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Long Island, Circa 2009

Looking back at L.I. and the year that was

The snow started falling on a December Saturday this year, the first snowfall of 2009. And instead of being a dusting and another instance when the meteorologists were just dead wrong, it was as brutal as predicted. Shocker. Suddenly, there could be a “White Christmas” on Long Island, although by then the snow would become dirt-stained and the streets lined with frozen cliffs created by plows and the repeated melting and freezing of what was once something pristine, white and pure.

It’s tough to stay that way on our Island.


There are small parts of Long Island that can remind us how pristine and fragile this place has been for tens of thousands of years. But all it takes is one good nor’easter to rumble up the coast and carve up our shores to show us that if the ocean wants this piece of land back, it’s going to reach up and take it—and there is nothing that can be done to stop the carnage. We are that close to becoming another Atlantis. This we cannot control.

So it is without any logic that Long Island continues to screw itself silly in areas where we do have control, where changes can be made. Mankind has certain earthly abilities. It can attempt to govern itself. It can build a house. It can tear it down. These are things that can be orchestrated, handled and manipulated with the finesse and intelligence necessary to make them right.

In 2009, some things did work out right on the Island. A percentage of the electorate tried its best to be heard and affected change at the polls. A federal court finally agreed that Long Island’s original residents are, in fact, real and not a myth. These are events that cannot be ignored, for many reasons. Essentially they are rooted—deeply rooted—in the basic ideals of America. We have the right to vote the other guy out of office. And we have the right to be recognized. Truly, based on those two events alone, Long Island has had a remarkable year. Unfortunately, there is not a whole lot of good news behind them.

The worldwide recession found a comfortable place to roost among our suburban sprawl. The American Dream of owning a home with a little fence and all that Norman Rockwell crap was challenged and tainted, destroyed at every turn. Despite the “bailout” that was offered last year by the feds, we are clearly still in some deep stuff. In fact, the government doesn’t even know where most of the money is, or how it has been used. Eye-opening stuff that does nothing to instill any trust in a government that is on shaky moral ground.

Too many front yards had signs like this as a lawn ornament last year. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Too many front yards had signs like this as a lawn ornament last year. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

When Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America, the country took a leap forward. Most never thought it possible an African-American would serve as president. Racism, ladies and gentlemen, is alive and well in the U.S., and please do not think otherwise. Yet when the former Chicago senator, whose oration skills are already the stuff of legend, put his hand on the Bible and swore his allegiance to the office, the nation had to acknowledge that something great had happened.

Then he began his term, and like the majority of newly elected politicians, found it pretty hard to do some of the things he promised. He took a big bite out of the apple in his first term, maybe too big. He won a Nobel Peace Prize and then announced an increase in armed forces in Afghanistan. Members of Congress were accosted and jeered at symposiums across the country as they stumped for Obama’s health care plan. In short, ending a war and renovating a broken health care system are certainly two things that can keep a guy pretty busy.

It seems so far away. It is human nature to look around at the four walls surrounding us without considering what lies outside them. The headlines from Washington and beyond do not always resonate. Readers are jaded and, frankly, don’t have the time necessary to digest something like health care reform. In fact, I dare every elected official who voted on the bill to admit to reading the more than 4,000-page document. Nobody has that kind of attention span. All we want to know is: How does it impact us? How much does it cost?

Well, we have thousands without health care on the Island. We have sent more than two dozen of our young men to be killed overseas.

And on the getting-meaner streets of Long Island, other ugly problems exist. The scourge of heroin is real, ladies and gentlemen. It is real and getting worse. The availability of this drug is creating a lost generation of young people who will live out their lives fighting a painful, mind-bending addiction. It is killing boys and girls, these words used to emphasize the young age of the dozens who go to sleep and do not wake up after taking their last shot. Petty crime continues to increase as addicts look for ways to finance their deadly habits. Treatment centers are ill-equipped to handle the crush. School districts look to the sky, to the floor, anywhere they can to avoid looking at the epidemic in the eye.

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