I’m 75 years old and have lived in Putnam Valley for 24 years. I love Putnam County. I love my neighbors. I still believe that the Statue of Liberty was put there to welcome everyone and includes those who were already here when Europeans arrived and those who were forced to come here beginning in 1619. They and their ancestors are all my neighbors.
On Feb. 6, I attended a Black Lives Matter rally at the historic county courthouse in Carmel. One of the things that made me do this was that my neighbor began flying a Trump flag on Jan. 6, the day of the Capitol riot.
We have been neighborly for all these years; I won’t stop being his neighbor. But on Feb. 6, I stood for nearly two hours listening to the diverse group of intelligent, caring, young people who organized the rally, and older people like me, asserting that Black lives matter. I also needed to be there because I still can’t get over watching the police officer with his knee on George Floyd’s throat, or that on Jan. 6 my fellow Americans tried to terrorize Congress and all of us.
On Feb. 6, most people driving by — including a few in pickups — honked in support. But some drivers and passengers — including a few in pickups — bellowed, “Go home!” “Trump 2020!” “Blue lives matter!” and “All lives matter!” These people are my neighbors, too, but each of us is anonymous to each other.
I’m writing because I want to be a good neighbor and am forever hopeful that if I keep the lines of communication open during this time of polarization, it is better than closing down or ugly confrontation. I am also writing because I was in Carmel to be public about my opposition to the values that my neighbor’s flag represents and to name the empathic terror I feel when he flies it. I needed to support and stand with those who stand up for the yet-unfulfilled dream. I need to do both! That’s America to me.
Mark Weiss, Putnam Valley