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Not every publication out there is “Fake News.”

During last week’s insurgence at the U.S. Capitol, a photo — taken by a journalist — has made its way around social media, memorializing the words “Murder the Media” written on a wall inside The People’s House.

That’s disheartening to say the least.

Now more than ever, facts are important — whether you like us or not. 

The fact that journalists, reporters and photographers down in D.C. are now sharing their stories about that Wednesday’s events — how they were attacked, name called, hurt and threatened — is a terrifying thought.

The media has always had a rocky relationship with readers. A lot of the time, many people don’t like what is being reported on or how it’s being said. That is something this field has dealt with since the first newsletter came out centuries ago.

But the last four years are on a different level. It’s a whole new battle.

There have been many times that reporters at TBR News Media were harassed on assignment, also being called “fake.” 

We are your local paper. We are the ones who cover the issues in your backyard, who tell the stories of your neighbors that you live beside, and we showcase your children, whom you love, playing their favorite sports. 

We aren’t commentators or analyzers, except on our opinions pages that are clearly labeled.

We are the eyes and ears of our community, and we do the heavy lifting when you have questions. We interview your elected officials and bring awareness to issues other larger papers or TV stations forget to research or mention.

How is that fake? 

Now more than ever, we ask you to support what we have put our hearts and our livelihoods into. 

Next time you might think that the media had it coming to them, just remember that those reporters who have been hurt and humiliated don’t come into your workplaces, breaking your equipment and ridiculing you for what you do.  

We serve all the public and are proud to do so.

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If only every main road could be a downtown. The ones we know and love, the ones with walkable streets, sights to see, unique restaurants to eat at, a feeling that life is being lived there at every level. 

Though of course anything is better than driving down the highway and passing by the umpteenth empty strip mall, with enough “for rent” signs to recreate a new mall entirely.

And it makes it that much more glaring when it seems every developer focuses on the new — of a new apartment complex or a new shopping mall or a new medical park — all ignoring the multitudes of empty complexes dotting the Long Island landscape. New development, especially that which plows ahead without concern for the neighborhood, next leads to issues of congestion and the impact on the environment. Meanwhile, local electeds are vying for shrinking pots of funds to buy up and preserve land that keeps the environmental vistas, as we have on the North Shore, viable and serene. There will never be enough money to buy up every stretch of forest or meadow or beach. 

Reporting on North Shore Long Island sometimes feels like watching a hoard of starving animals vying for the smallest strip of meat, as discarded carcasses rot not 5 feet away.

That’s why the Town of Brookhaven’s plans for a so-called commercial redevelopment district zoning are so interesting, because it seems like one of the few real efforts we at TBR News Media have seen toward incentivizing rebuilding instead of new development. Though we also hope that such developer incentives can find ways around abuse, especially when too many developers are already incentivized to build with things like Industrial Development Agency tax deals.

Brookhaven’s proposed CRD special zoning, as proposed, will only be available to those property owners who can prove they are redesigning aging property with walkability, livability and commercial interests all in one. Such applications for that special zoning will also be at the discretion of the Town Board.

If the idea pans out, it could mean a massive push toward revitalization in places such as Port Jefferson Station. If it does what it’s intended to do, other towns like Smithtown or Huntington, who are suffering their own ills of vacant stores and strip malls, could adopt something similar as well. It would be nice, for a change, to hear from a developer about redesigning an eyesore rather than the usual plan to pave paradise to put up a parking lot.

Though we also have to share our reservations. Developers are already well incentivized throughout Suffolk County to build anew, especially with a multitude of deals coming from IDAs at both the county and town level. In Port Jefferson, for example, every single new apartment complex in the past several years has been given a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes deal by the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency. While IDA board members say such projects will contribute to the economy, these new developments hardly add any significant job numbers to the local economy once the building process is complete. 

Brookhaven’s CRD zoning intends that developers will get more leeway on applications for rebuilding based on location or how many amenities there are — such as green space or places for social activity. The risk is that these same builders will find ways to take advantage of these deals while still getting IDA money. Such a new zoning will need even greater scrutiny on applications than is already happening at the town level. A bike rack here or there isn’t worth as much to a community as a new location’s property taxes.

Still, overall, we think this could be a great leap in the right direction. We hope both local developers and local government are up to the task of revitalizing the commercial areas too long neglected.

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We want you to compare a few numbers. Look at these figures: 27 to 34; then 106 to 2,923.

The news is consistently stacked with such figures, but it’s all our job to prioritize them to make sure we’re doing the right thing.

On a call with reporters last week, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said people are dying at higher rates because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In just the first week of December, the county counted at least 34 dead. This means we can expect a horrific month, as just 35 people died from COVID-19-related issues in the entire month of November. 

When we look at national figures, on Thursday, Dec. 10, at least 2,923 Americans died from COVID-19. That is more deaths than all those who perished when the towers fell on 9/11, and it is happening on a daily basis. This is what our focus should be on. If we can get through the winter months, then hopefully we can see more broad use of the vaccine and then, if we stay focused, a return to where we were before March 2020.

Instead, another figure drags our attention to political irrationality. Only 27 of 249 Republican members of Congress were willing to say as at Dec. 5 that President-elect Joe Biden won the election in a Washington Post poll, despite the fact that all states’ voter rolls were already certified.

A total of 106 U.S. representatives signed onto the State of Texas’ attorney general’s plea to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the ballots of four swing states that went to Biden. Of those pledging onto this strange and ill-conceived attempt to usurp the national election includes U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1). Last week, the Supreme Court threw out the plainly ridiculous Texas AG’s suit, but that original act by the GOP underlays a deepening resentment to the very foundations of our democracy.

In an article published last week in TBR papers, Suffolk Republican Committee Chairman Jesse Garcia spoke about how Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) used the pandemic to “scare voters away from the polling places,” and used the crisis to hurt GOP primaries. It’s important to note that Suffolk Republicans only had one primary this year, while the rest of their candidates were appointed by party leadership. Democrats had four of their primaries delayed by these new rules in Suffolk alone. While more Dems voted by mail than Republicans, there was a significant number of absentee ballots sent by conservatives, as evidenced by the end total of votes compared to those shown on Nov. 3.

Giving little evidence of any real fraud, Garcia cited a case in which a Water Mill man, a Democrat, was indicted for allegedly requesting two mail-in ballots for his deceased mother back in October. He was indicted by Suffolk District Attorney Tim Sini, a Democrat. If anything, this example shows that current efforts to account for fraud have worked, rather than the opposite.

Erroneously saying such fraud was widespread in Suffolk also discounts the work of the Suffolk County Board of Elections, of which there are two commissioners, one appointed by the Republicans and one by the Democrats. 

If there turns out to be real evidence of fraud, and not just partisan hyperbole, we expect it to be looked into through the proper channels, but anticipating illicit activity with no proof does little but reinforce a deepening partisan divide, something we clearly do not need right now.

Is this a distraction? Do we need to forget the more than 2,000 who have died in Suffolk County alone throughout this awful year? Which ones are numbers to be plotted in a spreadsheet and which ones should we apply real effort toward? Because keeping COVID numbers low means that hospitals can deal with the incoming patients. When hospitals become overloaded, more people die. It’s that simple. That is why we wear the masks and keep socially distanced. That is why we care for our neighbors and support those people on the front lines.

Those elected officials focusing on rewriting the outcome of the election need to look back to their folks at home and perhaps remind themselves which numbers are the ones that matter.

File photo by TBR News Media

Every year we sit down with local candidates for our preelection political debates in the TBR News Media office. This year, of course, those debates were held via Zoom.

Despite the new format this year, one thing didn’t change — the first thing we do is thank each of the candidates for taking on the responsibility for running for office. We recognize being a public official is no easy task and running for office is just as difficult.

All candidates deserve an extra round of applause for their patience regarding the counting of mail-in ballots. After Election Day, as we reached out to the various candidates in our coverage area, those who were behind after in-person voting remained patient, and those who were ahead were humble. Most who were ahead didn’t claim victory as they understood the importance of making sure every ballot was counted, and they acknowledged every single vote mattered.

After a few long weeks, we would like to congratulate U.S. Reps Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) and Tom Suozzi (D-NY3); state Assemblymen Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James), Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills); and state Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) for regaining their seats. We also welcome newcomers, state Sen.-elect Mario Mattera (R-St. James) and state Assemblyman-elect Keith Brown (R-Northport) to the world of legislation, as well as Sen.-elect Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) and Assemblywoman-elect Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead) to their new roles.

Now that the votes are counted, it’s time to get back to business. We urge each of our elected officials to take the next few weeks to carefully assess what is going on in their districts, so after they are sworn in come January, they can hit the ground running.

It’s no secret that the coronavirus has wreaked havoc on our local businesses. Those in Albany and Washington, D.C., need to get them the funds they need to keep their doors open and their employees on the payroll. If the funds aren’t available, those in government need to work together to come up with creative ideas to keep these businesses afloat while ensuring public health safety.

Elected officials also have to look deeper as to how hard the pandemic has hurt their constituents financially. The loss of jobs and pay cuts have left many unable to make their mortgage and rent payments or keep their refrigerators full. Conversations with residents may provide vital information about what is truly happening within districts.

While New York is one of the fortunate states to have strong leadership during the pandemic, there is still a lot of work to do. And while we can hope for federal aid, we can’t count on it, as all of the states are going through the same struggle as New Yorkers are. We need to come up with new ideas to help keep Long Island strong.

Looking beyond the coronavirus, there is one thing that comes up every year during our debates. How are we going to make the Island more affordable in order to keep both our young people and retirees here, but at the same time, not overdevelop our valuable open spaces? It’s time to stop talking about it and start doing something about it. A closer eye needs to be kept on developers who promise affordable housing but are completely out of touch regarding what wage earners can actually afford. What’s the sense of building affordable housing in precious open space if the housing is out of reach financially for most residents?

Most of all, we ask our leaders in government to work together, to extend their hands across the aisles. We have seen what divisiveness in the United States has done to our country over the last decade — let’s see people come together against partisanship, now more than ever.

We have one thing in common besides our humanity. Both sides of the aisle are Americans.

Lily Bergh stands behind the counter at Little Switzerland Toys & Dolls. Photo by Lina Weingarten

Amazon is not going to go the extra mile and wrap your Christmas presents with professional flair. Amazon is not going to sponsor your local baseball or soccer team. Amazon does not know the names of customers’ family members or shops in the same supermarket that we do.

At the same time, Amazon is still raking in profits. The retail giant moved its annual Prime Day to October this year, essentially setting up an earlier holiday rush than usual. Amazon and other online retailers are anticipated to make $189 billion in revenue this season, up 33% from 2019. Meanwhile many of our local mom-and-pop brick and mortar remain without a hint of additional federal stimulus, praying they do well enough in the next few weeks to stay open in 2021. While Cyber Monday sales are expected to grow this year, American Express, which promotes Small Business Saturday, has reported that in a survey of owners 62% said they need to see spending return to pre-COVID levels to survive 2020.

Though that’s not to say the community isn’t getting involved. Many shop owners we spoke to praised their customers, the ones who have sought out their stores to see how they were doing, buy items or even gift cards.

Some owners managed to take some of their business online during the height of the pandemic in spring, but many did not have the resources  to go further. Over the year, we’ve talked to other small business owners who said the additional stresses caused by the pandemic were simply too much to bear and have already closed up shop.

Yet the beast only grows bigger and hungrier. Amazon is planning for a total of three last-mile warehouses on Long Island, with the latest one announced to be in Shirley.

In the Nov. 26 issue of TBR newspapers, we shared the very real and very legitimate concerns of local pharmacists over Amazon’s new pill delivery service, which is rolling out at the end of this year. Amazon won’t know patients’ family history. Amazon won’t be able to look at a person at their counter and tell if there may be something else wrong healthwise.

All the emphasis on staying at home has led to the ballooning of mail-in delivery services for everything from packages, to food and even alcohol. Some of these delivery businesses, like Door Dash have been a minor boon to brick and mortar who were not allowed to open their doors. Others, such as Amazon Pharmacy, have been taking away larger and larger slices of the economic pie. Will there be a time when your local pharmacy or corner store can no longer compete with a national brand? Maybe, but we’re not there quite yet.

All our local shops were impacted by the ongoing pandemic, and though some industries have managed to compete better than others, the tell-tale signs of anxiety are there in each one. As New York City and Long Island witness increases in COVID-19 infection rates, all eyes are on Albany to see if there will be more restrictions. Experts have already said trends are worrying and have suggested stricter measures.

In that way, we ask people to be considerate not only of business owners but also to your neighbors as well. It may be smart to call ahead before visiting a local shop for a Christmas gift, so as not to spend as much time indoors, potentially with strangers. It’s better to get shopping done early, especially to avoid any kind of gathering crowds on the horizon.

But we have to see the end of 2020, we all crave the end to 2020, but we do not want to see the end to small business on the North Shore and all of Long Island. This holiday season, let’s keep our local mom-and-pops in mind.

A reader recently called the office and asked a member of the editorial staff why social media companies like Facebook and Twitter have been shielded from lawsuits over the content users post on their platforms, while newspaper editors usually take extra precautions when publishing letters to the editor.

Social media platforms have been covered by Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, as they are not considered moderators of content provided by their users, but distributors. The same act protects distributors of books, magazines and newspapers.

It is a law that has become controversial, as The New York Times has pointed out, since it also covers websites that propagate hate speech. Websites can effectively set their own rules for what is and what is not allowed.

However, regarding newspapers, readers will often find that letters to the editor pages in many publications such as ours stress that the opinions of columnists and letter writers are their own. They do not speak for the newspaper. We also edit letters for length, libel, style and good taste,  and the editorial department vets them to ensure factual accuracy. While social media companies and internet service providers are protected under Section 230, newspapers, radio and television stations are held to a higher standard, allegedly due to their ability to moderate content and maintain editorial control.

At the same time, more social media sites are expressly moderating people’s posts. Facebook recently cited that it’s detecting and removing most hate speech before anyone sees it. If the argument was these sites didn’t have the capacity to moderate all its content, it is in the strange spot of arguing at the same time that it effectively can.

While outside content across the worldwide web is innumerable and almost impossible to keep track of, with a newspaper the content can be reviewed by an editor. Although most newspapers, including ours, are open to printing readers’ opinions no matter what side of the political aisle a person may take, as a privately owned business we have the option to decline to publish anything that comes across our desks. Based on our standard of ethics, letters can be declined if they include racist comments or defamatory statements — such as accusing a person of a crime, a breach of ethics or professional dishonesty. Newspapers can potentially bear the responsibility of being held accountable under libel laws if a letter claims something about a person that is known to be false or should have been known by the editorial staff. Of course, it’s hard to litigate libel in New York state, as one has to prove the defamation was made with actual malice.

Local newspapers like ours don’t always have the luxury of having numerous letters to choose from and, being familiar with the different viewpoints of community members, we have the right to decide not to publish letters that express extreme views. Still, we do our best to provide an outlet where everyone feels they can express their opinions and exercise their freedom of speech. However, unlike most posts on social media, we also understand the importance of protecting our community members as best as we can from hearsay.

Regarding Section 230, it may be time to hold social media accountable for the content that pops up in a person’s newsfeed. Let’s not forget which accounts have been suspended by Twitter or those who have been thrown in “Facebook jail.” It seems as if the technology is out there to decipher false claims and what is otherwise hate speech. The fact that these corporations seem to want autonomy while displaying they have the capacity to monitor their users’ messaging is untenable — the general political divisiveness and the proliferation of so much mistruth are reasons enough that laws need to change.

Considering how many rely on social media for information, it may be time for these platforms to step up to the plate and verify what their consumers read or risk government reform.

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There’s no good way to put this. We know in a year of hardship so many of us crave the companionship and familial connection of a traditional Thanksgiving, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s something we simply can’t have this year.

Yes, we fought through the worst of the virus in New York, but cases are rising again all over the country. Suffolk stands as a positive test rate of 3.4% as at Nov. 17. Just a few weeks ago we were bragging about how well we were doing at 1%.

Experts have repeatedly said we will enter a second wave of the virus as the weather cools and more people spend time indoors, where the virus can spread more easily.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced new limits on several businesses and gatherings. Bars, restaurants and gyms are mandated to close by 10 p.m. for everything barring takeouts. The state also limited in-person gatherings to 10 people, though it excludes households with residents already numbering 10 or more.

Some have questioned the point of the latter restriction, especially whether the state even has the ability to restrict the number of people in a family home. Though there are residents who have reported large gatherings in backyards, the order should be taken more as a notice and reminder. It’s easy to guess just how quickly COVID-19 spreads when there are 20 or more people sitting shoulder to shoulder shoveling Thanksgiving delights into maskless mouths.

We only have to look at recent superspreader events to know just how dangerous maskless gatherings can be. A Sweet 16 event at the Miller Place Inn in September caused 37 people to come down with the virus, some of whom weren’t even at the event, while a reported 270 were required to quarantine.

Local officials have already cited Halloween parties for an increase in positive cases. One can only think holidays like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year will do even more harm if we don’t take the initiative now.

With that said, there are still many local businesses who depend on Thanksgiving sales, whether it’s the local butcher or bakery. We ask people to still patronize your neighboring establishments even if you might not need as much this year as previous. I mean, don’t we all look forward to Thanksgiving leftover sandwiches?

But likely more people are concerned about not seeing their family sitting around the table as they do every year. There’s no way around it, no, you shouldn’t. Keeping it to household members only will be hard, but there are ways to talk to friends and family through video and phone. We know some people in our office will offer toasts over Zoom and other facilities. And we know that we will be toasting the many people who work and continue to work, making sure people are safe during an unprecedented time. We also need to thank the many volunteers providing food for the needy during an especially difficult  time, and hope all those hungry people find some meal and companionship this holiday.

So, combined with people still traveling home for Thanksgiving, with more visitors likely to come from out of state, we are left with few good options. Some people say something to the effect that “we can’t let the virus control our lives.”

We would counter that thought with the following: If every single one of us having a smaller Thanksgiving for one year saves even just one life, then it would have been worth it.

Is Thanksgiving canceled? Maybe a traditional one is, but the spirit of the holiday certainly won’t be, not if our goal is to keep those around us safe and healthy.

Amongst record-breaking turnout for the 2020 election, there is still one lingering issue that Suffolk County needs to correct for the many elections in our future, namely the dearth of early voting locations in the county.

In the midst of a pandemic, providing an opportunity for locals to vote earlier than Election Day made more sense than ever before. It was about keeping the number of people to a minimum to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Accommodating those who didn’t want to vote amongst crowds because they felt they would be at a higher risk to catch the coronavirus should have been at the utmost of priorities.

In Suffolk, past years have seen one early voting site per town, and this year the number of locations was increased to 12. Critics had lobbied for more than a dozen sites in the county, preferably 21, but the calls were met with compromise.

Well, the results are in and the critics were right. The slight bump in polling places wasn’t enough. People found themselves in line at early polling locations for hours. Lines at locations like Brookhaven Town Hall or Nesconset Elementary School snaked through parking lots and twisted around residential streets. As ridiculous as it sounds, people had to bring chairs with them to vote.

According to New York State law, the boards of elections should consider various factors when choosing a site including population density, travel time, proximity to other sites and how close it is to public transportation routes.

In Brookhaven, voters could find locations in Farmingville and Mastic but nothing on the North Shore. Smithtown residents had one location in Nesconset and many, once they discovered they would have to wait hours in line, traveled to Brentwood to vote early. In the TBR News Media coverage area from Cold Spring Harbor to Wading River along the North Shore of the Island — which can vary between 40 to 50 miles depending on what route a person takes — that Nesconset location was the only early voting polling place.

Of course, we realize one of the problems may be a lack of poll workers and volunteers. Hearing the concerns of many residents who are now shouting voter fraud and the like it’s ironic how more people aren’t willing to participate in one of the most important processes in America. Our suggestion to the Suffolk County Board of Elections: Make more of an effort in getting the word out that people are needed to help voters.

The long lines of people to cast an early vote proved that Suffolk residents wanted their voices to be heard. Those lines proved that the county and country need to rethink the early voting process.

Suffolk County needs to work out a funding stream that is dedicated to early polling places come Election Day, and the nation needs to have a serious conversation about standardized processes for mail-in ballots or early voting. At the same time, why not make Election Day a national holiday?

While the hope is that future election procedures won’t need to adhere to pandemic guidelines, offering a more flexible schedule enables people more than 15 hours on Election Day to have their say, no matter what their workday schedule or other responsibilities entail.

To have one day to vote may have worked in the early days of our country, but with the U.S. population increasing massively over the centuries, and people of color as well as women gaining the right to vote along the way, it’s time to expand to make sure every adult in America can vote no matter what their circumstances may be.

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Here is the rub, we’re in tense, dangerous times. We all feel it, a sense of unease blowing on the wind from who knows where. We don’t know what will come in the weeks following election day Nov. 3.

Absentee voting has been around for years, but the pandemic has caused a new swath of residents looking to vote remote. In New York state, boards of elections will not even begin to count absentee ballots until Nov. 6, and that process could take weeks to finish, especially if this year’s Democratic primary is anything to go by. Some experts have said we could not see the final results until December.

Due to this, sites like FiveThirtyEight, which often analyses election polling, said New York may initially skew Republican and then edge Democratic as more absentee ballots are counted.

Effectively, as we look at the preliminary results in the days after Tuesday, we have to remember that nothing is set in stone, especially this year.

It’s only fair that every person who voted in this year’s election is counted, no matter which way they may have voted. Anything else would be undemocratic, and nobody can judge another for deciding to stay home and cast a ballot by mail, especially if they or a person in their family is in the high-risk category for getting COVID-19.

Despite this, President Donald Trump (R) has continually called absentee votes into question, despite the likely fact that many of the people voting for him have cast absentee ballots, and that he himself has voted by mail, specifically by giving it to a third-party individual to return. He has even suggested legal action to mandate only the votes counted by Election Day are applied.

We’ve been trained to want our results election night, but no state has ever fully counted every ballot on the first Tuesday in November. Some states, like North Carolina, are counting absentee ballots that arrive as late as Nov. 12.

And lacking any bombshell reports of vote mismanagement, we have to trust the system. New York’s process double checks each absentee ballot to make sure the person also did not vote in person. Voter fraud remains rare, and multiple states use mail-in ballots as the primary way people can vote in local, state and federal elections.

And what should we expect in those days after? Are we really going to see violence? Will people really accept the outcome of this year’s election? That’s the real question, and as we write this editorial for an issue that comes out two days after the initial results, we cannot say what’s on the horizon.

We urge everyone to stay safe and stay sane. We’re all looking for someone to take the lead in asking for calm, but it seems we should be looking to those in education for a guiding light. Stony Brook University’s new President Maurie McInnis wrote: “While we wait for the results, we are bound to be anxious and tense. Practice patience, extend courtesy and be considerate. When results do come, given the variety of political affiliations that are part of our strength as a diverse community, some are bound to feel elation while others will be disappointed and distressed. I encourage you to reach for empathy. Reach for critical understanding. Reach for the profound combination of caring and intelligence.”

We know tensions will be high, we know the national news will be covering unrest in different parts of the country, but we want to believe our communities have the right mindset to move forward, and that we can stifle the most radical voices with a bulwark of civic mindedness and a sense of neighborly compassion.

A caravan of cars rolled through Port Jefferson Oct. 17 in support of President Donald Trump. Photo by Kyle Barr

Beyond the interruption to Saturday business for stores, some of whom are hanging on for dear life by their pinkie, beyond the traffic and the noise, where is this going?

Because we are two weeks before an election, likely one of the most consequential elections of our lifetime, and the Trump caravans taking over roads not just on the North Shore as they did last weekend, but from both east and west, have told us one thing: There are real efforts to take the general antipathy seen on the national stage and transport it to here at home.

Seemingly in response to a single Black Lives Matter march in Port Jefferson back in June, local right-wing group Setauket Patriots has hosted three events since July. One was a sanctioned car parade for Fourth of July. Another was an unsanctioned parade for 9/11. Now we have the most recent caravan supporting the reelection of President Donald Trump (R) last Saturday. All these events have contained many examples of people waving flags supporting Trump, but this latest parade finally dropped any pretense.

In videos shared online, some patriots members have displayed animosity to local officials, to neighbors or effectively anyone who doesn’t agree with them. One video highlighted an actor portraying Trump calling Port Jeff Mayor Margot Garant “evil” for issuing the group a summons for marching without a permit. In another, a member of the caravan jokes about shooting counterprotesters.

Grown men and young children got into public shouting matches on the side of the street. There were reported examples of people in the caravan using gay slurs at any who showed disagreement. And, of course, not every example of bad behavior was carried out by Trump supporters. One counterprotester flipped the bird at all those gathered at the street corner, drawing jeers from the crowd.

Are these examples just small bites of a larger, more intricate context? We hope so, but there’s a real danger to thoughts like these. Yes, you can and should disagree with the decisions of public officials like the mayor of a small incorporated village, but what is the point of pejoratives? Where is this going? Is there going to be something like the planned armed coup by residents against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D)? Not likely but, then again, officials like U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) have joined in on attacks against the mayor seemingly on political grounds. These attempts at further dividing a local community are not welcome.

And beyond that, if you joke about shooting your political opponents, no matter if they are protesters, officials or police, you no longer deserve the kind of public platform you currently enjoy.

Divided. That’s what we call ourselves now. We say we are polarized and distinct, with one red America and one blue America. Why? Why do we push this polarization as if it’s inevitable?

This month, TBR News Media has been hosting debates with candidates running for local elections. Would you be offended or glad to know just how often these people from two separate parties actually agree on local issues? Both Republicans and Democrats agree with how important it is to maintain our North Shore bays and the Long Island Sound in general. Both parties understand the issue of Long Island’s brain drain and the need to keep both old and young here. They might disagree on the particulars, but that is why we have the debates in the first place, isn’t it?

Even on the so-called hot-button issues like police reform, there is real nuance and ideas from candidates you likely won’t see on any nationally televised debate stage.

There are people, even in our local community, who are trying to twist us and divide us. We ask that we all look past that and attend to the facts to guide our political decision-making. Check back with TBR News Media Oct. 29 for our upcoming preelection issue.