Opinion

An Italian immigrant family on board a ferry from the docks to Ellis Island, New York. (Photo by Lewis W Hine/Getty Images)

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

We cry and laugh with movie characters, feeling their pain when their fictional lover runs away with the neighbor or laughing with them when they share a joke, slip and fall, or embarrass themselves during a public speech.

Long after we’ve put a book down, the characters join us as we commute back and forth to work. We feel the pain they experienced during World War II when they lost family members or neighbors. We are grateful that the main character who is battling his personal demons somehow survives unimaginable ordeals.

We stare into the faces of the huddled masses from pictures at Ellis Island, many of whom left the only home they’d ever known to start a new life in a place that has become, fortunately for so many of us, the only home we’ve ever known. We see the bags at the immigrants’ sides, the children in their arms who are our parents and grandparents, and the resolve in the arrivals’ eyes as they wait for their turn to pass through the gates to the New World.

We read about people whose lives touch us so profoundly that we send money through GoFundMe pages. We don’t have any need to ask them whether they drink Coke or Pepsi, whether they’re a Democrat or a Republican, or if they support France or the United States in the Women’s World Cup. We want something better for them.

What about all the people who surround us, who drive next to us on the same roads on the way to and from work, who stand in line with us at the movie theater, the deli or the Department of Motor Vehicles?

The people who share time and place with us are just as deserving of our sympathy, empathy and care, and yet we honk when the light turns green and they don’t go, we become irritated when they don’t understand our lunch order, and we snarl when our co-workers misunderstand an assignment.

I would like to suggest that we spend one day every year, maybe this publication day, June 27, appreciating people. Let’s call it People Appreciation Day.

This doesn’t and shouldn’t be a day when we trudge out to get a mass produced card that says, “Hey, I appreciate you.” This could be any level of appreciation we’d like to share.

We could take an extra second to thank the cashier at the supermarket, who asks us for our store card and wants to know if we found everything OK. We can thank her and ask how she’s doing. When she answers, we might react accordingly: “Oh, happy birthday” or “Sorry to hear about your cat” or “I sometimes miss the place where I grew up, too.”

Maybe instead of honking when the light turns green, we can imagine — the way we would if we were looking at the title of a movie or the cover of a book — what the driver inside is feeling, thinking or experiencing. How is that any different from caring about a two-dimensional stranger in a book we’re holding?

The people in our lives aren’t here to entertain or amuse us, but they can elicit our empathy, understanding and appreciation. We can, however, offer them the gift of care and concern.

We can appreciate their efforts to meet their basic needs and their desire to strive for something better for themselves and their children. These other people are dedicated teachers, determined athletes, a third-generation member of the military or a new neighbor from far away whose loneliness we can extinguish. Let’s take the time and put out the effort to appreciate them. When we do, we can benefit from the opportunity for people appreciation to forge a human connection.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Schools are out, or almost out, trees are lush with leaves, people are beginning to wear shorts and sandals, and the temperatures are finally approaching the high 80s. It seems to have stopped raining. The lines after dinner at ice cream parlors stretch out the door and down the street. Dogs have their tongues hanging out when being walked. And it’s light until almost 9 p.m. Summer, glorious summer, has truly arrived.

It has been many years since my children enjoyed summer break from school’s routine and therefore I with them. Yet the feeling of relaxation that summer ushers in still floods my being. This is the time to make a barbecue and invite friends, enjoy the summer sky over some nice port in the long evening, lounge in the backyard, splash at the beach, watch a baseball game, sleep in a bit and read, read, read those books and magazines that have piled up on the bedside table all year long. It’s also the time to sail, swim, play, get lost on long walks and, in so many other ways, rejoice in the outdoors. There is even time to think.

Here is something tantalizing to think about. A letter published on the website Medium.com Monday, written and signed by a group of 18 billionaires, from 11 families, including financier George Soros, co-founder of Facebook Chris Hughes, Abigail Disney and heirs to the Pritzker fortune, Liesel and Ian Simmons, urged government to tax them at a higher rate. They called for “a moderate wealth tax on the fortunes of the richest one-tenth of the richest 1 percent of Americans — on us.”

Over the last three decades, the wealth of the top 1 percent grew by $21 trillion. Who can even visualize such sums? But the wealth of the bottom 50 percent fell by $900 billion — not hard to visualize by comparison because we can see the effects on American lives. 

The letter follows a similar declaration by investment guru Warren Buffett in 2011 encouraging greater tax on the richest. He revealed that his effective tax rate was actually lower than that of any other 20 people in his office. 

The richest pay 3.2 percent of their wealth in taxes versus 7.2 percent from the bottom 99 percent. President Barack Obama (D) picked up the suggestion at the time and called for a 30 percent tax for that population, dubbing it the “Buffett rule.” Not only was that never enacted, the latest round of tax cuts under President Donald Trump (R) have particularly helped those same richest Americans.

The Monday letter was addressed to all presidential contenders. Elizabeth Warren, U.S. senator from Massachusetts and Democratic hopeful, has proposed a comparable strategy, recommending that those who have $50 million or more in assets, like stocks, bonds, yachts, cars and art, be subject to a wealth tax. That would include some 75,000 families and raise, in her estimation, $2.75 trillion over the next 10 years. That money could be put toward better child care, helping with education debt and the opioid and climate crises. Such a tax would strengthen American freedom and democracy and would be patriotic, it is claimed. Surveys show that about seven out of 10 people support this concept.

In 2014 Nick Hanauer, a successful Seattle entrepreneur, wrote a memo to “my fellow zillionaires” in which he advised the following: “[We are] thriving beyond dreams of any plutocrats in history, [while] the rest of the country — the 99.99 percent — is lagging far behind. If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us.”

How is that for some heady stuff to occupy the mind and lessen any lazy guilt as our bodies are stretched out on the lounge?

Melissa Marchese. Photo from SWR School District

One has to understand that journalists are human beings, and just as much as it pains people to learn about the death of a young woman, it can be even more painful to write about it.

Melissa Marchese, 18, died June 14 after being injured in a terrible car crash in Shoreham. She passed only two weeks before she was set to graduate high school.

Since then, the local community has rallied around the family, donating well over $60,000 for the Marchese family in a GoFundMe campaign in less than a week after the crash. Likely the community will continue to support the family even after graduation.

It is truly amazing to watch a community come out full force to support a grieving family but, even still, too many Shoreham and Wading River residents recognize the black cloud hanging over their hamlets. Nobody should have to read about a young person dying, but in Shoreham the situation is familiar, just all too familiar.

The community went through this grief in 2014, after Tom Cutinella died from receiving a head injury due to an illegal tackle on the SWR football field. In 2018, the community was again devastated after learning about the death of Andrew McMorris, who was killed by a drunk driver while hiking with his Boy Scout troop.

In both circumstances, the community rallied behind the families. The SWR football field and a new concession stand was renamed in honor of Tom, while a statue with brickwork done by an Eagle Scout was erected in his honor. In the case of Andrew, the Boy Scout troop has planted a new garden at the community center, where the scouts meet, while the community hung red ribbons on telephone poles, fence posts and mailboxes in his honor from Riverhead to Miller Place. These ribbons still flutter in the wind more than a half-year since he was killed.

Shoreham residents have talked to one TBR News Media editor about the black cloud hanging over the small North Shore community of Shoreham-Wading River. One resident succinctly described the circuitous nature of Shoreham’s grief and support in the community: “We’ve had too many opportunities to show what a great community we are.”

This tragedy reaches out beyond the community’s boundaries. It is in the nature of editorials like this one where we would ask people to take care, to always wait several seconds when the light turns green before making a move, to wear a seatbelt and to instill the importance of road safety in your kids, but those might be mere platitudes in the face of tragedy.

All these tragedies were preventable. If only the driver of the car that hit Melissa’s vehicle was not “distracted,” as he later told police. If only the man who went out drinking that one day in October 2018 hadn’t gotten in his car to drive. If only Tom was not tackled in such a way to collide with
his helmet.

But whatever happens, Shoreham needs to never lose its sense of community. Let it never become complacent and numb in the face of tragedy. Whenever we have talked to the families who’ve lost loved ones, each time they are comforted by how much the community has come out to support.

There may have been too many opportunities to show the humanity of local Long Island residents, but let us never stagger or fall in making sure we all remain compassionate for all who suffer.

Stock photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Breaking up is spectacularly awkward, highly charged and, in retrospect, filled with humorous potential. Two people get together for a picnic, where a public scene might be difficult for the recipient.

“Want some tabouli? What is tabouli anyway?”

“No thanks, and I don’t know what it is. You ordered it, not me.”

“Good point, so, I was thinking. It’s probably a good time for us to separate.”

“Um, what, excuse me?”

The lip quivers, the breathing becomes short and erratic and the eyebrows, shoulders and neck all droop at the same time.

“No, yeah, I mean, you’re great and this has been a total blast but, you know, it’s just, I don’t know, it’s not working for me.”

“A total blast? You’d call this a total blast? Besides, nothing is perfect. I know my family can be difficult and I know I wake up with bad breath and I do, on occasion, correct your speech, but we can work around that. Don’t you want to try to make it work?”

“I’m thinking that it’s probably time to do other things. I’m thinking of moving to Vancouver and you hate the cold.”

“Vancouver? Really? Wait, have you been seeing other people? You and my sister get along a little too well. As soon as you start dating her, she won’t be interested. I know I share genes with her, but she’s a horrible person who has ruined my life over and over again.”

“No, really, this has nothing to do with your sister. I wouldn’t do that to you or myself, especially after what you just said.”

“Oh, so, now there’s something wrong with my sister? At least she’s not dumping me.”

“No, no, I think we have a great friendship and I’d like to stay in touch.”

“You’d like to stay in touch? After all we’ve been through, you’re offering me your friendship? You’re not even that good of a friend. You rarely listen and you forget all the important dates in the year and you always want to go to the same restaurants, even though we have so many other choices.”

“Right, exactly, I’m so boring, so maybe you’re ready to be done with me?”

“Why do we have to end it now? It’s not like I was expecting to marry you. I can’t imagine having a younger version of you in the house. You can somehow shoot baskets from all over a gym floor that land in a hoop, but you have no ability to throw the dirty T-shirt you wore to play basketball into a much larger hamper that’s also closer to the ground, even though you roll the shirt into a ball.”

“I agree. You could do so much better.”

“I’m sure there are plenty of better people out there, but we had some fun, right? We were supposed to go to that dinner next Saturday with the Smiths. They’re your friends, so maybe we should see what works between now and then?”

“It’s OK, I already canceled that.”

“What? That horrible person Jessica Smith knew you were going to break up with me before I did? How could you do this to me?”

“Sorry, I didn’t tell them anything. I just said we couldn’t make it.”

“We couldn’t make it because you were going to break up with me today over tabouli. You’re an idiot.”

“Right, well, maybe we shouldn’t stay in touch?”

“Oh, so now I’m not good enough to be your friend?”

“I’m going to be a boring idiot elsewhere.”

“Wait, you’re leaving me?”

“Yes, and I’ve googled ‘tabouli.’ It’s a Lebanese salad with vegetables, wheat and parsley, just so you know.”

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

One of the best plays I have seen on Broadway is the drama, “The Ferryman.” Written by Jez Butterworth, directed by Sean Mendes and playing at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre only until July 7, it is so deserving of winning four Tony Awards, including best play, and should not be missed. The story is about a large Irish family in rural County Armagh in Northern Ireland and conjures up Tennessee Williams and “August: Osage County” for its familial interactions of love, lust, betrayal, anger, contradictions, secrets, repression and murder. But it is so much more.

It is historic, being set in 1981 at the height of The Troubles involving the British, loyalist Irish Protestants who want to remain in the United Kingdom, and nationalist Irish Catholics, including the Irish Republican Army, who want a united Ireland.

It is a story about storytelling as three generations live under one roof of a large farmhouse and slowly reveal much about their own histories. It is about human kindness, as personified by the appealing leading character, farmer Quinn Carney, husband and father of seven children ranging in age from 16 years to nine months. He houses and employs Tom Kettle, an Englishman, whose mind is not all there, as his handyman; and Caitlin, wife of Carney’s long-missing brother and her son, Oisin, as well as aged aunts and an uncle. Yet Carney is also a former active member of the IRA, with its brutality and bloodshed, which he has ultimately rejected. It has homey fairy tales and classic epics in the mix, hopeless love, and lots of barroom talk and drinking, happy celebrating and passionate confrontations. Amid all that activity, with a cast of well-defined characters, it has genuine, laugh-out-loud humor.

The play is also remarkable for its length. It runs three and a quarter hours with only one 15-minute intermission after Act 1 and a three-minute dimming of the house lights following Act 2. Yet not for a minute, for me and my companions, did it keep from being riveting as it pulsated with suspense interspersed with hearthside family goodness that is set against the background report of Irish Republican hunger strikers dying one by one in a Belfast prison.

There are even live animals in the form of an affectionate goose, a feral rabbit and a real, sweet baby. Artfully they all come together to deliver a memorable play and to live in the minds of the viewers well past the end of the performance.

The prologue, set against a crumbling, graffiti-splayed urban wall, sets the sinister mood with an encounter between craven Father Horrigan and Muldoon, a major figure in the IRA. And every subsequent scene in which the priest appears seethes with tension. He delivers the news that Seamus, Caitlin’s missing husband, has been found face down, preserved by the acid in a bog, hands tied behind him and a bullet in the back of his head. The mystery of his disappearance deepens because he was not involved in The Troubles.

There is an Aunt Pat and Uncle Patrick, as well as an often mentally absent Aunt Maggie, whose roles are largely to unveil past history even as their passions define them as three dimensional characters within the family and their country. Their narratives give their lives shape and substance.

With the discovery of the body, the past meets the future as Muldoon attempts to contain the truth of the missing husband’s murder from emerging. In the process, other truths seep out in the appropriately furnished great room of the farmhouse that serves as the only site where all subsequent action takes place.

In the beginning, the viewer is puzzled as to who the family members are and their relationships to each other, which create an air of mystery. As the plot develops, the answers powerfully emerge, carrying us along, absorbed and engaged. And while the plot is masterfully orchestrated, I don’t want to give away the most important details in the hope that you will still get tickets and join me in your admiration for a remarkable play.

Rita J. Egan — Editor

On occasions like Father’s Day, my thoughts turn not only to my dad, but also to his parents and my uncles. My father passed away in 2004, and I always picture him reunited with his parents. Ten years ago, his brother, my Uncle John, died and a few years later my Uncle Jimmy. I often wonder if, after death, one gets to hang out with those they knew on Earth. I’d like to think they are talking about the old days in the Bronx and Astoria, hopefully with a few cold beers on hand. Most of all, I always hope that my grandparents know that my cousins and I benefited from their sacrifices — leaving Ireland when they were young adults to seek a better life. I also hope my father and uncles know how much they have influenced me and my cousins. For this, I carry them all in my heart. Happy Father’s Day in heaven to all of them. 

Kyle Barr — Editor

I didn’t know what to say to you the night you came home after learning your mother had passed away.

To be perfectly honest, she was never close to me, and it was hard for me to place my emotions, but I knew you were doing your best to deal with the shock and the grief. I saw you hop on a plane the very next morning after working nine hours the day before. I didn’t know how to say I’m sorry you went through that, and I know when I spoke to you on the phone, I must have sounded close to a narwhal trying to approximate human emotion.

But I saw how you were when you came back. You caught up with your sister. You had a new plan, and though you were leaving me to move into her old house, you could now say you were moving on.

You need to know how proud I am that you’re my dad.

David Luces — Reporter

On Father’s Day, I would like to highlight two father figures in my life growing up. One was my grandfather and the other my uncle. Both men were instrumental in my upbringing, and as a young man, they were individuals to whom I definitely looked up. I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve been able to have with them as a kid, whether it’s going to my first Yankee game or hours of playing catch in the backyard.

My grandfather unfortunately passed away in 2012, but the lessons he taught me remain. His guidance over the years has molded me into the man I am today. The same could be said for my uncle, as he has always been there for me and continues to be. I’ve been lucky to have these two great men in my life. I want to thank them for everything — it has meant so much to me.

Leah Chiappino — Intern

Every time I turn on the car or reflect on the education I received, I have my dad to thank. The son of a mechanic and restaurant waitress, he fought to pull himself through college, working 80-hour weeks at Howard Johnson’s and attending classes at community college after working the graveyard shift, funded by his own pocket. A successful public servant, he has fueled my passion for politics, philosophy and sports my entire life. This Father’s Day, I will probably be debating one of these topics with Dad, who taught me to have an opinion on and to question everything.

Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Daniel Dunaief

am in the news business. I also write columns. Today, I’d like to conflate the two, tackling the ubiquitous topic of “fake news.” Don’t run away, figuratively speaking! I’m not going to write about politics or politicians. I’m going to share fake news from my world.

10. I am a Yankees fan.

What makes that fake? It’s accurate, but it’s also fake because I’ve always been a Yankees fan. While the statement isn’t false, it’s not news because news suggests that it’s something new. It’s not fake per se, but also not news and that’s what makes it fake news.

9. I enjoy the time my kids are away.

What makes that fake? The fake element to this is that I enjoy the time they’re home, so I don’t exclusively enjoy the time they’re away. I may have smiled at and with my wife and, yes, I’ve found myself laughing out loud now and then for no particular reason in public, knowing that no one will glare at me, but it’s fake news to suggest I only enjoy this time.

8. I reveled in the movie “Rocketman.”

What makes that fake? While the movie was compelling and it offered details about superstar singer Sir Elton John’s childhood, it was a look behind the curtain at his early pain. I sympathized with him as he dealt with family challenges and personal demons, but I can’t say that I reveled in the biopic. I felt moved by his struggles and I appreciate how much he had to overcome to live the balanced life that he seems to have now. The gift of his musical genius may have been enough for the world to appreciate him, but not to give him what he wanted or needed when he was younger.

7. I have a wonderful dog.

What makes that fake? My dog has wonderful moments, but I wouldn’t characterize him as wonderful. He needs training, chews on furniture, jumps on people and barks at things I can’t see, which isn’t so wonderful when I’m conducting interviews with people in other states or when I’m in the middle of a delicate peace negotiation between children who don’t seem to have missed each other all that much when they were apart.

6. I detest logic.

What makes that fake? I enjoy logic. It follows rules and patterns. It only appears that I detest logic in this column because I’m trying to make a point about fake news.

5. I’m worried about the Earth.

What makes that fake? I’m not just worried about the land: I’m also concerned about the air, the water, biodiversity and a host of other limited resources.

4. I use real words.

What makes that fake? People who rely on a computer spellchecker will find numerous words that appear to be incorrect or that are underlined in red in my science columns. Words like nanomaterials, which are super small structures that hold out hope for future technologies such as medical devices or sensors, don’t register at all. If you asked a spellchecker, my columns are rife with fake words.

3. I use fake words.

What makes that fake? I love the double negative element to this. It’s fake to say I use fake words, because I also use real words.

2. I only use small words.

What makes that fake? I categorically refute the notion that I only use minuscule words. Check out the word “ubiquitous” at the top of this column.

1. I always lie.

What makes that fake? If I always lied, that would make the confession true, which would mean I don’t always lie, which would make the statement fake.

The flexible and logic-challenged fake news has become a tool to dismiss information, opinions and realities that people find disagreeable. It provides a convenient way to ignore news that may have more than a kernel of truth to it.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? I recently asked that question of staffers at the news media office, and this is what they answered. I’ve grouped the responses by department, wondering if there was a common thread that ran through their common work. Answer: There wasn’t, at least not one that I could see. You judge.

The Sales Department

“Go to college.” I also asked this person if that advice had changed her life. “Yes, it was a positive thing for my future. College changed my life, with its new ideas — and independence, both socially as well as academically.”

“No matter what, trust that God has a plan for everything. For something good to come out of whatever seems bad now.” Right around then, I started to ask the source of the advice. “My mother,” she explained.

“One day, when I was about 12, my mother and I were disagreeing. ‘You need to remember the world does not revolve around you.’ That thought helped me be a much less self-centered person. I became more aware that what was going on around me was often more important.”

“Never look back or to the future. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow has not yet come. Live for today. That came from my Aunt Doris.”

“If at first you don’t succeed, don’t give up. That came from my mother and was especially true for my dancing. Another is: Always trust your gut. Go with it if something doesn’t feel right.”

The Business Department

“See the humor in things. It’s only just recently that I have begun to see that and be on the positive side of things. That has made me a happier person since I turned 50.” I forgot to ask who told her that.

“Expect the unexpected. That may sound pessimistic but it has made me ready to cope. That advice comes from life’s experiences.”

“Treat others as you want to be treated. That came from my father.”

The Copyediting/Proofing Department

“Have a sense of balance. That’s good because often I don’t have that. When I think about that, it always works out for the best. And that came from my sister.”

“Probably two things. First, never stop learning. At the dinner table, if there was something that came up that I didn’t know, my father would take down the ‘World Encyclopedia’ after dinner and we’d look it up. Be curious, educate yourself. Read about it. Second, be kind and treat other people with respect. Again the source was my father.”

“Learn to cultivate a sense of urgency. I tend to be too laid back. That’s from Dr. Who, the sci-fi character.” [That thought came from the sister, above.]

The Art and Production Department

“Try not to care what other people think. It’s a constant struggle because I am a Libra, a people pleaser. That came from my mother, who oddly enough was always critical.”

“Stop worrying. My husband told me that, and I find I’m not as uptight as I used to be.”

“Having low expectations is a good strategy. Don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed. That may sound pessimistic but the message is that things will always be better. The source: Stefan Sagmeister, who wrote a book that included things to be learned.”

The Editorial Department

“Don’t listen to outside people. If you think of something you really believe in, just go for it.”

“This paraphrased quote from Maya Angelou: ‘People will forget what you did, what you said but never how you made them feel.’ My first-grade teacher made me feel mutual respect and that is what I show others.”

“Keep swimming — no matter what’s going on in your life, never give up, keep going. I never gave up on dating [points to engagement ring] or careerwise. From ‘The Road Less Traveled,’ life is difficult and once you realize that, life becomes easier.”

“Always clean stuff from the top down. Don’t do anything over again — from my father.”

“I will quote what a priest told my father when he was diagnosed with cancer. ‘All you can do is be grateful for what you’ve had. Otherwise it’s too difficult.’”

And from my mother: “You don’t have to answer every barking dog.” Not a bad piece of advice for a future newspaper publisher.

John Broven Photo by Diane Wattecamps

By John Broven

Part two of three

I’ve been waiting patiently to write this second part of my personal Brexit overview (see part 1, “Brexit: To leave or not to leave, that is the big question,” TBR News Media’s papers and websites, March 14). There has been an interested response from TBR readers, although as expected not everybody agreed with my Europhile stance or interpretation of events. An apt New York Times description was “fractured Britain.”

Even now, there is no resolution to the terms for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to leave the European Union as determined by a national referendum June 23, 2016, almost three years ago — the vote was 51.89 to 48.11 percent. The March 29 deadline went by, so did one on April 12. Now the departure date has been extended begrudgingly by the EU until Oct. 31. That’s Halloween, as many wags have pointed out. Still the drama continues.

Prime Minister Theresa May resigns

On May 24, Prime Minister Theresa May (Conservative, known as Tories) announced her forthcoming departure in tears for failing to deliver Brexit. Never a team player, she was rapidly losing support among her Brexit-leaning party. The withdrawal agreement negotiated with the EU was criticized from all sides even as May tried to soften her parliamentary bill by including environmental measures, workers rights and even the prospect of a second referendum — anathema to Brexiteers in her own party. With no majority in sight for her deal, she will formally resign on June 7, immediately after the state visit by President Donald Trump (R).

She is now the second prime minister to be felled by Brexit in the footsteps of David Cameron (Conservative), who was responsible for calling the 2016 referendum. Indeed, the Tory Party’s neurosis with Europe had previously ensnared former prime ministers, Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

Tory leadership battle

Now, the Brexit process has been put on hold while the ruling Conservative Party elects a new leader, expected by the end of July. That leaves four short months to finalize leave arrangements. Understandably, the EU is running out of patience and has indicated it will not renegotiate the deal on the table, including the controversial Irish backstop.

The number of Tory prime minister candidates currently stands at 11, still well short of the tally of U.S. Democratic presidential candidates. At the time of writing the bookies favorite is the self-serving former mayor of London, Boris Johnson, the New York City-born member of parliament of British parents who dealt a fatal blow to Cameron’s 2016 Vote Remain campaign by treacherously joining the Vote Leave team. The covertly ambitious Michael Gove and hardliner Dominic Raab are also in the running. Just as the U.S. Democratic candidates are in a quandary over presidential impeachment proceedings, so the U.K. Tory leadership candidates are scrambling for Brexit answers.

Our president has caused local controversy by favoring Johnson. If the former mayor is elected as prime minister by the Conservative Party and his pronouncements are carried out, he could lead the country into the worst of all possibilities on Oct. 31 — a hard no deal. It is chilling to think that such a chaotic scenario could happen to the fifth largest economy in the world, with an impact far beyond the borders of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

As Will Hutton described it in London’s The Guardian, the Brexiteers view is of a blissful but flawed image of “sunlit uplands of immigrant-free, global free trade.” Sir Elton John, also in The Guardian, was more blunt: “I’m ashamed of my country for what it has done. It’s torn people apart … I am sick to death of politicians, especially British politicians. I am sick to death of Brexit. I am a European. I am not a stupid, colonial, imperialist English idiot.”

EU elections shock

The British government had hoped to avoid taking part in the recent EU elections, but as the country was still formally one of the 28 member states the people went to the polls on May 23. In keeping with the unpredictable Brexit mess, what a shocking result it turned out to be. Former UKIP leader and an elected member of the European Parliament since 1999, Nigel Farage, who has been described by his Euro colleagues as a “one-man wrecking ball,” had formed the new Brexit Party only six weeks previously and topped the polls with a 30.8 percent share of the vote. The two leading parties in British politics for almost 100 years, Labour (third place) and Conservatives (fifth), managed a meager 23 percent of the vote between them, beaten by second-place Liberal Democrats with their remain message and fourth-place Green Party with an urgent climate-change agenda.

Tellingly, the Tories suffered their worst election result since formation in 1834 and registered only 8.8 percent of the vote, with no seats won in London. May’s party had also taken a shellacking in the earlier county council elections. That’s the current governing party, don’t forget. As The Washington Post noted, coalition governments and a genuine multiparty system may be the future of British politics.

In effect, British voters were giving a severe kicking to the government and lead opposition party under arch-socialist Jeremy Corbyn for their inept handling of Brexit. Intriguingly, Scotland and Northern Ireland still balloted majority votes to remain candidates. The MEPs term will end if and when Brexit occurs. Taking all the parties into account, the respective total leave and remain votes were very close, which is where we came in — a divided nation with a divided parliament and parties internally divided.

The cross-Europe vote showed a fragmentation of parties, with the establishment center-left and center-right bloc losing power. The populist parties in Britain, France and Italy showed gains but surprisingly little elsewhere, notably in Holland. There was a general message that the EU needs to address growth, security, immigration (again) and climate change (the U.S. please note). Still, with a turnout in excess of 50 percent, there are indications the Europeans still see their union as the future. In the wake of the Brexit debacle, it seems the other Euro populist movements are determined to fight for their cause from inside the EU, not on the outside with little influence.

Incidentally, I was impressed by the BBC World News TV election coverage Sunday, May 26, and its first-class presenter Ros Atkins. I learned a lot about the EU, its procedures, the debating arguments and how countries from Germany to Latvia voted. If only Brexit voters had been educated likewise.

Where the UK stands

Embarrassingly, Britain’s pragmatic standing in the world seems to be falling by the day. I’ve lost count of the number of barbed Monty Python jokes I’ve seen in print. As my good friend John Ridley, of Hildenborough, Kent, told me, “I can’t recall any other democratic country committing an act of such extreme self-harm ever before.”

The Brexit fiasco shows on a macro level that elections do matter and do have consequences — in this instance, for an entire nation and its future. And the dangers of putting such a critical issue to an ill-informed public by way of a loosely worded referendum have been fully exposed.

If there is a lesson for us all, it is a message that TBR News Media carries at every election: Your vote counts, please vote — and do understand what you’re voting for. That applies from presidential elections to the local fire departments, libraries and schools (the turnout for the recent Three Village Central School District budget vote was abysmal).

With Brexit still unresolved, I am readying myself for a part 3 Your Turn article but further patience may be required on the part of myself and TBR readers. Will there be a second referendum, general election, another EU extension or a hard no deal?

John Broven, a member of the TBR News Media editorial team, is an English-born resident of East Setauket, who immigrated to the United States in 1995. He has written three award-winning (American) music history books. An updated edition of his second book, “South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous,” has just
been published.

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Dante Lombardo in uniform. Photo from Lombardo

Mental health is often a topic people prefer to avoid discussing, but thanks to Dante Lombardo, a young former Marine who shared his story last month with TBR News Media, we now have the opportunity to emphasize the importance of mental health and wellness.

Give an Hour is a national network of professionals who extend free mental health care to support veterans and communities impacted by tragedy. After reading Lombardo’s story, they’ve asked him, as he and his high school friends embark on a cross-country bike excursion, to join the global campaign, Change Direction, which aims to raise awareness to help change the culture surrounding mental health issues.

We are thrilled that our newspaper is bringing people together and want to do our part to help open the public discussion on the topic. As listed on Give an Hour’s website, www.giveanhour.org, here are the five signs of emotional suffering that indicate someone may need help:

Personality changes: People in this situation may behave in ways that seem different or don’t seem to fit their values.

Uncharacteristically anxious, agitated or moody: People in more extreme situations may be unable to sleep, may explode in anger at a minor problem or have difficulties controlling his or her temper.

Withdrawal: Someone who used to be socially engaged may pull away from family and friends and stop taking part in activities that used to be enjoyable. In more severe cases, the person may start failing to make it to work or school. Not to be confused with the behavior of someone who is more introverted, this sign is marked by a change in a person’s typical sociability.

Neglecting self-care and engaging in risky behavior: Someone may let personal hygiene deteriorate, or the person may start abusing alcohol or illicit substances or engaging in other self-destructive behavior that may alienate loved ones.

Hopelessness and overwhelmed by circumstances: Have you noticed someone who used to be optimistic and now can’t find anything about which to be hopeful? That person may be suffering from extreme or prolonged grief or feelings of worthlessness or guilt. People in this situation may say the world would be better off without them, suggesting suicidal thinking.

If you recognize someone suffering with these symptoms, the professionals from Change Direction encourage you to reach out, to connect, to inspire hope and to offer your help. They say it’s important to show compassion and to display a willingness to find a solution when a person may not have the will or drive to do it alone. The campaign organizers emphasize that it may take more than one offer, and you may need to reach out to others who share your concern about the person who is suffering. The bottom line is that if everyone is open and honest about emotional health and well-being, together we can prevent pain and suffering and those in need will get the help that they deserve. You can learn more about this topic at: www.changedirection.org.

If you missed Lombardo’s story, you can find it online at: www.tbrnewsmedia.com/tag/dante-lombardo/.

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