Editors' Note: We often lament how fast everything is flying, and how little time is afforded to reflect. We give it our best to take in diverse sources, even when the tone of one or another bristles us, so we might better understand where different folks are coming from and maybe get a fuller picture ourselves. Honestly, though, the world is geared to rile us up and often succeeds. Maybe even rightly, sometimes. Still, the recent incident with the "MAGA Hat Boy", the indigenous activist and a fringe group we hadn't yet heard of was a good reminder of how fraught our knee-jerk reactions can be. We still don't really know the full truth of anything, except that we were reminded that there are many angles to every story. and that the whole scene seems to offer a great object lesson. David Brooks of the NY Times apparently felt similarly, in his own way. So did Long Island's own Jed Morey, whose words we are grateful to share here:
A couple of days ago I joined the chorus of self-righteous outrage and posted the image of the now infamous MAGA hat wearing kid and Indian activist face-to-face. It’s been years since I posted anything purely political and I rarely, if ever, post something without context. But this image stuck with me. So I posted it without commentary, context or linking it to an article. Just the photo. What ensued on my wall happened all around the country on social media, at dinner tables and on television. Those who shared a canned emoji emotion or commented on the thread brought their own biases and interpretations to the image. I didn’t engage, nor am I interested in doing so, regardless of my personal beliefs or world view.
I spent 15 years in print journalism and have continued on this path as producer of a social justice podcast that tackles important and often underreported issues. Nothing I’ve produced over the years, however, will ever be as potent as an image such as the MAGA boy and Indian activist. Images are powerful. Words are as well. But the incendiary nature of social media is more powerful than anything we’ve witnessed in history.
The day in D.C. that produced this image drew together Trump supporters, indigenous rights advocates, Women’s March participants, the Pro-Life movement and even a fringe group, the Black Israelites. Talk about a tinderbox. We instantly thrust our beliefs on the participant groups and became online sleuths, determined to uncover deeper narratives that reinforced our positions. No hearts and minds were won over. The loudest, most persistent voices prevailed and we sunk further into our tribes.
As a progressive writer and producer of a social justice podcast who has covered indigenous issues for years, I could comfortably and arrogantly claim the mantle of authority and weigh in on this. But I didn’t and I won’t. Not because this image or the unfolding drama that surrounds it doesn’t pique my interest or touch a nerve. (It does.) And not because I’m not arrogant. (I am.) It’s because we’ve passed the point of no return. Civil discourse is gone. Historical perspective and proper contextualization of stories no longer shape public opinion.
Then why post the image at all?
So I could write this. I posted the image knowing that the furor would be instant and unfiltered. The comments and reactions are the perfect mirror image of the national sentiment and our ahistorical, knee jerk reactions (I’ve been guilty at times as well) are doing a disservice to our children.
In this protracted, self-imposed hiatus from political posts, I have gained much needed peace and grounding. Instead of shouting at the rain I have chosen to channel my time, energy and money into producing News Beat, a show that gives voice to the voiceless, sheds light in dark corners and inspires true learning through art. I want my daughters to know that it’s important to stand for something in the real world and not just online. But I also want them to know that it’s important to know one’s history and take an empathetic view of the history of others. This comes from real dialogue and engaged learning. Having uncomfortable conversations. Understanding what makes your ideological foe press as hard for his/her stance as you do for yours. It’s difficult, time consuming and sometimes messy. But we’re not here for long. Hopefully we can do better. Together.
Jed Morey produces US News Beat: Unconventional Podcast Challenging Conventional Wisdom. Billed as a hypothetical love child of Hamilton and 60-minutes, it is "a short-form educational and political news podcast focused on social justice and civil liberties issues, that melds the worlds of journalism and music." It has a beat, rhythm and poetry, and is designed to grab your heart and make you think. It is the 2018 New York Press Club award winner for Best Podcast.
We hold out hope that those elected to the highest offices in our government will somehow navigate away from the broken politics of today toward respectful, intelligent, evidence-based, compassionate, practical, collaborative, solutions-oriented problem solving regarding our immigration system and border security, as well as a vast number of other issues impacting this nation that we share.
We feel the need to add that we are also often saddened to hear it expressed that because it is “government” it must therefore necessarily be wasteful and incompetent. While we firmly agree that corruption and other ills must be overcome, we are also exceptionally grateful for so many who serve our nation professionally and highly competently, including those impacted by the current shutdown, such as those in meteorology, food safety, the TSA, the Coast Guard, the SEC and Justice Department, and so many others who keep us safe and informed, and who hold in trust our nation’s treasure for the benefit of US all.
Among the many covering this issue, Reuters offers a “Factbox” on the impacts of the current shutdown from the end of the year. The NY Times offers an article that goes a little more in depth. Vox seems to have one of the more updated analyses of what’s being funded right now, what’s not, and who’s going to work anyway, The Washington Post offers this analysis of the contractors whose work depends on a functioning federal government. WNYC has pieces on the impact to low-wage workers, and what might happen with Federal Courts. VentureBeat wants you to remember that there are Cybersecurity implications as well.
Of course, our purpose is not to focus on problems, but to count blessings. So, for our part, we want to take a moment to thank all of those who are giving all they can to override the desperate political dysfunction to support our hardworking public servants, especially the ones who are showing up to work anyway just because it’s the right thing to do.
We offer special thanks to organizations like Island Harvest and Long Island Cares, who have been at the forefront of stepping up to make sure those who aren’t getting paid are at least getting fed. Keep in mind, these folks already have their hands full. The number of folks who face tough decisions between food and rent and medicine on Long Island is sobering. This most recent Oxfam report which shows that “Billionaire fortunes increased by 12 percent last year—or $2.5 billion a day—while the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity saw their wealth decline by 11 percent” is a bit global in its view, but Long Islanders are no strangers to the “Tale of Two Cities” feeling that this study validates.
For Newsday, Bart Jones and Zachary R. Dowdy wrote “LI Groups Gearing Up to Help Those Hurt by Government Shutdown” The article includes video of an event convened by Island Harvest, that further explains impacts of the shutdown on Long Island and highlights donations from Stop & Shop, American Portfolio in Ronkonkoma, and the Connecticut-Based Coast Guard Foundation, as well as what Suffolk and Nassau social services officials, utilities, and local elected officials are doing to try and help. At the end, there’s a specific list guiding folks to LI Cares, Angels of Long Island, Nassau FCU, The Suffolk County SPCA and Island Harvest to get (and to offer) help.
Another Newsday article by Daysi Calavia-Robertson, “LI Businesses Reach Out with Freebies to Help Furloughed Workers” profiles a number of small businesses who are doing their part to lend a hand. The offerings include everything from a cup of tea, to lunch, to a haircut or manicure, to mechanics offering free labor for repairs. We know what kind of margins Main Street works on. We also know how giving they still tend to be. Thank you!!!
Alex Costello, writing for the Wantagh-Seaford Patch writes about how “You Can Help Long Island Coast Guard Members During The Shutdown" via a donation to the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association, which represents the Coast Guard and other Veterans.
In the Long Island Business News, Bernadette Starzee wrote “NEFCU Offers Interest-Free Loans for Furloughed Workers". and Adina Genn reported in “Island Harvest: More Help For Federal Workers Affected by Shutdown” about some assistance that can be applied for, as well as a few other entities offering their support to Long Island federal workers and contractors.
Here’s a piece by Alex Meier for ABC7NY: "Government Shutdown: Resources for Furloughed Employees in Greater NYC Area" that breaks down services by topic, including beer and music, in addition to much more practical requirements.
Sara-Megan Walsh wrote this for TBR Newsmedia: “Huntington Boaters, Officials Launch Drives to Aid Federal Employees" It lists several sites where folks can donate food, personal hygiene items, household supplies, pet foods and gift cards, as well as simply write checks.
They shouldn’t have to do this. We hope they don’t have to do it for long, and that the end doesn't come in a way that somehow rewards holding our Nation hostage. We pray for the day where we can work out our differences like responsible adults, without sacrificing our economy, our security and the well being of our people. Meanwhile, we're grateful for these folks who are helping make sure we get by, and welcome suggestions of any other resources we may share.