Tags Posts tagged with "Opinion"


METRO photo

We’re not going to lie to you. We know this school year is going to be a tough one.

If the end of the 2019-20 academic year has taught us anything, it’s that getting an education during a pandemic is difficult. Watching parents rally across the North Shore has also shown that not all parents agree with their districts’ plans for the new school year. Some want more in-person learning, while others want options for keeping you home instead.

While it’s imperative for parents and school administrators to work together to provide the best education for their children, for students the most important thing on your minds should be getting that education while staying healthy.

We know some parents feel that their children may have fallen behind during the few months schools went fully remote earlier in the year. All of a sudden switching to remote learning left many districts scurrying to figure out how to best utilize this type of e-learning. While some said they excelled at it, others very much did not.

No matter how you’re returning to school, it’s important for you to raise your hand if something doesn’t make sense whether it’s regarding a lesson or even how to follow public health guidelines.

It can be hard sometimes for a student to admit they don’t know something, but now more than ever it’s important to take control of your studies and your health. Every child has dreams for the future, and it’s the school’s responsibility to help them obtain those goals. So, to students, we say, “Speak up!” Let your parents know how you’re feeling about how things are going, or touch base with a teacher or guidance counselor.

For those who are attending in-person classes, we know you’ll have to handle new precautionary measures such as social distancing, wearing masks when it’s not possible to stand 6 feet away and having temperatures taken upon leaving the house or entering the school. We know a lot of responsibility has been put on your shoulders. What do you do if you see someone not complying? Speak up.

It’s hard, we know. Bullying is a bigger problem than ever so you may not want to call attention to yourself. But with some New York colleges open for only a week or two, we are already seeing some temporary closings, including SUNY Oneonta which at the beginning of the week reported 177 COVID-19 positive cases since the start of the fall semester with 44 students quarantining and 65 in isolation on campus. The guidelines are to help keep you and your loved ones as healthy and safe as possible. It’s imperative to realize that someone can be infectious, even if symptoms aren’t being shown.

We know this is a lot of responsibility to put on young shoulders. But as journalists that have been fortunate enough to interview many of the students in our coverage areas, we know the depth and breadth of the intelligence and empathy of our youth.

To those who will study for hours despite not having immediate access to teachers, and to the student-athletes who continue to practice alone on the field or on the lawn with their parents, we see you. We know you got this.

Our editorial staff also wants to let our young people know that we’re here for you. If you see a persisting problem going on at your school, email us at [email protected], and we’ll look into it. You can even share with us your feelings about navigating these new waters in a letter to the editor to be published right in this very newspaper.

It’s going to be hard, but we’ll get through this together.

METRO photo
Daniel Dunaief

By Daniel Dunaief

A heaviness hovers in the air as we prepare to pack our daughter’s stuff into the car and drive her back to college, an environment fraught with new rules and anxiety. We realize this experiment in campus life, such as it is, might end in days or even a few weeks, as her school may pull the same rip chord it used in March.

While she is returning to campus, all but one of her classes is remote. The in-person class meets twice a week, so she is going back to a restricted college life for two hours a week of in-person learning.

Last year, with its jumble of emotions from taking her to college for the first time, seems so wonderfully innocent and low stress by comparison.

By taking her to college this week, she is already arriving on campus three weeks after classes began and is scheduled to return home before Thanksgiving. That means she’ll be on campus, at most, for two and a half months. That is two weeks longer than summer camp.

We want her to learn, have fun, meet new people and take advantage of college opportunities. Taking these goals one at a time, I’m not convinced that remote classes in which professors record lectures students can watch at their leisure provides the ideal academic experience.

How can they ask questions? How can they turn to the person sitting next to them, or, in the modern world, six seats away, and ask to repeat what they didn’t hear or to see if the professor might have misspoken?

College learning occurs on and off campus. In an ideal world, students not only learn from their professors and teaching assistants, but also from each other. They form study groups where they share notes and test each other.

They could share their screens and form virtual study groups. In these small groups, however, they can and do send private chats to other people and feel freer to respond to the beep or flash of light on another electronic device, distracting them from the group exercise.

The personal connection through the computer is also limited, as people can’t slap each other on the back or chase each other around a library during a much-needed break.

We also want her to have fun, which isn’t the top priority for schools desperate to stay alive financially while keeping the campus community healthy. Even with the most active measures to protect everyone, the virus finds ways to evade detection and to spread.

The virus has become the boogeyman of our childhood nightmares, but instead of lurking under the bed or in dark corners of the closet, it waits on door knobs, in airborne particles and on banisters.

To protect everyone, the school isn’t allowing students to visit other dorms. They are limited in social gatherings outside, where they have to be six feet apart and also need to wear masks.

In a recent email, my daughter’s school told her, “If you see something, say something.” Those words, which became the cultural norm after 9/11, suggest that careless students are the equivalent of viral terrorists. Perhaps a better approach would be to encourage students to model safe behavior and to protect themselves and others on campus.

To facilitate safer social interactions, schools might consider putting up tents, in which they place small circles on the floor that are six feet apart. Students could visit each other in these settings, where they can talk and laugh and see each other in person and wear that great blouse or cool shirt that doesn’t look as good on zoom.

Ultimately, the opportunities they have will depend on the ability of the school, working with students, to figure out what they can do and not what they can’t or shouldn’t. We hope the challenges and adversity of the current reality somehow bring our daughter figuratively closer to her new friends, at a safe social distance.

METRO photo

We’re a small paper, really a small company, and just like so many small companies, the pandemic has done a number on us, except for an explosive growth on the internet. That’s how it is, and if you’re reading this, we cannot fully express how much we appreciate your support, even if it is just picking up this paper to read it.

It’s such a little thing, but knowing somebody is there holding our words in your hands is the reason we get up every morning to do this. To know we might be impacting somebody on a weekly basis is enough, or it should be enough.

We write about the small things. The small town government — towns, villages, school districts. We include the small donations to local nonprofits or our libraries, veterans groups, and on and on.

It’s easy to say we just report on what’s happening, that we exist to regurgitate the facts of what somebody said at a meeting, or give you statistics about who is running for what public office.

But more is needed. Humanity can’t subsist off of data points. Democracy can’t continue without somebody to put facts in context.

That is why we enjoy giving you profiles of people doing extraordinary things, from young people fresh out of college working on their own farm seven days a week to a financial adviser who supports the art community on the North Shore..

Because those stories do more than offer interest and escape from day-to-day drudgery, they offer something much deeper, a shared sense of empathy and community.

If we can break through the veil into each other’s lives, understand the hardships of other people, find that they have so much more in common than they don’t have in common, then that helps bridge divides, builds upon that universal sense that humanity itself is a sacred thing.

We cannot let partisanship craft our belief systems for us. Something that should be as universally understood as the need for the means for people to vote outside of polling places has become yet another red or blue issue. What does it matter if not what political aisle you shop for your beliefs, the end result should always be to at least attempt the betterment of the biggest number of people, and to add support for those who fall through the cracks like water drops through and open hand.

We cannot and should look at something like the COVID-19 pandemic without noticing how it disproportionately impacts people with fewer resources. Those with jobs in service industries, those that pay little and are staffed mostly by those of limited means, were much likelier to get the virus during the height of its spread through New York. It impacted communities of color such as Brentwood and Central Islip, whose school districts are largely Black and Latino, and had many more cases, even considering size, compared to our North Shore communities.

You can argue what is best for people, but really there is no mistaking empathy. Empathy is when local soup kitchens and food pantries along with many, many volunteers worked to feed people unable to provide for their family and themselves in the past few months.

Empathy is when a local volunteer animal rescuer takes away some abandoned roosters knowing the only other likely fate for the birds is to be hit by a car or eaten by a predator.

It’s not enough to know why these people do what they do. We must look at both them and at their shining hearts as well as the social reasons those things happen. That is what we do, and as we fight to keep reporting amidst a backdrop of decline for the entire newspaper industry, we hope that our readers will find that a communal sense of empathy is the best, and perhaps the only way to survive in times like these.

Stock photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Next week, I invite you to the virtual and completely imaginary People’s National Convention, or PNC. It’s not a Democratic Convention or a Republican Convention. It’s just a fake gathering, virtually and invisibly, in which real people can stop worrying about partisan politics and enjoy the chance to live
each day.

Now, this PNC won’t nominate any one person, because, let’s face it, no singular person is capable of succeeding with the challenges that face our nation in this extraordinarily challenging year.

We’ll keep the speeches to a minimum because we don’t think people listen to most of what others say at these things anyway. Our first speaker will come up with a mask and will start by rolling her large and expressive eyes. She’ll try to convey, without using her mouth or her cheeks, which will be hidden behind her mask, a wide range of emotions. In fact, we might have a “guess-her-expression” game and the person who wins will receive absolutely nothing in the mail.

After that, we’ll launch into a rage presentation. Our speaker will bark, growl, throw himself around the room and urge you, with his arm motions, to get off your sofa and join him. He’ll work his way up to a fevered snarl and then he’ll bang his fists so hard against the TV set that he’ll shatter the screen. You’ll see the cracks on the TV, but don’t worry, the cracks and the blood — we won’t use real blood — are all on the PNC end. Your TV is fine. At the end of his speech, he’ll take a 2020 sign, or one of those 2020 New Year’s glasses with the holes for the eyes in the zeroes, put them on the floor and stomp on them.

After our rage speaker, we’ll have a fear speaker. He, too, won’t use words. He’ll move from left to right, then right to left and then, you guessed it, left to right again, on your screen, afraid of something over his shoulder. He might see a shadow. He’ll be frightened because, as the other conventions suggested, we must feel the need to fear something. He’ll run towards the letters PNC and will smile with relief, knowing that the PNC will protect him.

To offset this potentially overwhelming programming, we’ll offer a counterbalance of kids and pets accompanied by light-hearted music on a harpsichord. We call this portion of the programming the “Awwwww” segment. We’ll show images of toddlers laughing, baby bunnies hopping around a flower-strewn meadow and dolphins cutting in and out of the surface of the water.

We’ll have the icon room, where you can stand up, or not, as you see fit when you see the images. We’ll start with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, where the ancestors of so many modern Americans arrived. We’ll add the Grand Canyon, the California coastline, Yellowstone National Park and Niagara Falls.

Then, we’ll have people trip and fall and try to juggle cell phones ineffectively. When the phones land, their screens, which might or might not have images of familiar faces, will crack. Will the entire segment be funny? Not necessarily. No one is always funny, but they promise to try because laughter might be our best medicine.

We’ll have a few actual speakers who use words, who tell inspirational stories about triumph over impossible odds. We’ll talk about people who were told many times that they couldn’t do something, until they went out and did it.

At the conclusion of the PNC, we’ll celebrate our friends and neighbors and the people who enhance every day and we’ll promise each other we’ll be better to them, and to ourselves.

Stock photo

Who uses the post office? In 2019, 143 billion pieces of mail were sent to 160 million delivery addresses, with more than 31,000 offices being operated.

Baby boomers and those who live in rural areas rely on the USPS to receive prescriptions and social security checks as well as pay bills more so than other demographic groups. But in a presidential election year, especially one during a pandemic where many are hesitant to cast their votes in person, mail-in voting could be what allows so many the chance to participate in democracy.

Perhaps more importantly, it could possibly show just how amazing democracy can be if even more people are enfranchised.

It’s been evidenced at the very local level. Residents were sent ballots for their school district budgets and trustee elections directly in the mail. What we saw was a massive increase in the numbers of ballots cast amongst all our local districts. The Smithtown school district, for example, saw over 8,000 more people cast votes compared to 2019 numbers.

This is an example of how granting easier access to voting will result in more votes cast. How important is this? In 2016, only 58.1% of the voting age population cast their ballots, and that was during a presidential election year.

Despite fears that mail-in ballots will somehow lead to voter fraud, experts have consistently said that states that have mail-in voting systems have not experienced notable numbers of fake or false ballots more than states lacking such systems..

It is in everyone’s interest to have more people participating in democracy.

And with the White House’s constant refrain that voter fraud could occur if mail-in ballots are widely used, and with the administration having threatened to withhold funds from the USPS, it’s necessary to cast a critical eye on the controversial changes made by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. His decisions have led to overtime cuts, reduced post office hours, changes to delivery policies and the removal of some sorting machines. The changes have already led to mail delays, including on Long Island, according to the Letter Carriers Local 6000, a L.I. and Queens-based postal union. Though DeJoy announced Aug. 18 he would be “suspending these initiatives” until after the election, we must remain alert. The postal agency itself has said delivering an estimated 80 million ballots nationwide will be difficult.

Instead we should now focus on making sure the process runs as smoothly as possible. It’s true that the New York and California Democratic primaries were hurt by an inefficient infrastructure that was not made to handle the mass influx of votes. Reports say that thousands of such votes had to be discounted because of flaws by the people who cast them.

The goal of the Suffolk County Board of Elections should be to increase its capability to handle what will likely be a mass influx of both mail-in and absentee ballots. Better yet, it should be incumbent on the federal government to supply local municipalities the capability to handle the new influx of votes. 

We agree with Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-NY3), who at a press conference Aug. 17 said we needed an “urgent call to arms to break through all the noise and focus on protecting not only the security of our elections, but the integrity and reliability of the United States Postal Service. Lives, livelihoods and our democracy are at stake.”

We need to extend this thought process to the efficacy of our democracy itself. Improving people’s ability to vote should be a no-brainer in a society such as ours. We must cut through partisanship and remember just how important it is that every person should have a voice in government, despite — or more so, because of — the ongoing pandemic.

Photo from Facebook

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

What’s new?” is a question asked regularly in newsrooms all across the country, as editors and reporters plan for the next edition. During the third week in August, the answer typically is, “Not much.” A lull usually sets in as people realize summer is coming to an end and this is a time to get in “last licks” of vacation before the world of serious work and school returns. But not this year. There has been nothing typical about 2020. This year will go down in the history books as unique.

Here are some of the major themes in the news today: the progress of the coronavirus as it rages across the south and west; the ongoing damage to the economy the pandemic has caused; recognition of systemic racism in our nation and the protests that has engendered; attitudes toward the police; the growing crisis in the postal service alarming voters; the announcement of explicit diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) without first a settlement of the Palestinian question; the immigration issue again in focus with the selection of Kamala Harris as Biden’s vice presidential ticket mate; the changing face of America that nomination reflects; the reopening of schools; the reevaluation of a college degree vs. its costs precipitated by the prospect of Zoom classes and of course the Democratic National Convention held primarily via the internet.

Notice I didn’t even list the damage caused by Isaias; the increasingly troubling relationship between the United States and China; the windstorms that wrecked Iowa’s coming harvest; the abdication of Congress in the face of public desperation for fiscal stimuli; the grand centennial celebration of the 19th amendment concerning women’s right to vote; the defiance of the current recession by the stock market; and the rush of New York City residents to buy houses in the suburbs and settle in for the long haul. And that’s just some issues.

Almost all of these themes to some degree directly affect us here on Long Island. The one I would like to expand on, perhaps because it is the least confrontational and we have had enough confrontation for now, is the rapid change in American demographics.

The last big wave of immigrants, who arrived at the turn of the 20th century, was largely from Eastern and Southern Europe. This time, the surge is made up of second generation Americans — the children of immigrants who came from around the world. In California, for example, almost half of the children are from immigrant homes of Asians, Hispanics and those who are biracial. For the first time in our country’s history, whites make up less than half under the age of 16, according to the Brookings Institute. According to The New York Times, more than a quarter of all Americans are immigrants or the American-born children of immigrants, the latter representing “about 10 percent of the adult population.” About 42 million adults, or one in six of the country’s 250 million adults, are foreign-born.

What are the consequences of this shift in population?

This is nothing short of a transformation of this country’s identity “from a mostly white baby-boomer society into a multiethnic and racial patchwork,” according to The Times. “Boomers are 71.6 percent white, Millennials are 55 percent white, and post-Gen Z, those born after 2012 are 49.6 percent white … The parents of these modern children are from the Caribbean, China, Central America and Mexico” as well as India, Korea and more. They often came with higher education, mainly as a result of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, but it’s their children who are moving into public life. They tend to feel “very patriotic about America,” according to Suhas Subramanyam, born of Indian parents who became the first Indian-American to be elected to the Virginia House of Delegates.

This mix of immigrants brings cultural richness and energy to our society, not to mention great new foods.     

A car crushed by a tree in Miller place after strong winds by Tropical Storm Isaias. Photo by Kyle Barr

We imagine that if you’re looking into your fridge and not finding any cold air coming out, that you’re smelling the milk starting to curdle and watching the meat in the freezer becoming wet and discolored, that you likely don’t want to hear anything else but the sound of heads rolling.

One has every right to be angry when the response to a storm like Isaias has been so clumsy. Reportedly, PSEG Long Island was ready for the storm but communications were not, and they continue to be confusing and out of touch. While the utility company puts out daily or even bi-daily releases about numbers of people who have gotten their power back online, the web and mobile app for reporting outages still show too many people lacking power. Either the reporting app is broken, or the lines of communication have broken down.

For a utility that promises so much of its reporting technology, residents would expect some timely communication, at the very least. Residents had a constant refrain over the past week that the timetables for when their street’s repairs would be done kept getting moved. A week after the storm, by Monday, 17,000 on Long Island still lacked power, according to the utility company, even though their own map showed at least 30,000 more potentially lacked any power out of the original 420,000.

PSEG has a lot to answer for, especially with the $40 million annual contract (plus incentives) that the Long Island Power Authority pays the utility company to handle Long Island’s electrical infrastructure.

Electeds at every level have come down on the utility company. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has requested an inquiry into PSEG’s handling of the storm. New York State Attorney General Letitia James (D) has obliged and will conduct an investigation, according to a Newsday report that was confirmed by PSEG. Cuomo has also threatened to pull PSEG’s contract.

Should PSEG be responsible for people’s spoiled food and other financial hits due to loss of power? The many people who lost hundreds of dollars worth of food and medicine would certainly agree, especially those who can ill afford to lose an ounce of that during a pandemic, when many have lost jobs and unemployment benefits. The company should absolutely buckle up and support the people who need it most, especially since we still do not know just how much the 18 heads of PSEG make in salary of their multimillion dollar contract with LIPA.

But the speed and readiness that officials were ready to pounce on the utility company displays a different sort of callousness, especially in an election year. To say PSEG has become a punching bag is too quaint of a depiction for how much politicians want to make easy villains out of complicated issues. Some politicians have made going after PSEG and LIPA the cornerstone of their campaigns. Some have called for the heads of each organization to resign.

But tackling the challenges of supplying power to Long Island takes more than a readiness to plant a boot on the back of whatever company was taped with a “kick me” sign.

Isaias will not be the last major storm this season. If we’re unlucky, there could be even worse storms that hit our little sandbar called Long Island. That is where our heads should be, shoring up the infrastructure to ensure PSEG’s response does not repeat itself and getting behind initiatives that can prevent widespread damage, instead of having more people ready to clean up the aftermath.

New York is right to move toward a future where the majority of energy comes from renewable technologies. For the sake of the future of our planet, we have no choice. More than that, we need to think about our planet with the ferociousness we do when our lights stop working. Hurricanes are unrelenting. We must be as well.

METRO photo

Schools have been releasing their reopening plans — ranging from students attending full time to hybrid models — and many parents and teachers are buzzing with concerns.

We’re disappointed that some of our local districts did not reveal their reopening plans until the state deadline of July 31. We understand the massive undertaking it was to craft these plans and the number of people on committees involved to see it through, but many districts’ reopening data is long and convoluted. More effort can be made to present this reopening data in a digestible way.

It’s no surprise that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has not yet created a blanket school reopening plan across the state. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for our school districts during a pandemic. Each one varies in size and number of students, teachers and space available. All this, of course, with an ax hanging over schools heads with state aid potentially being cut later this year.

The same is true for within a school district. Each student’s family is different. There are those who legitimately fear catching the coronavirus to the degree that it has kept them in lockdown even after some restrictions have been lifted. And while some have the luxury of having at least one parent being able to stay home if the local district offers a hybrid model, other families will be unable to provide the supervision their child needs.

Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that schools across the country reopen as long as they put safety first. Cuomo, after reviewing the districts’ reopening plans, will be making a final decision later this week.  The governor has said that as long as infection rate averages over a two-week period stay below 5 percent, schools will be able to reopen to some capacity. Suffolk County currently hovers at around 1 percent. There is no guarantee that figure won’t increase in the future, especially considering the current case with states like California, which was heading in the same promising direction as New York until cases spiked to a current total of more than 525,000.

Here is the thing we have to understand, none of us will be happy. Nobody will get everything they want from current plans. In a normal year, every kid would be learning in school, desks spaced only inches from each other and halls crowded with kids.

A parent who relies on schools to watch their children while a parent or guardian is at work may not be able to afford a different kind of day care. Families that rely on school reduced cost or free lunches won’t have that option without a kid in school. Hybrid models only help with a portion of those issues, but it’s better than nothing.

Some parents ask why the district can’t provide learning options for students who stay home 24/7 while the rest go into their full-time or hybrid schedules. Districts are already hurting financially due to the pandemic. Many are taking from their fund balances just to afford the additional staff and resources needed to have some students in the classroom. Asking them to put further resources into the extra time it takes to help students at home may not be feasible for so many districts.

We are now in a situation where each family needs to look at their school’s plan and then adjust it to their reality. Districts should do all they can to keep residents in the loop on a consistent basis. Parents, for their part, must acknowledge no plan will be perfect. It will take both parties and compromise to get the best outcome for students while keeping the virus under control.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

We will undoubtedly run into times in the next few weeks and months when our kids can’t stay in school. Yes, sure, I understand how and why people want their children in school. Most of the time, they can and will learn more in a conventional classroom setting than they will sitting in their beds in a collared shirt with pajama bottoms, texting friends all over the country with their phones while they pretend to be taking notes.

I also understand the need for schools to provide a structured schedule for each day, offering parents a chance to finish assignments for their jobs, pay bills without a well-intentioned child turning the checks into a coloring pad, or have a few moments when they don’t need to clean up the mess on another floor.

And yet, we aren’t that much further along than we were in March, when schools closed for the first time, in protecting the health of teachers, students, and everyone else who enters or lives with someone in an academic setting.

Sure, the hospitals may have better treatments than they did when they didn’t know about the likely progression of the disease, but there is no cure and most of us don’t have any immunity.

So, given that we’re not likely to do much traveling and our kids are likely to spend some time at home, we can and should develop Plans B, C and D.

Plan B could be a fallback into the kinds of learning our children did in March, when school administrators and teachers tried to educate our children with modified, distance-based lesson plans. Certainly, schools have spent considerable time preparing for either a blended version of in-class and remote learning or an all-remote experience.

Those lessons and the material covered will hopefully be thorough enough to match what they would have learned in the customary in-person setting.

Plan C, however, may involve some supplemental educating and, perhaps, education-driven day care, depending on the age of our children. Where can we find that? In every community, children of all ages may be home. For older teenagers, this may be an opportunity to provide guidance to younger counterparts whom they might drive by on their way to school, soccer practice or a group gathering.

Parents of younger children may want to connect with parents of high school children, either directly or through their schools. After all, these high school students are much closer to learning modern math than parents who may be decades from the same material that was taught in a different way in an earlier era.

Through a voluntary and distance-based teens-to-tots tutoring, younger students can find mentors, tutors and friends in teenagers who can, perhaps earlier than they anticipated, give back to the communities that supported them.

With more time on their hands because so many extracurriculars might be canceled, these teenagers can become an important resource in an educational system, supplementing what the younger students learn in class.

A neighbor recently told me about a family exchange he and his brother managed. His 20-something son became frustrated living and working at home, while his brother’s 20-something daughter shared the same sentiment. He sent his son to live with his brother, while he hosted his niece. The change of scenery has proven healthy for everyone, giving them all a chance to exhale amid the uncertainty.

Disruptions over the next several months to a year seem inevitable. If we come up with creative ways to plan for them, we might contribute to our communities and enjoy the time while we wait for the viral all-clear signal.

METRO photo

Take the time for a second to think about all the things you know you can’t talk about in a public space.

Think about it hard. However much you like to talk to strangers, imagine what should happen if one dares to speak about the upcoming election. Envisage the shouting matches over recent protests. Have you feared what should happen if you kindly ask the person waiting in line at checkout to please put on a mask?

As reporters, we have seen just how reserved people can be on the hot-button topics of the day. Sending a reporter out to ask people their opinions on an issue such as the possibility of war with Iran back in January — remember when that was the big story of the day? —results in a paltry mix of opinions. Out of more than a dozen people, you may get one willing to speak their thoughts and offer their names on the record.

Yes, you’ll get more answers to the tame question of “what are you most excited to do this summer?” but so few people want their opinion shared. If you ask, the majority will say they do not want their thoughts laid bare for all to see on the internet and on social media.

Though we rarely share them, it seems the antipathy and staunchness of those same opinions is only hardening as time goes.

Polls by Gallup and the Pew Research Center in 2017 show the mean identity for being either strictly Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, has only increased over the past two decades. The partisan gap on issues such as immigration started with a percentage gap of little more than 10 percent has become 40. Worries about climate change have only become starker on the political line.

The thing is, most people know and would acknowledge said political polarization. Students at the top of their class at recent social distancing graduations like one in Miller Place spoke about that same political gulf. Indeed, everybody seems to confirm it, but at the same time, nobody seems to work to bridge those same divides.

People have made apolitical things political. Climate change is not a political issue. The debate has long centered on whether climate change is really happening. It is happening, it is being caused by humanity, and the debate should not center on the “is it” but more on the “what we need to do about it.” We on Long Island have to be acutely aware of it, because rising sea levels will impact us immensely.

This pandemic has also made such a divide even starker. Asking to wear masks, in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19, has been transformed into an assault on personal freedoms.

This thought isn’t helped with the constant barrage of false info and conspiracy theories spread through social media, especially about the virus. Last week’s article about local social media pages cited a Pew Research Center report that a frightening number of individuals believe unproven conspiracy theories about the ongoing pandemic.

Indeed, with national politics being what they are, it’s often better to think about local issues. We at TBR News Media do our best to report on issues that impact us right here at home, issues of beach erosion, flooding, the state of our small businesses. Instead of basing the conversation on grander topics of political infighting, focus on what works or doesn’t work. These conversations can (though not always) be much calmer and sincere than anything concerning who’s behind will occupy the White House throne come Nov. 3.

Leave animosity at the door, and concern yourself with you, your neighbors and your community. That is where the best of us can be found.