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Leah S. Dunaief

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Inside this issue is a treasure trove of first-hand information about the candidates and the issues in the coming election. How do I know? Because we, the different members of the editorial board of Times Beacon Record Newspapers, personally interviewed 25 people running for office across the three towns that we serve: Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington. The offices the candidates are running for are all local, which means that these are the officials who will have the most direct effect on our lives. 

The positions range this year from county legislators to town supervisors, town council, and town clerk. We asked them questions without bias, seeking only to understand who they were, what they believed and what we could expect from each of them, should they be elected — or re-elected, as the case might be. The setting in our conference room was relaxed, and we hoped comfortable, with opponents for each office seated together around the table responding to questions put to them by our editors and reporters. 

Sometimes there were four candidates, sometimes only one who might be running unopposed or against a shadow opponent, but mostly there were two during each session. Most of the time, the hour goes by calmly, but occasionally the opponents get testy with each other — they may even become openly hostile.

At one such session some years ago, one of the candidates invited the other out to the back parking lot “to settle things.” When the other began to take off his jacket, we quickly intervened. But there were no such flare-ups this year. 

The answers were timed in an attempt to get to the main ideas without running on too long. There was ample time at the end for each visitor to tell us anything more that perhaps we hadn’t elicited with our questioning. 

We have written up the details of each interview in a separate article for the election section. And we discuss the candidates at the end of each hour and come to a conclusion for the endorsement. 

Most of the time, the editorial group was unanimous because the choices were fairly direct. But for a couple of races, we talked over the pros and cons of each candidate at length before making the selection. These endorsements are based on both the in-depth interviews and the considerable information we know about the incumbents since we have been covering them closely throughout their terms in office. Of course, after reading the stories, you may or may not agree with our conclusions. Our job is to get you thinking.

The many hours that are given to this task, throughout the month of October, are a service for our readers. We are privileged to enjoy an extended face-to-face time with those standing for election, and we feel an obligation to pass along whatever information, facts and impressions we gather during these sessions. We sincerely hope we help in the sometimes-difficult job of casting a responsible vote.

Each year we include in the election section a sample ballot that we are able to procure from the Suffolk County Board of Elections because readers have told us that it is a great advantage for them to receive the ballot at the voting poll already knowing how it is laid out.

Our editorial board is made up of staffers with different political leanings, but when we put our journalists’ hats on, we try to judge each race strictly on the merits of the opposing candidates. And while it is technically possible for me to be tyrannical about the final selections, that is almost never the case. We decide by majority rule.

Sincere thanks to the talented staff who join in this extra work each year. We truly believe that we are watchdogs for the people, and nowhere is that more necessary than in reporting about government and its office holders. We hope we have helped you, whether you read by newspaper and/or online. Now please vote.  

A scene from the new Elegant Eating video by Daniel Febrizio/ TBR News Media

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

There is something new, and I hope you will find exciting, in this issue of the newspaper. If you will look at the advertisement for Elegant Eating on page 9 for those of you that get The Times of Smithtown or the back cover for The Village Times Herald, you will see a QR code within the border of the ad. Run your mobile phone camera over the code, and it will open up to a 30-second video.

The new addition, in effect, turns the flat, two-dimensional print ad into a talking motion picture, however briefly. This gives significantly extra punch to the ad. It’s also fun for the reader.

We will repeat this for the other four newspapers, The Times of Huntington & Northport, The Village Beacon Record, The Times of Middle Country and The Port Times Record next week. 

We can, of course, offer the same process for news stories. An article about someone newsworthy can carry a QR code that then permits a live viewing of that person speaking to the viewer.

For now, we will concentrate on providing this service to advertisers, refining the process as we go along. And we have priced this offering accordingly to allow many business people to afford coming aboard.

In addition to viewing the short on a mobile phone, the video will also run on the home page of our TBRnewsmedia website under the banner, “Video spotlight on business.” Our website has approximately 150,000 viewers per month. Further, the advertisers can add the video to their own web page if they would like. Advertisers should check with their sales reps for more information and to get started.

In adding this new feature, we hope to have a meaningful interaction between print and the web. Print, of course, is being challenged as digital news and advertising have lessened to some extent the dominance of print. With this new service, it is our intention to bring the best of both worlds to the advertising side and also the news side of our media output.

The value of print, with its responsibility for vetting and fact checking both stories and ads, cannot be overstated in this present climate of enormous misinformation on the web. In bringing print to the web, and the benefits of the web to print, we hope to engage our readers further and serve our local communities. We also hope, by being innovative, to help our bottom line. 

We know communities need local news outlets to inform and protect them, as well as to hold a mirror up to record their daily lives and achievements. Towns where newspapers have failed in the last decade are now referred to as news deserts and have suffered for their loss. Ill-considered developments, poorly sited landfills and unfortunate actions by unworthy local government officials have been only some of the consequences, with no strong voice to give outcry on behalf of the people. Many energetic journalists have been thrown out of work. We believe the key to survival in this age is to embrace change and join with its best aspects. 

Hence our latest enhancement for you.

Jeopardy. Facebook photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

It’s not an addiction, exactly, but I do regularly watch “Jeopardy!” So do several of my friends and at least one son and daughter-in-law, who make sure they get home from work just as the television program begins. What is it, you might ask, that makes the program so alluring? There is no love interest, no spy adventure, no murder mystery, no serial episodes to coax one back each weeknight at 7 o’clock. 

Well, maybe there is that last aspect. There are three contestants nightly, for those unacquainted with the format, and each stands behind a podium, separated from the one alongside. Each person has a buzzer in hand, and they look at the answers to questions on a big board before them, just as the TV audience does, and as the moderator reads the answer. The first one to hit the buzzer after the moderator stops speaking then get to ask the question the answer poses. 

It’s questions and answers in reverse. The questions range across six categories, and of course, each contestant tries for answers in the category most familiar to them. Each answer is worth a certain amount of money, and once in a while, one contestant will respond to all five in a single subject. There is single Jeopardy or part one for the first half, and then Double Jeopardy, in which the answers are worth twice as much.

But there is more to the half-hour stint than just who-knows-more-about-what. There is also luck involved, because hidden among the answers on the board is a kind of Joker that enables the person, who unknowingly clicks on it and causes it to be revealed, to wager as much of their “earnings” in advance of what has to be answered next. There is also strategy that is required, the sort found in the card game, Poker. Each person needs a sense of the risk-taking tolerance of the opponents in order to determine how much to wager. Many games are won or lost during Final Jeopardy, on that last detail, alone. The winner is the one with the most money at the end and returns to play the following night until they lose.

Now back to the serial appeal. When one contestant wins repeatedly, that person will attract more than the usual interest. He or she, and it is almost always a “he,” will develop a fan club among the viewers, who cheer him on each night from their living rooms. He, of course, cannot hear them, but after an especially long run, that person may become nationally known. In addition to the substantial amount of money they may have earned, sometimes enough to fully fund retirement, there are all sorts of further opportunities for them, like endorsements and sponsorships.

So we tune in to see how our winner is doing with each new night of games, as we might gather around a roulette table with a persistent winner in a casino. But unlike a casino, there is the broad knowledge of trivia required to play competitively, and that makes for fun in our living rooms. We call out the answers along with the actual contestants, and we become contestants, too, among our group. When one of us has the right answer, the other or others offer congratulations. Most satisfying is when one of us knows the last question at Final Jeopardy, and none of the three on stage does.

That calls for a high-five and a “Wahoo!”

“Jeopardy!” was invented by the game show king, Merv Griffin, and premiered in 1964. It had a successful daytime run until 1975, hosted by Art Flemming and running on NBC, until it was deemed no longer of interest. The series was then picked up in 1984 by CBS and hosted by Alex Trebek, and has been on the air five times a week since then. Currently, Ken Jennings has replaced the late Trebek. It airs in various international versions in more than 25 countries.

I confess to being a member of the “Jeopardy!” cult.

METRO photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Since the news lately has been so grim, I want us to share something of a lighter tone. Have you ever thought about your earliest memories? How far back can you go? Do you remember what your parents looked like when they were younger? Do you recall outings they took you on and how that worked out? What spotlight can you shine back on the farthest points in your life?

The first that comes to my mind is the fun I had sledding in Central Park one day with my dad. The hill at 84th Street and Fifth Avenue looks pretty modest to me now, but then I thought it was alpine. The weather must have been very cold because my dad, who was almost never cold, was wearing his rough woolen grey overcoat. We had a Frequent Flyer long red sled that he carried easily to the park by holding onto one of the runners. He then pulled it over the snow behind us by a rope attached to the handles as we trudged upward.

When we reached the top, he lay down on the sled, his legs dangling over the back, and I climbed on top of him, holding onto his collar with all my strength as he pushed off and we flew at incredible speed down the frozen snow. I can still feel the pellets of ice thrown up by the runners stinging my cheeks and the wind howling alongside as my dad steered among the other children and parents who had also come out to enjoy the white miracle of snow in the city. When we got to the bottom and slowly came to a halt, we laughed triumphantly and tumbled off the sled to go back up and do it all over again.

Later that afternoon, on the way home, my dad motioned for me to get on the sled so that he could pull me the several blocks until we returned to our apartment. Except for narrow shoveled pathways, the streets were hard-packed with snow. I remember telling him that I was too heavy and being puzzled by his laugh. Then his expression turned sober as he assured me that I truly wasn’t too heavy. I did get on and rode home. 

I remember my mother teaching me to read. I could recognize the letters from the Alphabet Song she had taught me, but I had been pestering her for more. My dad read newspapers, my mother read reports from work, and I wanted to read, too. So she sat down with me on the side of my bed and explained that just like the Alphabet Song that we sang, if I could put the sounds of the letters together, they spelled out a word. Then she opened a book, and prompted me to sound out each letter of the word she was pointing to. As I did that, I suddenly yelled out the word and understood. It was an epiphany for me. I could read the word. Any word. All the words. I began trying to read everything in sight, again pestering my mother when the sounds didn’t make sense. And to this day, reading is one of the greatest pleasures of my life.

The last early memory I will share with you would probably embarrass my mother if she were here with us. But she isn’t, and I will tell. My brother was almost 14 years older, and there was no one in between. I heard my mother asked more than once by lady friends how it was that after all that time, I arrived. She would reply, “Leah was an accident.”

I thought about that for a while, tried to understand, then finally came up with a satisfactory explanation. It went something like this. One day my mother was crossing Second Avenue, a heavily trafficked road I was familiar with, and was hit by a truck. And there I was.

Little did I know that I had invented binary fission, the means by which amoeba reproduce. After I checked that out with my mother, she never again uttered those words.

Join us in celebrating local women’s successes

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

As you know, March is Women’s History Month, honoring the contributions of women to history, culture and society. Did you know that women in the United States of America could not own property until 1862? You probably know from all the recent centennial publicity that women are able to vote only since 1920. But did you know that a woman could not have a credit card in her name until 1974? Now that is a startling statistic because it is not plucked from the dustbins of history but rather, for us of a certain age, a contemporary one. After all, I started The Village Times, the first newspaper of Times Beacon Record News Media, on April 8,1976. Getting a credit card then, whether for business or personal use, was a big complicated deal and how to run a business without one?

You might say we women in the workplace have indeed come a long way. And even though women still earn only 81cents for every dollar men earn, we can be pleased with our success so far. I’m saying “pleased,” but not yet “satisfied.”

Women’s History Month grew out of Women’s History Week, first celebrated in Sonoma County, California, in 1978 to acknowledge the singular contributions of women that had been largely ignored in most history books. The idea spread to other communities and President Jimmy Carter adapted it by presidential proclamation to a national observance in 1980. Since 1987, it has been celebrated annually by congressional resolution for the entire month of March in the United States, made to overlap International Women’s Day on March 8.

Today there are some 12.3 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., according to the National Association of Women Business Owners. Compare that to 402,000 women-owned businesses in 1972. Further, they generate 1.8 trillion dollars a year. There are 114% more women entrepreneurs than 20 years ago, starting roughly 1,821 new businesses every day, and that plays a significant role in the United States economy.

We want to call your attention to these female success stories on a local level. You probably don’t think of who owns the business when you shop in a store or use a service, nor should you. We women have proven ourselves adept at business and professional management, and seek nothing more than the same opportunities to support ourselves, our families, our employees, and to serve the public that men have enjoyed over the centuries.

Still, considering how far we have come today, we can’t be faulted in any demonstration of business success, such as in this section, for having a little extra gleam in our eye.


Pixabay photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

There are some funny stories I could share with you about being a woman in business this Women’s History Month. Like any storyteller, I may be repeating myself with a couple, so please indulge me with your patience. I hope they will give you a chuckle even if you’ve already heard them. 

First though, I would call your attention elsewhere in the newspaper and on our website to a section in which local businesswomen are participating in this month’s spotlight. They have sent in headshots of themselves and have answered one of three questions that we posed: how do you balance work-life duties; who inspired you; what words would you offer younger women interested in following in your footsteps? Please look for them and enjoy their responses. We hope you will also shop in their stores and use their services, thus supporting both the local economy and minority-owned enterprise.

We started the first newspaper, The Village Times, on April 8, 1976. After some wildly chaotic and exciting first months, just before Christmas, I was waiting in line at the deli across from the office when I was greeted by the ad director of a local competitor newspaper. We had met several times before, and he was filled with the good cheer of the season.

“Congratulations on your new venture,” he said. “The paper looks very good every week.”

“Thank you,” I replied, thinking it was a generous thing for him to say to another publisher.

“You tell the fellow up there that he’s doing a great job,” he added, pointing upward to my office building on the hill.

“What fellow?” I asked, ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ crossing my mind.

“Aw, c’mon,” he said with a laugh. “We all know you have some guy up there running the show.”

“Merry Christmas,” I replied and took the encounter back to the staff of half a dozen wives and mothers, who howled.

Then there was the time I was seated on the dais next to the New York Press Association’s keynote speaker, Mike Wallace. It was the Spring Convention, 1984. On his other side was the association’s president finishing his meal, and I was the president-elect. Wallace, good journalist that he was, chatted with us throughout the dinner, sincerely asking about the names and locations of our newspapers. After it was my turn, and I answered his queries, he looked at me and asked, “And where is your husband?”

I could hear the president choking on his food as he feared my response. “He’s at home watching the children,” I answered with a smile. At this point, the president was able to get out, “No, she is the owner and publisher of her paper.”

Wallace turned back to me, patted my arm, and after a long pause, offered, “Forgive me, my dear. I’m an old dinosaur.”

Here’s another. It was 1978 and I had arrived the night before the NYPA convention was to start. I was already checked into the hotel and was eating dinner in the dining room with a book for company. “May I join you?”

I looked up and saw a pleasant-looking man smiling down at me. “Yes,” I answered, returning the smile and assuming he was another early arrival for the convention. We exchanged names and hometowns, chatted briefly about the weather in Albany, and then he slid his room key across the tablecloth. “Come up about 9:00,” he instructed.

I stared at him puzzled, then realized what he was saying. “Why would you think I would be coming to your room?” I asked astonished.

“Well,” he said, “you are down here in the hotel eating by yourself.” He withdrew the key and quickly left. I looked around, realized I was the only woman eating alone, skipped dessert, paid the check, rode the elevator up to my room, and once inside, double-locked the door.

That was life in the fast lane for a woman in business in the 1970s.

Stock photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

The second time around, of course, I knew the routine: where to drive, what paperwork to fill out, how quickly the shot would be administered into my designated vaccine arm, my left, then how I would have to wait in case of an immediate reaction. After the allotted 15 minutes, there being none, I left and drove myself home, picking up a sandwich for supper at the deli along the way.

Shortly after I finished eating and got up from the table, however, I started to feel a bit lightheaded. By the time I had cleaned everything up, I was decidedly dizzy. I climbed the stairs to the bedroom, got into pajamas and, book in hand, tucked myself safely into bed. After a couple of hours, when my inoculation site began to hurt, I took two Tylenol and ultimately fell asleep.

The next morning, Sunday, the dizziness had stopped and I was wolfishly hungry. Thinking that was a good sign, I hurried out of bed only to realize that my left upper arm seriously ached, and upon inspection, was red, hot and swollen. It remained that way throughout the day and the next, until it finally dawned on me to apply ice to the area. Almost immediately the swelling was reduced. Otherwise, except for a slight and short-lived headache, the kind one might get when coming down with a cold, I had no further difficulties.

Now that I have had both vaccines, what does that mean?

First, it means that I have to wait 14 days before the full preventive effect of the vaccines take effect. Then, and only then, a curtain will lift and I will be able to walk out into the sunshine. At least, that is how I would like to think of my life changing two weeks from now. But not completely, I have learned. Yes, I will be able to socialize in small groups in homes with others who have also been twice inoculated. That means friends around my age. We will not have to wear masks nor remain socially distanced. Hallelujah! 

I will also be able to meet with my unvaccinated family in single family units at a time — son, daughter-in-law and their children — if they have been living together the whole time and are basically healthy. According to CDC guidelines, this can happen in a home and without requiring masks or our standing six feet apart. The very thought of hugging them makes me dizzy again, this time with pleasure.

In public places, however, we should continue with the same precautions of masks, social distancing and frequent hand washing, as well as avoiding poorly ventilated spots. Scientists do not yet understand if we can still carry and inadvertently transmit the virus. Also they don’t know exactly how well or for how long the vaccines protect against the disease. There are, as we know, ongoing multiple mutations by the virus, some of them more contagious and more virulent than the originals, and scientists are not sure how well vaccines will protect against those variants.

Meanwhile, we who are vaccinated need not get tested or quarantine if we are exposed to the virus, unless of course, we come down with symptoms. We are advised not to gather with unvaccinated people from more than one household and should avoid joining medium or larger groups. 

Further, we are still advised not to travel long distances and to stay home if possible until more facts are known. This is disappointing, but travel brings exposure to more people and the possible spread of variants. Every time there is more travel, there is a surge of cases, the experts point out. If we go to a gym or restaurant, the risk is lower, but we should still be aware and take the usual precautions, like wearing a mask on the treadmill or while waiting for a meal. 

So we are returning to normal life but slowly and with great care.

Photo from Pixabay

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

When General Motors announced last week that the company would aim to sell only electric cars and trucks by 2035, it shook up the industry. There are already electric cars on the road, although they number fewer than one percent.

Tesla, the electric car maker, has been much in the news lately since Wall Street values the company at more than ten times that of General Motors, and indeed, more than Toyota, Volkswagen, Ford and General Motors combined. 

Nonetheless, this was a sharp turn for G.M. And as the largest automaker in the United States and the fourth largest in the world, what G.M. does affects everyone else down the automotive line.

It is no coincidence that the announcement came only a day after President Biden signed an executive order directing his administration to fight the problem of climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency is developing tough new tailpipe pollution regulations to control the largest source of planet-warming emissions in the short term. G.M. is aligning itself with the new administration’s goal in its drive to electric power. Furthermore, just three months ago, China ordered that most vehicles sold there must be electric by 2035. China is G.M.’s and the world’s largest market.

So all roads would seem to be pointing to a preponderance of electric cars by 2035, at least as of the present. But there remains a significant hurdle in the production of electric cars. While countries can certainly create charging stations along the roads in the same fashion as we now have gas stations, and President Biden has asked for 500,000 public charger stations to be built by 2030, the challenge is the batteries required by the cars. 

The battery packs have to be big, and right now to be big means to be expensive. Gasoline engines for equivalent cars cost less than half as much. China is the leading producer of these batteries, and of electric motors, which is not surprising since Chinese leadership has long viewed its dependence on oil imports as a considerable vulnerability. 

Therefore, major auto companies, like Daimler and Toyota, are already manufacturing their electric cars in China. So will many of the Ford Mustang Mach-E models be made there. Tesla started making cars in Shanghai over a year ago to sell in China.

So, folks, it would seem that in our not-too-distant future, we are destined to own electric cars. G.M. is planning to spend $27 billion to introduce 30 electric models by 2025, just a short generation away for those buying new cars this year. They are building a plant in Ohio to make batteries for those vehicles and to develop better batteries. G.M. now feels it could make electric vehicles that would cost no more than gasoline ones. And when G.M. in October offered its Hummer electric pick-up truck, enough orders had come in within a day to fill the entire year’s planned production. 

The Chinese have cleverly offered their huge consumer market in exchange for technical information. Through joint ventures with companies of other nations, along with their own considerable research, they have become the leader in battery development. Further rounding out the picture for the urgency of electric vehicles is the ban by Britain, Ireland and the Netherlands on new gasoline and diesel cars as of 2030.

Utility companies will have to improve their output by as much as 25 percent, which they can do at considerable expense. Guess who will be paying the tab! But the increased rates should be offset by the savings in gasoline, at least that would be the plan.

Power plants would also have to engage in some sort of rotation so that not everyone can charge their vehicles at the same time. They would also help the global climate change situation by using more solar and wind instead of coal and natural gas, in short by cleaning up the power grid.

Photo from METRO

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Sunday is Father’s Day. When I think of my father, one of the most immediate memories I have of him is of his telling us stories. He loved to talk about his childhood days growing up on a dairy farm in the Catskill Mountains of New York State. One of nine children, he distinguished himself with his claim as “the middle child,” and made his adventures sound daring and riveting. Somehow he and his siblings always survived, always came through relatively unscathed. And the conclusions to the stories were inevitably happy ones.

For example, there was the time the six boys climbed to the peak of the hill behind their farmhouse, arranged themselves onto an oversized sled and careened down on the hard-packed snow. It was great fun until they saw a train in the distance coming along the track at the bottom of the mountain. Their oldest brother, sitting in the front, quickly calculated the speed of the sled and the speed of the train and shouted a command to those behind him: “Jump off to the left when I count to three.” They obeyed and huddled together watching, as down below the rushing train crushed the sled crossing in its path.

Then there was the day my dad and a couple of his schoolmates climbed atop the one-room schoolhouse roof and jumped down in front of their young teacher just as she was arriving for the day. She screamed, which was satisfying to his buddies, but my dad also screamed as, barefoot, he landed on a glass shard. His father, who was of necessity the “emergency room doctor” for his family, isolated as they were in the rural farmland, stitched his foot and spooked him by saying that he would bear the scar of that misadventure “all the rest of his life.” To my young father, that sounded more ominous than the pain of his sole being sewn up. If we begged, he would show us the jagged scar, evidence of his exciting youth.

What would he say about living through the present pandemic? It still feels like a dream, this novel coronavirus, from which we will shortly awake. I pinch myself, but I know I am not dreaming. For sure these times require daring just to go shopping in the supermarket, and judging by the amount of media coverage, are also riveting.

For many, sheltering in place has proven to be most difficult. Those who like to be in motion constantly are now restrained to their few rooms and a daily walk. Relationships with spouses or others sharing the house or apartment may have become strained to the breaking point. In Wuhan, China, made famous as the origin of COVID-19 for example, suits for divorce have increased appreciably compared to the preceding year. There has been an uptick in the use of alcohol and drugs in the U.S. by those feeling isolated or lonely or simply in limbo from their normal lives. Depression is an increasing complaint.

Yet others, at the same time, have found the pandemic a time for reevaluation of their lives. They have slowed down from their frenetic pace, deepened relationships with partners and children and colleagues, and if they have been fortunate enough not to have anyone fall ill, and to keep their jobs, perhaps have seen a new way occasionally to work: remotely from home or elsewhere in the world. They have probably saved some money by not venturing out to shop, dine or vacation and have maybe enjoyed some healthy home cooking.

There is a better prospect ahead. After all, we are in Phase Two now. It appears that Phase Three is on the immediate horizon. By wearing masks in public, practicing social distancing and avoiding crowded indoor settings, and by sheltering those who would be most vulnerable, we seem now to be co-existing with the virus, at least until a vaccine becomes available or sufficient herd immunity evolves.

How would my dad tell this story? I believe he would share his experience as a great adventure, even as he would hold up his scar.

Hundreds of protesters stand at the corner of Routes 112 and 347 in Port Jefferson Station Monday, June 1 to protest police violence, especially against people of color. Photo by David Luces

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

This year will be remembered in much the same way as 2001, 1968 and even 1941 are remembered. And the year is not even half over yet. Those were years when we were embroiled in conflict; we the people of the United States of America. In 1968, we experienced internal strife, with protesters taking to the streets against the Vietnam War and racism in society. The other two historic years, the strife came from outside the country. This year we have both.

It required protests in 140 cities across the nation, triggered by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, to push aside the daily counts of illness and death from COVID-19 at the top of the news. And like 1968, this is a year of national elections, so throw in a heavy dose of politics into a climate of extreme political partisanship.

Peaceful demonstrations catalyzed by grief and anger at the video proof of police officers killing George Floyd, a black man in their custody, have morphed in many instances into chaotic and often deadly attacks on police as they try to control rioting, vandalism, fires and looting in the cities. 

Protesters have sometimes tried to stop looters, adding to the wrestling for control of the streets. And all of that is happening as more than 100,000 Americans have died and close to two million have been sickened, victims of the coronavirus. The possibility of a spike in the pandemic from the gathering of crowds pouring out of their sheltering-in-place homes in protest is another concern for health officials. The situation is certainly not helped by the more than 40 million people now unemployed. Disease, economic challenges and social unrest are combining to inflame our country.

Where do we go from here?

For our health problem, the answers are simpler. As our lives become more liberated by the phased openings, we must still maintain caution during our comings and goings. We need to wear masks when interacting with others, even one other. We must practice social distancing of at least 6 feet of separation when we are with others who are new to our antiviral sheltering circle. We can get tested more easily now should symptoms prompt such action. We should continue to diligently wash our hands, especially after touching any common surfaces, like doorknobs or railings. And extra resources must be given to areas with extra caseloads.

The racism problem is not so straightforward. It has been embedded in our country since before its founding, and it will take much more than words to alleviate. 

We need to work together across communities to root out discrimination and inequalities in health care, educational access, employment opportunities and policing. That starts with the birth of each baby in a safe and professional environment, and follows that child through pre-school right up through full schooling with competent teachers, administrators and resources, jobs that can pay at least a living wage and housing in a safe and pleasant neighborhood.

Is it possible for societies to do all that?

Many systems have been tried to help level the playing field. None of them has worked so far. While all people might have equal rights, not all people have equal abilities or equal good luck. Some will always be better off than others. Democracy offers vital freedoms and choices. But the will of the majority must always be accompanied by protection for the rights of minorities. Good governments can do that. Capitalism offers rewards for enterprise. But good government must control its excesses. Presumably we can all agree on these principles.

But how do we end bigotry?

Racism is bigotry based on differences of skin color. Anti-Semitism is based on differences of religion, as is anti-Catholicism and anti-Muslimism and countless other theological beliefs. People kill each other over such defining differences. At different times in human history, such bigotry seems to lessen. People intermarry, live together in diverse communities, even vote each other into office.

But bigotry doesn’t disappear. It merely slumbers, like a pandemic gone underground. If we are to survive as a species, we must first unite.