Welcome to the holiday season, everyone!
As we use this traditional period to celebrate with family, friends and our community, to reflect on the gifts, blessings and challenges of this past year, we must also take this time to consider the lost opportunities, the promise of taking corrective action in the new year and building a better community.
This is a tale of two Sundays.
Interestingly, it is the same Sunday in Riverhead, Sunday Nov. 21, but with two widely disparate messages.
On that Sunday, more than a thousand people gathered at Stotzky Park to mourn, to support, to play soccer and to raise funds for the Rivera family lost in the tragic fire in Riverhead.
It was heartbreaking and devastating to hear the stories shared about those who were lost, but it was also redemptive and the start of a long and difficult healing period not just for the family, but for Riverhead.
We were all further impressed by the response from the community that gave generously to all of the victims of the fire through various online fundraisers or offered condolences and prayers for the loss.
It is clear how much Riverhead, the East End and all of Long Island cares about everyone who lives here.
At the same time that soccer tournament was taking place, Congressman Lee Zeldin took part in a campaign stop/road rally attended by less than one hundred people.
This event, masquerading as a food drive (the primary charity tagged by the organizers refused to accept the donation and requested that the organizers stop using its name on fliers advertising the rally) was sponsored by a right wing political group inspired to action by another Long Island based organization that has used anti-Semitic and white supremacist tropes in the course of a concerted and coordinated effort to disrupt school board meetings across our island.
So while more than a thousand local residents attended a soccer tournament at Stotzky Park to mourn, to heal and to bring our community together, Lee Zeldin attended an event across town designed to divide and demonize members of our community.
Indeed, when two Zeldin constituents (both women of color) asked questions about the event and of the man who wants to be governor of our diverse state, it became clear that the crowd assembled by the Zeldin campaign (in conjunction with the political group) was menacing and dangerous to anyone who did not share their particular exclusionary vision of America.
A tale of two Sundays indeed.
In the spirit of the season, this story cannot end this way.
We must not end on negativity, dwell upon hate or division.
We must end on a note of hope.
It is in that spirit of hope that we must challenge Congressman Lee Zeldin, to reflect on this tale of two Sundays, to refuse future participation in rallies organized by groups devoted to dividing our community and instead to heal, to unify, to lead.
That is what the man who believes he should be governor of our diverse state should be doing on any given Sunday and every other day of the week.
And we must challenge the members of existing Riverhead Town leadership including Supervisor Yvette Aguiar and newly elected town officials, who were all notably absent from the soccer tournament, to live up to the promises they advanced during the course of the recent election, to represent and support all of Riverhead.
Merry Christmas! Happy holidays! Season’s greetings!
Steven Kramer is a poet, writer and political activist. He is a lead member of Indivisible North Fork. He lives in Riverhead.
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