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Opinion

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Last week, a Shirley man was killed on the streets of Port Jefferson in broad daylight. 

He was gunned down at 3:35 p.m., outside the Dunkin’ Donuts that many of us frequent on our way to work.

It’s a tragedy. No one deserves to die.

But here’s where another problem lies: The impact of social media when it comes to an incident such as the one on that Wednesday. 

People began spreading rumors across Facebook, in private — and not so private — groups. They claimed there was an active shooter, a robbery gone wrong, a drive-by gunman attacking the innocent women and children enjoying the sunshine.

None of that was true. 

It was mind-boggling, seeing what people were posting online while an active investigation was going on. They blamed the local government, the Suffolk County Police Department, the school district, the media — one resident even posted that this event in our village was all the fault of President Joe Biden (D). 

Some residents began playing detective or journalist — they wanted to track down the guy who “soiled” our perfect little town. Some used it as a jumping pad for their own agendas.

Everyone made it about them. 

Even a comment such as, “That could have been me dead,” is false. This was a targeted attack between two men. 

We understand this was scary — we were frightened, too. But this was someone’s son, a brother, a friend. No matter what he got caught up in, someone lost their life the other day.

Stop meddling in what the police and local government are trained to do in these situations. 

On Facebook, people shared photos of David Bliss Jr. dying in the street. In one of the photos, you see him lying there, covered in blood while people hold up their phone cameras around him.

How would you feel? Your last visions of the world are of people leaning above you, filming your last breath. 

We are disappointed in the community. Instead of coming together, they are taking the event personally and spreading fear among others. 

Let the mayor do her job. Let the police do their job and let the media do their job. 

Things are kept private for a reason. Names and residencies are not released because an investigation is ongoing. Any leaked information can completely ruin a case. 

And that’s the worst part. People began believing false rumor-filled Facebook threads and posts. The rumors caused anxiety and instead of coming together, it pulled people even further apart. 

We found out the shooter was from Port Jefferson Station — not far from where he killed the 25-year-old man — and he was found within 72 hours thanks to the village cameras and hard work of law enforcement.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened on social media as we have seen it happen with other incidents across the Island, state, country and around the globe. And in those events, social media took over, too. 

Only newspapers and their digital media check all facts. Social media does not. 

It’s sad, it’s terrible, but it happened, and we need to grow from it. 

We can all do better.

Go to TBR News Media for accurate breaking news.

Photo from Pixabay

Last week marked milestones that most Long Islanders would prefer to forget.

It was March 5, 2020, when the first confirmed case of the coronavirus was reported on the Island in Nassau County, and then a few days after, there was one in Suffolk. 

A year later, while we can somewhat see the light at the end of the tunnel, we’re not quite there yet.

Many people would say we lost a year of normalcy with a good majority of employees working from home, restaurants and other businesses operating at reduced capacity — some even shuttering their doors for good. The biggest loss to COVID-19 was more than 3,000 people in Suffolk County in the last year dying from the virus. This means 3,000 families have lost their loved ones.

We’ve come a long way since the novel coronavirus was first discovered in Wuhan, China. Scientists and researchers had to scramble to find ways to protect people from a virus that was unfamiliar to the human body, so much so that it not only could make them incredibly ill but also take their lives.

There were shutdowns, social distancing guidelines, the requirement of facial coverings and frequent handwashing to keep us healthy, while pharmaceutical companies were on the fast track creating vaccines that would teach our bodies how to clobber the silent and invisible enemy.

But was this year really lost to any extent? We have come out of adversity stronger and wiser.

Those of us who are reasonably healthy have learned so much. More than ever, we know not to take our health and loved ones for granted. We have discovered just how resilient we can be, finding alternatives to celebrating special events, having meetings with coworkers, buying groceries and more. Many business owners have come up with innovative ideas so they can keep their doors open.

We have also seen disparities during the pandemic, especially when it comes to public health, as Black and brown communities have had more cases than others. These disparities are unacceptable and remind us that we can and must do better by our neighbors.

So many of us know someone who has been affected by the coronavirus, whether they had mild or severe symptoms, were hospitalized or died. And as we find ourselves at the one-year mark, even with the vaccines being rolled out, we still must curtail our activities, social distance, wear masks and frequently wash our hands.

But as more and more people get vaccinated, the light at the end of the tunnel will continue to get brighter. Our residents will carry on — maybe with masks in hand and keeping their distance, but at the same time applying the lessons they have learned and honoring those who can no longer do so.

Photo from Pixabay

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

“What are you doing for enrichment these days, now that you can’t see a Broadway play or go to the opera or comfortably travel to new countries?” asked a longtime friend the other day. “Do you feel like you are in a desert?”

I had to think about that for a moment. True, those events she mentioned that I so enjoy have been on hold throughout this unimaginable pandemic we are enduring, and I certainly miss them. While I have my work with the newspapers and digital media that keeps me happily occupied, the pleasure I take in the cultural side of my life has not disappeared. It’s just changed. I’ll tell you how and see if you agree.

Yes, I love to travel. But, you know, reading books and taking trips have much in common. A faithful subscriber, who writes to me often and sends me clippings that he finds interesting, sent me a column from The Wall Street Journal by Elizabeth Bernstein. 

“Books expand our world, providing an escape and offering novelty, surprise and excitement, which boost dopamine,” she comments. “They broaden our perspective and help us empathize with others. And they can improve our social life, giving us something to connect over.” She could just as correctly be describing travel.

Bernstein goes on to quote Mitchell Kaplan, owner of independent book stores Books & Books and co-founder of the Miami Book Fair. “You disconnect from the chaos around you. You reconnect with yourself when you are reading.”

The Midnight Library

I certainly agree. At the moment, I am reading The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. In this New York Times bestseller, he takes up a subject that has at one time or another occurred to all of us: what if I had taken another road in my earlier life? It brings to mind the Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken,” as it deals with the many choices the young heroine in the novel could have made differently. 

And ultimately, the story reconnects us with ourselves, as travel does for me. What if I had gone south instead of north on my trip? What would I have experienced? Whom would I have met? That is not so different from: what if I had gone to a different college, taken a different major, married a different person, settled in a different place? Books, like travel, stimulate, entertain, and if they are good books with universal themes, speak to you personally. 

Of course, you don’t get to eat the different native cuisine when you read that you do when you travel. Books and travel: analogous but not the same. Yes, books are a magic carpet that can transport you to any place in the universe, but I surely do miss the physicality of travel, of throwing a few articles of clothing and my toothbrush into a suitcase and hitting the road.

As to other enrichment in my life, I have become captivated by movies on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Well, some of those films offer cultural enrichment, some just good old entertainment. I fell in love with Outlander, the time-travel series I stayed up until all hours binge-watching, as I have previously mentioned. Since then there have been many that I would recommend, including some that were finalists for the Golden Globes awards that I was able to watch on my Smart TV.

Nomadland, which won for best motion picture, is about a slice of life in America that few of us see. The story follows an older widow who outfits her vehicle so that she can live in it and travels around the Southwest, working occasional spot jobs to sustain her along the way. She meets up with others doing the same, and they are mutually supportive even as they are fiercely independent. Her journey is one of self discovery, revealed through her choices, even at an advanced age.

Others I have enjoyed include The Dig, The Trial of the Chicago Seven, East Side Sushi, Penguin Bloom, Red Sea Diving Resort and the delightful series, Firefly Lane. I don’t feel like I am in a cultural desert, but I want it all back.

Photo from Pixabay

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I have a surprising amount of “found time” these days.

I still have numerous responsibilities and deadlines, but the time between activities, when I’m walking and talking with my wife, when I’m driving to the supermarket or when I’m preparing dinner, my mind is free of the pattern it had developed over the course of the last four years.

No, I wasn’t training for the Olympics and no, I wasn’t preparing a machine to land on the Red Planet. I was, like so many other people, living my life and reading the headlines.

More often than not, the 45th president of the United States consumed the news cycle. Periodically, I wrote about him, but, for the most part, despite reading and reacting to the things other people wrote, I recognized that few ideas or thoughts I had were original or even worth printing.

Yet, I found myself reading and reacting with friends and family, pondering whether he was setting new presidential precedents.

While my body hasn’t gone on any distant vacations, except for a relaxing ski weekend, my mind suddenly has more time. Indeed, even when there are headlines about Supreme Court decisions related to the former president, I glance at a few sentences and move on to other things.

So what am I doing with all this found time? In no particular order, here are a few ways I have reengaged my mind:

■ I’m reading more books. I have had Walter Isaacson’s biography of Ben Franklin next to my bed for a while. I’m now parsing through it more closely, enjoying the reality of an iconic American, learning about his love for travel and his well-known sense of self worth.

■ I’m thinking about Mars. At first, of course, I couldn’t help wondering how Marvin the Martian from the Bugs Bunny era might react to the Perseverance rover landing next to his home. On a more serious note, I enjoyed the absolutely giddy scene at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where scientists and engineers have been working tirelessly for years for this moment and where they saw and heard sights and sounds from Mars that bring us all closer to the planet’s surface.

■ I’m noticing the lighting around our neighborhood. As we approach spring, the colors of the light have changed, turning ordinary homes into glowing domiciles. If I were selling some of the houses around me, I would take pictures of them during the sunrise and sunset, showing prospective buyers these residences when they are glowing.

■ I’m becoming preoccupied with sports again. I am following the Brooklyn Nets more closely and, more directly, am excited for the days and weeks ahead when my son might play baseball. In his last year of high school, he has an opportunity to play for his school and himself, if the school and the league are able to get through an entire season during the pandemic.

■ I’m marveling, in a distant and impersonal way, at the turnabout in press coverage. CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post have toned down their Washington criticism, while the New York Post and Fox News seem intent to point out all the flaws and dangers of the new administration. The teeter-totter has tilted in the other direction now, with the New York Post attacking White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki with some of the same concerns that the more liberal papers attacked the previous press secretary.

■ Lastly, I’m listening to everything around me better. The children playing down the street and the returning birds calling to each other in the trees have captured my attention.

Photo from Pixabay

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

If you can do it, I highly recommend getting away from your life, even if it’s just for a day or a weekend.

Despite the ongoing threat from COVID-19, we took a weekend ski trip. We called the small inn where we hoped to stay and asked if they required masks of their guests.

“When you get here, you’ll see that there’s almost no common space,” the innkeeper said. “You’ll be in a small hallway.”

That was music to our ears and, as it turned out, exactly as he described. We only saw two other guests that weekend and that was in the parking lot.

Upon check in, we called the family that ran the inn, who directed us, unseen and contactless, to our room, where an old fashioned key, not a key card, awaited us on the kitchen table.

After we emptied the luggage from our car, we raced up a foggy mountain filled with hairpin turns to the ski slope after 9 p.m. to pick up our equipment. I had read that the ski slope recommended getting the gear the night before to save time the next morning. With only two other customers at the rental center that night, we maneuvered through the process quickly.

Something about getting away from the sameness of the last year was incredibly liberating. We woke up later than usual, had a light breakfast and headed to the slopes. Assured that the three parking lots were full, my wife suggested driving to the closest lot, where a friendly parking attendant suggested we could take our chances and circle the lot. Sure enough, my wife spotted someone pulling out of a spot just as we arrived.

The only remaining obstacle between us and blazing a trail down the mountain was a lift ticket.

Clearly, we weren’t the only ones pining for an outdoor sport, as an enormous line awaited. My wife discovered that the line was for rentals and that the ticket line had only two other people.

Grateful for the time we saved procuring equipment the night before, we put on our skis and shuffled towards one of the closest lift lines.

Sitting on a lift for the first time, dangling above skiers and snow boarders who did everything from carving their way down the mountain to sliding on their backside as their skis popped off, we shed the sameness of home life, home responsibilities and home entertainment.

The first time down the mountain, we reminded ourselves to keep our weight forward. My feet and legs, which have spent far too much time tucked underneath me in a chair at home, appreciated the chance to set the pace and direction.

My ears delighted at the shushing sound and my eyes drank in the magnificence of mountains gently piercing through a blanket of clouds that changed from white and grey to orange and pink during the approaching sunset.

We had a few challenging moments. Numerous skiers went maskless until reminded by a lift attended, while some people seemed genuinely disappointed when I didn’t agree to share a lift with them. When I explained to one of them that I was being, “COVID-safe,” she said she was already vaccinated. I told her I hadn’t and was being careful.

A few errant snowboards passed perilously close to my legs before colliding into a tree, while lift lines were sometimes too crowded for comfort.

Still, the ability to get away from a life that, as my daughter describes, “remains on pause even as it moves forward,” provided a refreshing and memorable change to our routines.

Photo from Pixabay

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

A year ago, most of us were going about our usual lives, shopping for food, carpooling our children, occasionally eating out, going to a movie or a play, traveling with our families during Presidents’ Week, entertaining friends in our houses, and working at our job sites.

Today the only pursuit still left on that list is shopping at the supermarket. We didn’t know that within two weeks, our lives would start to change, and that a month later the entire world would be altered.

The change agent? The novel coronavirus was the villain, otherwise known as COVID-19. Seemingly out of nowhere, the virus launched itself onto the human population. Where did it come from? How did it start? Was China somehow at fault?

A World Health Organization team of scientists returned last week from Wuhan, China, considered to be the first place with a coronavirus outbreak. Dr. Peter Daszak, who has worked with the Wuhan Institute of Virology and is president of EcoHealth Alliance in New York, was a member of the team, and was interviewed about their findings by The New York Times.

They walked around the Huanan Seafood Market, which is regarded as the source and is still blocked off to all but disease investigators. According to Daszak, the Chinese are “absolutely petrified of this virus catching hold again.” They were following severe protocols of testing, isolating and quarantining even as they were working closely with the W.H.O group.

The market was closed on December 31 or January 1, and a team of Chinese scientists then went in and swabbed every surface, collecting over 900 samples. Many were positive, including some animal carcasses. “A farm with rabbits [that was at the market] could have been really critical,” Daszak said. Or bats, stray cats, rats, live snakes, turtles and frogs, all of which were there. There were 10 stalls that sold wildlife, some peopled by vendors from South China provinces where the virus is found in bats. Some of the earliest patients with the disease had links to other markets as well, and some had no links to the Huanan market at all.

The final hypothesis of the W.H.O. team, and the Chinese scientists who worked with them throughout their visit, was that the viral pathway was wildlife, through a domesticated wildlife link, into Wuhan. In particular, Daszak suspects bats, from Southeast Asia or southern China, of getting into a domesticated wildlife farm. The viruses then jump from infected animals on the food supply chain or from their handlers to the dense population of humans that buy the animals at the markets.

There are actually many strains of this abundant family of coronaviruses, and bats and other mammals carry them. The SARS and MERS versions are just a couple that spilled over the species barrier and infected humans. So inevitably there will be more after COVID-19, and they could even cause future pandemics. Aware of that reality, some infectious disease scientists are working to produce a vaccine that will nullify all coronaviruses. Researchers are calling for a global effort to develop such a one-shot vaccine or a super vaccine. There have even been some promising early results.

Coronaviruses were first identified in the 1960s, but were initially thought only to cause mild colds. Then in 2002, a new coronavirus appeared. That was SARS-CoV, named for severe acute respiratory syndrome, and it was deadly.

In 2012, a second species of the coronavirus spilled over from bats, causing MERS, which stands for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, first reported in Saudi Arabia, and today we have SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19.

As we now know from the graphic of the virus shown by the media, the virus has spikes, which are proteins on its surface. If an antibody can be formed that sticks to the spike, it can prevent the pathogen from entering human cells. A genetic molecule, created by BioNTech called messenger RNA, works that way in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines against COVID-19.

Now we need a pan-coronavirus vaccine. It’s on the way.

A car buried in its driveway during the snowstorm earlier this month. Photo by Bill Landon

 

Anthony Portesy

Another storm in Brookhaven, another botched snow removal. How many times must residents be forced to deal with such incompetence when it comes to snow removal? Potholes and snowdrifts don’t care what political party you belong to. In the Town of Brookhaven, the superintendent of highways is elected in an at-large election, rather than appointed, as is the case in many towns in which a department of public works exists. In both of my bids for Brookhaven Town highway superintendent in 2017 and 2019, I openly criticized why pay-to-play practices are eroding our roads and quality of life and the status of the Highway Superintendent as an elected position is a large part of the systemic plague eroding the department’s accountability.

The fact of the matter is this position should be filled by appointment, rather than election. Many decisions on infrastructure need to be based on 10- and 20-year capital plans, and the sobering reality is that elections force a short-term vision that channels reelection interests over long-term planning. It is why we have cheap “mill and fill” paving jobs, rather than full-depth reclamation projects to address underlying structural integrity in roads. If John Q. Public sees roads getting repaved, many do not know that pricing decisions like asphalt composition and curb milling have a long-term impact as to whether the roads will crumble after three years or last for 10 years.

The reality is that towns on Long Island that have elected highway superintendents have structural deficiencies in projects that develop due to the pressure of electoral races. Towns like mine, Brookhaven, should put up for referendum whether to convert their highway departments to DPW formats. None of Nassau’s towns elect highway superintendents, but with the exception of Babylon and Islip, all of Suffolk’s towns do.

In many jobs, what we want is competence. Voting for a town clerk, a county treasurer or a highway superintendent based on politics and party affiliation makes no more sense than choosing an airplane pilot based on those criteria. The current system creates nests of patronage and homes for unqualified political hacks that harm both our governmental structures and the residents who need their services. For instance, what gives my highway superintendent the capacity to lead a highway department when his résumé includes a short stint at New York State Assembly, a Suffolk legislator and, before that, a claims adjuster for State Farm Insurance.

The position of highway superintendent is a job that requires expertise in equipment purchasing, operation and maintenance, emergency management and personnel. The elected town supervisor should pick a person with an engineering background to oversee the department and suffer the lash of voters if he or she picks an incompetent one. In Brookhaven, we get the finger-pointing roulette, where town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) points the finger at Dan Losquadro (R), who in turn points the finger at the supervisor.

We need to look at all jobs, at every level of local government, to determine if political philosophy plays any part in how they should be done. Where it doesn’t, voters should pass referendums making them appointive positions — and punish the elected leaders doing the appointing if their choices fail.

Part of my goal in running for this office twice in Brookhaven was to draw attention to the issues that plague my local highway department, problems that have led our roads to look like they belong in Beirut, instead of Brookhaven. Unfortunately, a well-funded incumbent with a campaign war chest in excess of at least $400,000 makes a political upset nearly impossible with the incumbent able to blanket the airwaves with radio ads and your mailboxes with glossy mailers by the dozens. As a result, the status quo becomes calcified. I had never intended to run the department like my predecessors had I won the election. Rather, I had intended to immediately move the town board to propose to eliminate the position in a referendum to the voters. The position of highway superintendent in my town is one plagued by political patronage, and as I said in both of my campaigns, “Politics has no place in pothole repair.”

Anthony Portesy, of Port Jefferson Station, is a private attorney who ran for Brookhaven superintendent of highways in 2017 and 2019.

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Panic, which started in my stomach and had seeped so deep into the sinews of my fingers that I could barely write my own name, was overcoming me.

I was staring at the problem, knowing that I could do it if I calmed down, but also fearing that the answer wouldn’t come in time.

I had studied this type of organic chemistry problem for weeks, had attended every extra help session Randy, my teaching assistant and the head teaching fellow for the class, gave, including several late in the evening on Sunday nights.

If I froze up for too long, I ran the risk of not finishing that problem or the test. I couldn’t come up with a solution, and I couldn’t move on.

Then, it hit me. No, it wasn’t the solution. It was Randy’s overwhelming cologne. My teaching fellow was walking up and down the rows of the testing site, making sure no one was cheating, while responding to requests to go to the bathroom.

Something about his cologne brought me back to one of the many study sessions, helping me break the mental logjam in my head and sending me toward the solution that was right under my nose.

As we enter the 11th month of this pandemic, we can see and hear many of the cues we would get if we were continuing to live the lives we took for granted, but we are much more limited in what we can smell, especially if we are sticking with federal guidelines and staying put.

So, what smells do I miss the most?

While I enjoy visiting Long Island beaches in the summer, when the trio of hazy, hot and humid hovers in the air, I particularly appreciate the cold, salt spray of a winter beach, when the scent of crispy and frozen seaweed blends with air that seems to have brought hints of its cold journey across the ocean.

Then, of course, there is the missing smell of the kinds of foods that aren’t in our own kitchens or right next door. One of my favorite restaurants, the Good Steer sends out the scent of their onion rings in every direction around the building, calling to me and recalling my youth when my late father would watch happily as all three of his sons consumed our double order of onion rings, alongside our burger supremes.

While all ice might seem to smell the same, the scent of Alaska’s glaciers brings a frozen crispness to an inhospitable climate. Marveling at the ice around a cruise my wife and I took over two decades ago, I inhaled the cool fresh scent of frozen water.

Then there’s the food from all over the world. The enticing smells of freshly baked baguettes and fruity macarons in Parisian patisseries, the welcoming scent of fish caught earlier that day on Hawaiian beaches or the symphony of smells from places like Faneuil Hall, where Boston accents form the acoustic backdrop for the smell of flowers, steaks, and baked beans.

With spring just a month away, I turn to thoughts of baseball and Yankee Stadium. Yes, of course, numerous odors throughout the stadium — from other fans who could use some of Randy’s cologne to restrooms that don’t smell like a rose garden — aren’t the first things that come to mind. I’m talking about the smell of the grass and the dirt after the grounds crew waters it. That baseball field scent conjures infinite possibilities, from triple plays to triples off the wall, from immaculate innings to grass-stained catches. The smell of hot dogs and soft buns entice us as vendors march up and down the stairs nearby.

These days, we can see and hear people through FaceTime calls, but we can’t smell them. That person might love orange Tic Tacs, tuna fish sandwiches, fresh roasted coffee or any of a host of other scents — cinnamon rolls, perhaps —that define her the same way the light highlights a crooked-toothed smile. We might find Tic Tacs that remind us of them, but, without the combination of scents, including their laundry detergent, their soap or their conditioner, or their physical presence, we are missing that olfactory connection.

Photo by Pixabay

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Last Saturday I received my first of the required two vaccines against COVID-19. The inoculation itself was painless. The person who administered the shot was a broad-shouldered young man with curly black hair, deep brown eyes and prominent cheekbones that led to a white-tooth smile. He pinched the skin of my arm just below my left shoulder, and I knew the deed was done only when he discarded the needle into the red can. I think you can see why the entire experience was painless.

As you, who have tried undoubtedly know, it was not easy to get an appointment for the vaccine. My family and friends and the children of my friends were all on the phone or on their computer keyboards for hours trying over and over again to make contact with the right person in a reasonably close location to schedule the vaccination. Finally, the daughter of a close friend secured a time slot for me at the Javitz Center in New York City, and then my son found one sooner at Jones Beach.

I know that some people are passing up the opportunity to get vaccinated. They are concerned, among other reasons, that it has not been tested sufficiently since it was developed with unprecedented speed. What will the long term effects of the vaccine be? No one knows because there has not been a long term so far; we do know that the immediate effects have been studied for the short term in thousands of patients in clinical trials. The results and the efficacy have been excellent. So I decided that I would risk any unknown long term negative effects from the vaccine against the already known long-haul negative consequences from the disease and go for it.

I had heard that after-effects were not uncommon during the 24 hours following the vaccination, and indeed I did experience a couple. Two or three hours after I returned home, and after my dinner, I suddenly was enormously fatigued. I managed to climb the stairs to the bedroom, despite feeling light-head, and I slid into bed, where I then spent the night and enjoyed a sound sleep. I awoke to an aching arm, but that wasn’t the main problem. When I tried to walk, my right leg was, I thought, in spasm. I assumed I had slept in an awkward position and that I could walk it off, but the pain intensified. As the day went by, I endured only with the help of repeated Tylenol capsules, vitamins, a banana and ultimately the distraction of the big football game.

The next day, little more than 24 hours later, I felt perfectly fine. I was timid about walking, but there was no problem. Do I know that the leg pain was the after effect of the shot? I don’t, of course. 

I do have a date for the second shot, which is scheduled for early next month, and apparently there is a dose reserved for me to receive at that time. Will the vaccine protect me? From what I have read and been told, it takes about two weeks before the body develops any immunity, and with the one shot, that is perhaps only 50 or 60 percent. The second vaccination brings the immune system to about 94 percent — or so the evidence has shown. Now, with the new mutations that are freely developed by the viruses with each reproduction in new victims, the scientists are not sure. Vaccinations are racing against viral reproduction.

There can be many minute mutations of the viruses’ genetic sequences. More worrisome is recombination. That means the coronavirus mixes large chunks of its genome upon reproduction, and that is common and surely happening. Recombination might enable different tiny variants to combine and make the virus more potent inside a victim’s body.

The question is, will the vaccine hold these newly minted intruders off? Scientists are studying variants and recombination, but they don’t yet know. So far, so good.

U.S. Capital

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

“Walk a mile in my shoes” -— an old popular folk song is so appropriate as we begin the New Year 2021. We were all hopeful that with a new year and a new presidential administration we would embrace a new beginning for our nation; realizing that we are not going to agree on everything but hoping that we would all work for healing and unifying of the soul of our nation.

Unfortunately, this New Year began with a violent insurrection on the People’s House in Washington D.C. Powerful voices in leadership incited an angry mob to desecrate the capital and they were the direct cause of the loss of five innocent lives. Violence always begets violence.

No matter what you believe, the videotapes and audiotapes of that horrific day don’t lie. We all saw and heard firsthand the reprehensible behavior and language on January 6, 2021. It will go down in American history as one of our darkest days. Despite that beginning, the validly elected president spoke of unity, healing and peace in his inaugural address. Since that day, our legally elected new president has tried to lead by example.

The polarization of our nation is a very destructive force paralyzing any possibility for bridge building and genuine healing. Painfully, there are elected leaders with powerful voices who are paralyzing our nation and not listening to the people.

As someone in the trenches who has committed his life to reaching out to the most vulnerable among us, I am profoundly saddened by the hateful rhetoric, the violent and threatening behavior and the lack of compassion, especially among some of those we’ve elected to lead this nation forward.

We need courageous leaders — men and women who are not afraid to speak and stand for the truth. Honestly, why would anyone want to volunteer to be an elected representative in Washington after witnessing what has happened this past year? The vice president and the speaker of the house were threatened with murder and unspeakable violence. Other public officials who have spoken out for justice and peace have had family members threatened. 

The silence on both sides of the aisle is reprehensible. Their complicity is a disgrace. We the people must speak out about the social injustice and challenge the landscape of hate and disrespect. We are capable of being so much more. We can no longer remain silent and support this mediocrity and disrespect.

Freedom of speech is one of our greatest gifts and does not mean the freedom to lie, slander and demean another. The framers of the Constitution did not intend it to be a weapon to incite insurrection and/or violence. I believe the intent of freedom of speech was to support a platform to express the diversity of ideas and opinions within our nation and to look for consensus that supports the majority.

The majority of Americans from all ends of the political spectrum deplored the violence that was provoked at the People’s House on January 6; however, the loud boisterous minority dominated the headlines with endless excuses and unacceptable explanations for this senseless violence and loss of life.

“Walk a mile in my shoes” — we should all attempt to walk in another’s shoes especially the homeless, the poor, the addict, the mentally ill and the returning veterans. Think about the growing number of children, teenagers and young adults that are battling mental and emotional illness due to the growing challenges and stresses of the pandemic.

Despite living in the midst of all of this stress and suffering, I see hope, which is the real soul of America. I see people giving their stimulus checks to programs that support young people at risk; a middle school student standing up before his class and raising money for a project the benefits drug addicts and countless unsolicited random acts of kindness that inspire me to continue to “Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” and stay the course! Our local community is the America that I love and support!

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.