draconian rules.

Reuters reports that the Taliban have pulled Afghani women from their banking jobs and told them to stay in their homes because, by their primitive religious laws, only men can hold such jobs.

As I monitor the unpleasant withdrawal safely in my home, I wonder how the 800,000 Americans who fought in Afghanistan since 2001 are being affected by it.

Watching the shocking images from Kabul is far more unpleasant for veterans, according to Military News:

“Mental health experts say that the fall of Afghanistan may cause symptoms of mental health trauma to emerge. A VA story noted that news of the end of the Afghanistan mission has already led to an increase in veterans seeking help at their facilities.”

That is a worrisome trend.

According to Newsweek, approximately “four times as many active duty personnel and veterans have died by suicide than in combat since Sept. 11, 2001.”

That grim fact comes from a June 2021 study published by the Costs of War Project that estimates that “30,177 service members and veterans of post-9/11 wars have died by suicide, compared to the 7,057 service members killed in action.…”

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that suicide already takes the lives of nearly 20 veterans every day on average.
I hope and pray that the situation in Afghanistan doesn’t result in more suicide by vets here at home.

There’s one thing the Biden administration should do about that concern immediately, according to Rory Diamond, CEO of K9s For Warriors: provide more funding for service animals for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Diamond refers to the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act, which Congress recently passed in a bipartisan manner.

Diamond writes in The Hill that though historically the VA has declined to cover the cost of service dogs for veterans with PTSD, research “has yielded undeniable proof of a service dog’s ability to reduce their veteran handler’s symptoms of PTSD.”

NBC News reports that research conducted by Maggie O’Haire, an associate professor of human-animal interaction at Purdue University who works with K9s for Warriors, shows that veterans “paired with service dogs trained for PTSD had fewer suicidal behaviors and ideations within the first 18 months, compared to people with emotional support animals.”

Each PTSD service dog is trained to the specific and unique needs of each veteran.

“Training a service dog to help someone with PTSD is an immersive program that helps the veteran and dog form a bond,” NBC News said. “The dog learns to notice signs of anxiety and how to soothe its owner.”

My yellow Labrador puppy, Thurber, has given me a richer, happier life. I can only begin to imagine how a well-trained PTSD-service dog could change — and save — the life of a veteran.

Hey, Joe, the Congress did its job in a bipartisan manner. The PAWS Act is on your desk. Please sign it immediately.

Copyright 2021 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Tom Purcell is an author and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at [email protected]

Comments Off on Service Dogs Heal the Trauma of War

Three Cheers for Us ‘Middles’

[cartoon id=”253146″]

You ignored August 12th  didn’t you?

That’s when the world celebrates National Middle Child Day every year, but you ignored it just as you have ignored us “middles” our entire lives!

I’m the third-born child in a family of six — an only boy with five sisters.

As a tyke I longed for the acceptance of my older sisters. At times, they doted over me but other times they were repulsed by their stinky, sweaty baby brother who always had a nose full of boogies.

I was permanently banished to the back seat of our station wagon, which faced the rear window, and which is why I spent most of my childhood in a state of motion sickness.

When my sisters were teeny boppers, they, like all girls in America, were infatuated with pop singer David Cassidy.

Since he sported a shag haircut — he parted his hair down the middle and feathered it over the sides of his noggin — they were determined that I get one, too.

I became the first kid in St. Germaine Catholic School to do so and by the end of the school year every single boy had the David Cassidy cut.

When my three younger sisters arrived, and as my older sisters started doing their own things outside the family unit, I evolved into the older brother and finally was treated with a little respect.

The experience I had as a middle child in the ‘70s is one that few kids experience today — mainly because there are so few large families today.

In our neighborhood, a small ‘70s family had three kids, but most families had four to six and a few had more than 10.

Now, with both parents working and the cost of raising children considerably higher than it was 40 years ago, most parents prefer to have one or two kids, according to The CUT.

For several reasons, this trend is not good for the rest of us.

The unique characteristics of a middle child are honed by his or her experiences in the family pecking order.
For starters, we are good mediators.

In my family, I always disliked seeing my siblings arguing and always sought to moderate and quell them — and I still do. I’m happiest when we are all getting along.

The International Business Times reports that because middle children “are more willing to compromise and look at all sides of a question,” they turn out to be excellent negotiators compared to first-born or last-born children.

Is the lack of middles one of the unheralded causes of eroding civility? Could be.

I’d also argue that we middles have a highly refined sense of humor — which is also beneficial to our national health and well-being.

Humor is how we got attention. Using comic relief is also how we calm everyone down in stressful times and improve the discourse and the general happiness of our friends and family.

I’ve long thought that first-borns and last-borns are generally the most focused and ambitious family members who go on to become leaders in their chosen fields, but I was surprised to learn that half of our presidents were middle children, according to Business Insider.

Joe Biden is the oldest of four, so he probably doesn’t know how to use the most powerful middle-child negotiating tactic to neutralize his opponents: threaten to use their toothbrushes!

Copyright 2021 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Tom Purcell is an author and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at [email protected]

Comments Off on Three Cheers for Us ‘Middles’