A Great Experiment?

Pictured Above: At the 2014 Southampton Fourth of July Parade

There’s a joke going around the internet these days that Canadians must feel like they’re living upstairs from a meth lab when they look at what’s going on in the United States. It’s a bit of absurdist humor that may be necessary for these absurd times. But nothing that’s happening is particularly funny.

This June was punctuated by the House Select Committee hearings on incidents that occurred on January 6, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol, and the Supreme Court decisions striking down New York’s concealed carry firearms licensing restrictions and the overturning of the Roe vs. Wade decision upholding women’s rights to an abortion, but you could be forgiven if your chosen media source didn’t give much play to any of this.

When House Select Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson said on June 11 that “January 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup,” you’d think our collective daze about what happened Jan. 6 would be shaken, at least for a day, by the sheer amount of evidence the committee has obtained to back up its case. 

The whataboutism and deflection amongst pundits who say “who cares about an attempted coup when gas prices are so high?” is a discredit to our notion of a fair and balanced media. Sure, we should hear from all sides, but come on. Who is investigating the root of why our gas prices are so high? And can we really not walk and chew gum at the same time? When did the democracy so many generations of American heroes fought for become disposable?

As a local newspaper with a shoestring staff, these national issues are often well beyond the boundaries of our coverage and capabilities. But we have a stake, too, in the credibility of the so-called “mainstream media.” The First Amendment here has become a cover for an elaborate, well-planned propaganda machine, with its own absurd variations on the antisemitic blood libel of generations ago in other, far more repressive cultures.

We all have a stake in upholding democracy in this country, which is why the attempted coup on Jan. 6 matters. But the Supreme Court decisions are more likely to immediately and tangibly affect our lives. Both deal with the never-ending push and pull between power that inherently belongs to the states and the power that belongs to the federal government, and we’ll be seeing this play out in New York, particularly in the governor’s race this year, which, knowing our hometown gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin, will likely contain more fireworks than usual.

We’ve already fought a war on our own soil, ostensibly over the inherent conflict between state and federal rights. It would be truly naive to think that couldn’t happen again in such a well-armed nation, and it’s baffling to see how ill-regulated this militia has become.

As our long national nightmare continues to drag on, we’re reminded daily, albeit in tiny snippets compared with the wall-to-wall coverage of the first month of the conflict, of how much worse things are for people in Ukraine right now than they are here. 

Citizens of NATO nations Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are all bracing for the possibility of conflict with Russia if the war in Ukraine spills over to neighboring countries, and when or if that happens, we’ll all learn a lot more about pain than the pain of the price of gas and groceries.

We’ve been reading local author Helene Munson’s account of her father’s generation’s experience in Nazi boarding schools as this month’s news dramas have played out, and the parallels between those experiences and the increasing politicization of the American education system are striking. Hearts and minds are best won young. Those who would undo our democracy know that. When will the rest of us get a clue? 

We’ve never been ones to threaten to abandon the American experiment and move to another country. The freedoms we have here are worth fighting for, and we proudly pledge allegiance to upholding them this Independence Day and every day throughout the year. Right now, all hands are needed in this fight, in our neighborhoods, in our schools and civic institutions. All that’s necessary is civility and a true, humane moral compass. Leave the guns at home. There’s not a war on. Yet.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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