We as a country have experienced a tumultuous and polarizing last few weeks and months. The lead up to the first Tuesday in November and the midterm elections set the American electorate ablaze with strong opinions that saw former elected officials receive rudimentary pipe bombs via the mail.
With that as a backdrop, Veterans Day took place this past weekend, with beautiful, solemn remembrances unfolding at war memorials and firehouses, coupled with more raucous and celebratory parades happening across the North Shore and beyond. The events should have served as reminders that despite our differences, our shared values and appreciation for the sacrifices made by so many that allowed this country to flourish are what will be truly lasting in even the tensest of times.
While we were glad to see photos come through our inboxes and across our social media platforms of these events, we were saddened by an incident that occurred at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai relayed to us by Fred Drewes, a founding member of the Heritage Trust, the nonprofit which stewards the park in partnership with the Town of Brookhaven and Suffolk County.
Drewes has dedicated much of his own time to beautifying the park and perpetuating a triannual program called the Parade of Flags, which features the flying of about 100 flags representing American states and other important entities like the military branches lining an area of the park dubbed the Avenue of America. The park features other patriotic imagery including the Court of America, a sitting area with benches, plaques with quotes from presidents and other famous citizens and a rock garden in the shape of the continental United States.
The rock garden contains symbolic rocks, plants and flowers that are native to the corresponding region in which they lay. Blocks featuring the names of all previous 44 U.S. presidents and the years they held office border the garden. President Donald Trump’s block will be added at the conclusion of his tenure, according to Drewes.
Drewes reported to us that during recent weeks someone tore out former President Barack Obama’s block and discarded it in a nearby shrub. We’re not asking anyone to agree with all — or even any — of the former president’s political ideologies or practices, except for one.
“The forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us,” Obama said in 2011 while speaking in Tucson, Arizona, after a gunman shot U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona).
On Veterans Day especially, but going forward, we’d like to see Americans make a better effort to live by that axiom.