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D: None of the Above

Stock photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Disclaimer: The following column is intended to provide a lighthearted response to the ongoing pandemic. In no way does it diminish or ignore the suffering or the unimaginable horror for people who have lost loved ones or who are on the front lines of the crisis. I continue to be grateful for all the help, support, and work everyone is doing to keep us safe, fed, and cared for (see last week’s column). This latest column, however, is designed to offer comic relief.

I was thinking about how life has changed in small, and largely insignificant ways. Please find below some “before coronavirus” and “after coronavirus” trivial differences for those of us fortunate enough to be inconvenienced and not irreparably harmed by the virus and when we’re not focused on the anxiety of shuttered businesses and lost income.

Where should we eat?

BC: Do you want to go to the Italian restaurant with the cool music and the frescoes on the wall, or the Chinese restaurant, with the incredible dumplings and the endless supply of hot tea?

AC: Should we go back to the kitchen, the dining room or the bedroom, where there are so many leftover crumbs that we could eat those for dinner without going to the refrigerator?

What should we wear?

BC: We could take the newly pressed suit that’s back from the dry cleaner, the slightly wrinkled suit that we wore a few days earlier, or the jeans and casual shirt that works on a casual Friday.

AC: We could take yesterday’s sweatpants, the ripped jeans that don’t smell too bad, or stay in the pajamas we wore to bed.

What should we do when we see people we know on the sidewalk?

BC: We slow our walk, smile, shake hands or hug and ask how they are doing.

AC: We run across the street, yell in their general direction and wave as we make the same joke we made the day before about the need for social distancing.

How do we start emails?

BC: We might dive right in, ask an important question or ease into it, hoping all is well.

AC: We often start emails by hoping the person we’re writing to and their family are safe.

How should we check on our college-age children?

BC: We can call them or FaceTime to see how they are doing and listen attentively as they share the excitement about school.

AC: We can call or FaceTime them from behind their locked door in our house and ask them how they are doing.

What do we do about the polarizing president?

BC: If we love him, we can find others who admire him. If we hate him, we can blame him for climate change, relaxing regulations, and changing the tone of discourse in Washington.

AC: If we love him, we can thank our lucky stars that he’s leading us and the economy out of this pandemic. If we hate him, we can blame him for our slow reaction and hold him to account for everything he and his administration haves said or didn’t say in connection with the COVIDcovid-19 response.

What do we do if someone sneezes?

BC: We offer a polite “God bless you” or, if we’re fans of “Seinfeld,” we say, “You are so good looking.”

AC: We drop anything we’re carrying and race across the room. When we’re a safe distance, we turn around scornfully, particularly if the person didn’t sneeze into anhis or her  elbow.

What do we think is funny?

BC: We follow our own sense of humor, reserving the right to laugh only when we feel compelled.

AC: We look at a picture of Winnie-the- Pooh and Piglet. We see Winnie telling Piglet to “Back the f$#@$ off,” and we laugh and send it to everyone who won’t get in trouble for receiving an email in which someone curses, after we ask if they and their family are safe.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

You know those glasses you wear at the eye doctor when you have to identify images that stand out on the card in your hand? These days, I feel as if I’m wearing them everywhere I go.

Take, for example, my trip to the supermarket. Before coronavirus, I often nodded to the people who stock shelves and chatted with the cashiers, acknowledging them but perhaps not appreciating them sufficiently. Nowadays, the entire food services crew stands out.

The people who worked on the farms that grew the products, the ones who went to the factory that refined it, the drivers who transported it to the stores and, eventually, the residents of our community who placed it on the shelves are making it possible for us to feed our families.

Each time I shop, I would walk around giving the local supermarket workers a hug, but that would violate social distancing, and would be pretty awkward.

Then, there are the pharmacists, who stand in their white lab coats mixing our medicines. We need them, now more than ever, to ensure we get the right amount of the right drugs.

Of course, even when I’m not seeing the doctors, nurses, police, and other first responders, I’m well aware of the front line in the battle against the pandemic. Each one of these people is putting their lives on the line when they interact with people who may carry an infection for which their bodies have no resistance, no matter how much coffee they drink or how much they hope they are invincible. With coronavirus glasses, I see them perform their heroic jobs each day, despite the concerns they may have about bringing the disease home to their families or limiting their contact with their relatives.

Fortunately, we are not so isolated that most of us can’t see important people in our lives through FaceTime. Many people contributed to the development of the phones that have become an extension of our bodies. The ones who made the futuristic Jetsons’ notion, in the animated sitcom, of seeing people as we talked to them have made it possible for us to connect from any distance, even if the ones we wish to hug are waiting out the storm in their living room next door.

Scientists throughout the world are working tirelessly to figure out the best ways to treat people lined up in hospitals or to create a vaccine that will protect us in the future. I am privileged to talk to scientists every day, although I haven’t spoken to any of the ones working on a treatment or vaccine. These researchers come from everywhere, are indifferent to national borders, and often are driven to make new discoveries, help humanity and make a difference in the world. Those of us who receive treatments or a vaccine for which they made a contribution can assure them that what they do matters.

The entire team involved in heating, cooling and lighting my home also stand out, as do the ones who created magnificent and inspiring films, books, and home entertainment.

Each day, people like Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) and County Executive Steve Bellone (D) work tirelessly and visibly on our behalf. On Bellone’s daily media calls, he has remained level-headed, determined, and focused during the difficult balancing act of trying to protect our health while working to revive the economy, once the crisis clears.

I’m sure I’ve left many people off the list who deserve appreciation. In fact, if you, the reader, would like to share a few of the people whose work and dedication you appreciate, please write in and share your thoughts to news@tbrnewsmedia.com.

Photo from YouTube

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

We take so much of our life for granted. In some ways, it’s natural and necessary. After all, if we got up and stared out our window and marveled at the combination of sun and shade on the branches rocking in the wind, bent down to admire the dew clinging to the grass and breathed deeply of the newly blossoming trees every morning, we might never get our kids to school and ourselves to work.

And yet, all the news about the spread of this new virus and the ensuing reaction to protect the population — from closing schools to avoiding subways to staying away from large crowds — gives us an opportunity to appreciate the things, people and sensory experiences we take for granted.

No one will miss the scent of urine wafting up through the subways during a hot summer day when switching problems make everyone stand four, five and six deep on the platform, waiting for the next overcrowded and overheated subway car to arrive.

Still, we may miss so many other sensory, social and everyday experiences if and when we have to lock ourselves in our homes, waiting for the “all clear” sign.

So, what are some of those experiences? It depends on whom you ask and what time of year the question arises.

I appreciate the joy of people watching. After living in Manhattan for decades, I’ve learned to swing my eyes across the street inconspicuously, while I seemed lost in thought or even pretended to be on an invisible phone. Times Square, with its superabundant tourists speaking uncountable languages, wearing unrecognizable colognes and walking in all manner of shoes, is a great place to start.

But then, the line for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island offers a similar variety of people from all over the world. Instead of billboards of half-naked and incredibly tone and muscular bodies advertising Broadway shows and underwear, the backdrop for the people watching at the ferry lines includes the unpredictable waves of the Hudson River, which has its own personality, ranging from near stillness to foaming white caps.

Closer to home and nearer to summer, West Meadow Beach blends the natural with the call of the seagulls across the enormous intertidal zone and the salty, wind-carried scent; and the anthropogenic with the plaintive cry of babies overheated by the hot sun, the sound of music vibrating from sound systems and the sight of happy teenagers taking their first lick of their soft-serve ice cream cones.

I enjoy watching the end of a hard-fought tennis match, when two or four people come to the net and exchange pleasant handshakes and share thoughts about a good match or a good game.

The crowds at sporting events, many of whom we might not choose from a potential lineup of friends, become a part of memorable games and evenings, as we exchange high fives with inebriated strangers, share insights about what we would do if we were the manager of the team, or congratulate the parent of one of the players on our daughter’s team for the improvement in her game.

Despite the fact that I tend to avoid a crowded elevator car, an overstuffed subway or even an escalator with too many tired bodies waiting for a machine to bring them to the top, I will miss the chance to share some of these experiences with the random strangers who might become friends, the fellow sports fans who might offer a game-within-a-game entertainment, or the chance encounter with a long-lost friend whose winsome smile is the same as it was decades ago in an eighth-grade math class.

Stock photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I just celebrated an incredible birthday, thanks to the thoughtfulness of friends and family who took the time to talk with me and shop for greatly appreciated gifts.

Each year, these birthdays have the potential to be challenging, especially given that mine often comes some time around school midterms. Even though I’m no longer watching the calendar to see how many days I have left before I have to take a big test, I still ride that roller coaster vicariously with my children. This year, however, enormous and difficult tests didn’t hang over us, like the academic sword of Damocles.

For starters, before my birthday celebration kicked in, my sister-in-law and brother-in-law sent me AirPods. I knew I was supposed to open the gift on my birthday, but I’m not exactly the most patient person when it comes to opening presents. Gee, I wonder where my kids get that trait?

Anyway, the reaction from my son was almost as enjoyable as the present itself. When he saw me wearing them, he said, “How did you get those?” as if the question were an accusation. “My friends all have them.”

My daughter did a test run with me, chatting with me on FaceTime while she stared at my ears instead of at my uneven sideburns or the hairy bridge connecting my eyebrows. It’s increasingly rare these days for anything I do, say or wear to be considered “up to date,” so this wonderful gift hit the mark.

I’m enjoying using the AirPods at the gym, where I don’t have to worry about the wire bouncing around when I’m running or after I’ve exercised, when I’m panting as I lean over the water fountain.

The best part, though, is that they allow me to talk with someone while I’m walking my dog and picking up his droppings. I don’t have to worry about the wire coming lose when he suddenly pulls hard on the leash to chase a rabbit or to run away from the sudden noise a desiccated leaf makes when it blows in the wind behind us. Yes, despite his 90-pound body, he finds the unexpected noise from leaves threatening.

While I insisted to my wife that she didn’t need to buy anything for me, she purchased several items of clothing, like shorts and shirts that fit, look good and are incredibly comfortable. She also got this terrific jacket that repels the white dog hair that has rendered the rest of my outerwear ridiculous when interacting with members of the general public.

This birthday we ventured to the Big Easy, where the ubiquitous music still resonates. We took a paddleboat ride and heard about the Mississippi River and the site of the Battle of New Orleans. The oak trees lining the bank are about 250 to 300 years old, which means that the same trees stood in the same spot during the battle. 

My teenage son, who isn’t always the picture of patience with his demanding dad, played with me and allowed me to hug him in public during the weekend. That was better than any gift he could have purchased. My daughter, meanwhile, celebrated vicariously from college. A few of her friends wandered into the screen and wished me the best.

Finally, I connected by phone with college roommates, nephews, brothers and my mom, who was a critical part of that day so many years ago. Birthdays have, at times, made me feel older and displaced. This one, with the meaningful conversations, the laughter with my wife and children and the chats with friends and relatives, as well as the “cool” gifts, made me feel so young.

The White House

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I want the weakest possible president in 2020.

As a representative democracy, the United States uses a system of governance that relies on checks and balances. Everything about the history of the country makes it clear that a collection of leaders, each with limited power, should reflect the diverse nature of the country, with states that have small populations getting equal representation in the Senate.

Whenever one of the three branches of government oversteps its bounds, the other two have the opportunity to keep that one in check. If, for example, the executive branch, through the president of the United States, takes actions that the legislative or executive branches find objectionable or questionable, Congress or the Supreme Court can hold that president accountable.

So, how do we ensure those checks and balances? Where do we find exactly the right kind of weak president who can do just his or her job without trying to tell the courts what to do or legislate new laws favorable to the officeholder?

Most presidents, including every candidate who seems to be running now, appear to be convinced that he or she will be a strong leader with a vision for the country that takes us to greater heights or that makes us a better nation.

That’s lovely, but no president can do it alone. The government should be a team effort, pulling together people with a drive to contribute to the world through public service and to represent not only personal opinions, but the values, goals and concerns of the entire nation.

That seems almost impossible, given the divided nature of the country as we enter the 2020 election, right? Someone is always winning and someone is always losing.

That doesn’t have to be the case if a president sees and understands the limits of their power.

While this may seem like a direct rebuke of President Donald Trump (R), it is not. If Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I), who seems to be gaining momentum with each passing primary, wins the Democratic nomination and then becomes president, I don’t want him to be powerful, either.

Some of his ideas, like free college and Medicaid for all, seem compelling on the surface, but many Democrats, Republicans and Independents wonder how exactly he’ll pay for all of those ideas. I enjoy reading dystopian fiction, like “1984,” “The Giver,” and “Fahrenheit 451,” to name a few. The conclusions of all of them are that utopia doesn’t work and big government creates even bigger problems, particularly for the individual.

The idea of Medicaid for All may seem appealing because of the frustration so many people feel with their medical insurance, until they imagine the bureaucratic machine known as the federal government making decisions about their medical coverage. Many of us want to make informed choices.

That brings me back to the choice for president. In the next eight months or so, as we prepare for the onslaught of advertisements telling us how and why the other candidate may ruin our lives, We the People can do something about it. If we truly believe a Democrat will win the White House, we can vote for Republicans in Congress. If we believe Trump will continue to share his inspirational Twitter messages wishing everyone well — just a bit of sarcasm here — we should vote Democratic in all the other races.

I don’t want Sanders expanding government and running up a tab that even higher taxes seem incapable of paying, while I also don’t want Trump getting a free pass to follow his impulses where they take him and the rest of the country. For me, the best 2020 choice is a weak and controlled president.

Photo from METRO

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

She could feel the tension mounting. She had been down this road, or, more specifically, on this runway, numerous times before.

Flying didn’t bother her. She had taken many flights before she met her husband. Since they’d been married, they had also taken trips each year.

That’s when the trouble started. He didn’t blame her, but as someone who shared his feelings and wanted to help him when she could, she often felt at a loss as this moment approached.

She looked at the stranger next to her, eager to encourage a new person to enter the dialogue and distract him from his frustration.

At first, the stranger didn’t engage in conversation, preferring to read his book and to look through the movie offerings on his phone.

The ride around the airport took a while, as the plane stopped a few times to let other flights land.

Unable to break the ice with the man on the other side of her, she turned to her husband and hoped the game they’d developed might help.

“Hey,” she said, “how long do you think it’ll take this time?”

He grumbled something between his gritted teeth.

“Well,” she said, not bothering to ask him to repeat himself when she felt that the words were less relevant than the angry emotion that built up inside of him. “I’m going with eight.”

“Eight?” he spit back at her incredulously. “No way! It’s going to be at least 12.”

When the plane stopped and the Jetway came out to meet it, the man started his stopwatch, holding it up so she could see.

After three minutes, the passenger on her other side, who had heard the abbreviated conversation and could feel the tension rising between them as the man glared, unblinking, at the front of the plane and all the passengers between him and the next step on his trip, decided to break the frustrated silence in their row.

“Are you guys guessing how long it’ll be before you get off the plane?” he asked.

“Yes,” she sighed, grateful for the relief from watching and taking care of her husband.

A flight attendant made an announcement.

“Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, we’re waiting for a gate attendant to fix the lock on the other side. It should only be a few minutes,” she said.

The man near the window shook his head. The woman shrugged at what she hoped was her new ally.

“Well, we’ll just start now,” she offered, as she set her own stopwatch on her phone and encouraged him to follow the new timing.

“You see,” she said, “he gets angry when people aren’t ready to go after the
plane lands.”

He turned away from the front of the plane long enough to explain himself to the stranger near the aisle.

“They turn off the seatbelt sign and people don’t get their luggage,” he snarled, gesturing with his palm at all the offending passengers between the door to the rest of his travels and the seat that barely contained his irritation. 

“Look at them, sitting there. It’s going to take each of them a while to get off. They have to find their bags, pull them out and get off the plane.”

The stranger offered the weary wife a supportive look. She appreciated the gesture, even as she made sure all her items were ready to go.

“These things are beyond your control,” the stranger offered.

“That’s true, but it still bothers him,” she sighed as she held her bags tightly in her hand.

Stock photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Twenty years ago this week, my wife and I got married.

Over the course of the next two decades, we have gone through numerous changes and challenges together, providing a united front for our children, hosting relatives during birthday parties and celebrating landmark occasions.

As I think about the many roles we’ve played in each other’s lives I am grateful for my wife, the teacher. In addition to taking time to help educate our children, she has also been an extraordinary educator for me.

Starting with something easy, she taught me to relax. Before I met her, I felt the need to move, almost all the time. Sitting on a beach, a bed or a rock at the top of the mountain seemed like a waste of time. Over the years, taking a moment to soak in the sun, to observe the trees and birds around us, or to talk and laugh about the events of the day have become increasingly enjoyable ways to spend time and connect.

While my wife has taught me the fine art of relaxing, she has also demonstrated an incredible work ethic, balancing between the needs of our family and the demands of her job. She finds time to respond to work emails, to read work material and to answer important calls, all while supporting our children at everything from sports scrimmages to concerts to graduations.

Neither of us is particularly fond of shopping. She has, however, demonstrated how to speed-shop in a store. She has a gift not only for finding what she or any member of our family needs — a black shirt for a coming concert, a white dress for a party or specific socks that are cool enough for school — but also doing it in the most efficient manner, enabling the four of us to race back to the car and on to other activities.

She has also taught me how to laugh. Of course I laughed before I met her, but the laughter wasn’t as frequent and it didn’t continue to help cement my relationship to someone as well as it does with my wife. The absurd surrounds us, if you know what to look for and how to find it.

Of course, I don’t necessarily cherish every lesson the same way. You see, my wife is a cat person, a trait she shares with her mother and siblings. When my wife was pregnant and during the months when she breastfed, I learned the fine art of scooping cat litter and, once a week, changing the pan. I learned how to do this unpleasant but necessary maintenance task as quickly as possible, leaving me with only a slight scent of cat litter on my clothes. Our young children enjoyed watching me expectorate for a full minute after the process ended.

She also taught me the sheer joy of walking the Earth with someone. Before I met her, I was an avid walker, trekking up and down West Meadow Beach, walking around neighborhoods in Manhattan and crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. Ever since then, we have covered thousands of miles in all types of terrain as we share our observations of everything from nature to the events of the day or week. Walking together in stride, I have felt a part of something larger and more meaningful than my own existence.

Ultimately, however, my wife taught me how to turn my dreams into a reality. When I was 13, I read about the Galapagos Islands. When I heard about how all the marine and island life ignores people, I knew I had to visit. Spurred on by my wife, we planned this journey, which in 2013 far exceeded my lofty expectations, just as each year does with the woman I married two decades ago.

File photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Fear can be a great motivator. Fear of failing a test can lead someone to study harder, to pay attention in class and to do whatever is necessary to learn the material.

In many movies, the lead character has to face his or her fears to accomplish something. Luke Skywalker from the “Star Wars” films had to face his father, Darth Vader, to become a Jedi.

Fear, however, can also bring out the worst in people, especially when that fear is misplaced and misdirected.

Last week, the University of California’s Tang Center, in Berkeley, listed a set of normal reactions to the new coronavirus on its Instagram account. Among other reactions, like feeling anxiety, worry or panic, the school suggested that xenophobia, or “fears about interacting with those who might be from Asia” was also normal. The Instagram post went on to add that having “guilt about these feelings” was normal, too. Chances are, if you’re feeling guilty about a feeling, it’s probably misdirected and uninformed.

Amid an enormous backlash from alumni at the school, whose current freshman class is about 43 percent Asian, the university has since apologized and taken down the post.

The school hopefully learned, and also offered a valuable lesson.

People in the United States are no more likely to contract a virus that currently has a 2 percent mortality rate from an Asian person than they are from anyone else who is sniffling and coughing.

In fact, at this point in the year, someone near you who is sneezing, coughing or looks sick is exponentially more likely to have the flu.

Yes, the vast majority of the almost 25,000 cases of the coronavirus — with about 3,200 critical — are located in China and, yes, many countries, including the United States, have taken strong steps to limit the possibility of turning this epidemic into a pandemic, causing the virus to spread to two or more continents.

Where someone’s ancestors come from, or where they themselves were born, is much less relevant than where they themselves have traveled in the last two weeks.

And, on top of that, even if someone — Asian, Caucasian, African American, Native American or otherwise — has been to Asia in the last month, if that person has been back in the United States for more than two weeks without showing any signs of illness, then he or she falls into the same category as anyone and everyone else with whom we ride the Long Island Rail Road, sit in a movie theater or stroll through a mall. The mandatory quarantine period for people returning from Wuhan, the Chinese center of the outbreak, is two weeks.

Fear of this virus shouldn’t encourage any of us to avoid people with a specific heritage because the virus doesn’t care about the small genetic differences that create races. It only seeks the receptor in our cells that allow it to get inside and cause respiratory infections.

So, how do we manage our fear of the virus? We tackle it the same way we do our fear of getting a flu. We wash our hands regularly, we try not to touch our face, and we don’t shake hands with anyone who has a stuffy nose or is coughing.

We can also boost our own immune system by getting enough sleep and eating the right foods.

The coronavirus, for which there are currently no treatments or vaccines, has generated a steady drumbeat of horrible news, from the number of people infected to those who have died, which has climbed to almost 500 but with more than 1,000 recoveries.

Fear of the virus can be and is healthy, motivating countries to protect their citizens and limiting the spread of the virus. The fear, however, of any group will never be “normal” and certainly isn’t acceptable.

Alyssa Nakken is the first female coach on a major league staff in baseball history.

By Daniel Dunaief

There may be no crying in baseball, as Tom Hanks famously said in the movie “A League of Their Own,” but there is, thanks to San Francisco Giants and Alyssa Nakken, now a woman in baseball.

Last week, for the first time in the 150-year history of the game, a woman joined the ranks of the coaches at Major League level.

The hiring of Nakken, 29, follows the addition of women in the National Football League and the National Basketball Association.

While it may seem past time that America’s pastime caught up with the times, members of the Long Island athletic and softball communities welcomed the news.

“I hope that it becomes more of the norm rather than the exception,” said Shawn Heilbron, athletic director at Stony Brook University.

For Megan Bryant, who has been the head softball coach at Stony Brook since 2001 and has collected more than 870 career wins, Nakken’s new job creates a path that others can follow.

“For the Giants and Major League Baseball and women in sports careers, that’s a big deal and is a step forward,” Bryant said. “It will open other doors for other women.”

Bryant said teams can and should recognize the wealth of coaching talent among men and women.

“If you’re a great coach, it shouldn’t matter the gender of the athletes you’re coaching,” Bryant said. 

Lori Perez, who was an assistant softball coach at Sacramento State University when Nakken played and is now head coach, said the news gave her “goose bumps.”

The hardworking Nakken, a two-time captain at Sacramento State, once asked her coaches to stop a low-energy practice so the team could refocus and flush their negative energy, Perez said.

Nakken’s parents had “high expectations for her but, even better, she had high expectations for herself,” which included doing well academically and helping out in summer camps, Perez said.

Patrick Smith, athletic director at Smithtown school district, believes these first few female hires in men’s sports are a part of a leading edge of a new trend.

“We will see more and more [women joining professional sports teams] as time goes on,” Smith said. In Smithtown, women constitute greater than half of all the athletes at the high school level.

Among the six senior women on Stony Brook’s softball team, three members are considering a career in sports after they graduate, Bryant said.

While the Women’s College World Series softball games have drawn considerable fan attention, attendance at women’s college and professional sporting events typically lags that of men.

The Long Island community can provide their daughters with a chance to observe and learn from role models at the college and professional levels by attending and supporting local teams.

“It’s frustrating that the women’s games aren’t drawing close to what the men’s teams are,” said Heilbron. The Stony Brook women’s basketball team, which includes standout junior India Pagan among other talented players, is currently 18-1. This is the best start in program history.

“I hope people will come” support the team, Heilbron said. “If you come, we believe you’ll come back.”

As for women in high profile roles, Bryant, who is looking forward to the addition of six new players to her softball squad this year, believes each step is important on a longer journey toward equal opportunity.

“Whether it’s in sports, science or politics, we’re making strides,” Bryant said. “But we still have a long way to go.”

Perez, who has two children, is thrilled that “women can dream of things they couldn’t dream of before,” thanks to Nakken and other female trailblazers inside and outside of the sports world.

'Come From Away' on tour

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

You know those thought bubbles artists draw in cartoons, where the reader can see what each character is thinking even as the person might be saying something like, “Bless your heart”?

I tried to imagine possessing that real-life talent when I recently attended the show, “Come from Away.”

The musical, which debuted close to seven years ago, offers a retelling of the story of people diverted on their planes on 9/11 to the small town of Gander on the island of Newfoundland in Canada.

The local folks, with their indigenous
accents, offer support for the sudden influx of thousands of people from all over the world who are stuck in a place where they can’t get to their clothes, pets or toothbrushes.

The world changed dramatically on that day, as people on those redirected planes gained an almost immediate perspective on the inconvenience of their experience compared to the tragedy other families endured.

The people from Gander were incredibly hospitable and heroic, stepping outside their own needs to welcome and support the collection of people trapped with them for an indeterminate period of time.

While I don’t want to spoil the story — and please stop reading if you’d like to experience the show without any specific expectations — the musical also addressed one of the crueler elements that arose in the aftermath of that awful day: Some Americans developed a fear of Muslims.

One of the Muslim men stuck in Gander immediately drew suspicion from his fellow passengers. What, they wanted to know, was he doing and was he a threat to them?

In the days, weeks and months that followed those despicable attacks, many Americans developed an unfounded fear of all Muslims, just as people became distrustful of Japanese-Americans after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

One of the reasons I wished I had a thought bubble as I watched the show was to see and appreciate what the other members of the audience recalled in their own lives.

Indeed, for me, the toughest part of the beginning of the show was immersing myself in the story. While I recognized that I was hearing about the experiences of people in a faraway place, I kept recalling the day when my then 3-month-old daughter seemed to sense our panic, fear and sadness, refusing to sleep or even allow us to put her down.

I also thought about the friends and professional contacts who got up, went to work and never returned to their families that day.

And now, several days after attending the show, I see that President Donald Trump (R) has decided to attack two of his favorite Democratic targets by retweeting images of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York as Muslims, standing in front of an Iranian flag.

The suggestion, perhaps, is that they must be terrorists or be standing with the cruel regime in Iran if they don’t immediately support a president whose explanation for his own recent actions in Iran seems to change by the day.

Moving away from his world view, however, I feel as if we’re still fighting an irrational battle where one group — Muslims — is considered dangerous to “our way of life.” Do we really believe that any one religion could be eager to destroy us? Can we casually allow anti-Muslim fears to return?

Surely, we must have learned something in the last 18 years? The enemy doesn’t wear one set of clothing or practice one religion. We don’t have to wait for tragedy or for extraordinary circumstances to rise to the moment, the way the residents of Gander did.