To the Editor:
Supervisor Dougherty’s catalogue of prejudice (Your Letters,“Warming Up,” May 11), a dissembling attempt to expand and thereby dilute his inappropriate remarks, cannot stand without comment.
I was at that lunch.
The “joke” was a cringe-worthy, racist, sexist story of a gorilla escaping a zoo to rape a white woman who was then disappointed that “he didn’t text afterwards.”
There were gasps and eye rolls at my table.
By the way, the “joke” is on tape, filmed by the videographers in attendance; maybe the tape should go on YouTube for everyone to see and hear?
This has nothing to do with freedom of speech or political correctness. Dougherty’s biased views should be politically untenable for anyone in public office and should be a red alert for any voter who stands against illegal discrimination.
Question and criticize
To the Editor:
When the town supervisor told his “joke” about a woman being raped in his April 23 speech at a Shelter Island League of Women Voters (SILWV) luncheon, it was more than disturbing. Supervisor Dougherty has since apologized for telling a bad joke, an inappropriate quip. The SILWV wrote it off as free speech (Your Letters,” League responds).
But just as you cannot yell “fire” in a theater when there is none, neither should the SILWV lend its good name and microphone to speech that encourages violence against women. The message of this “joke” is obvious and harmful and silence about it only served to concede to it. The SILWV does have a policy against promoting such violence and they are obligated to oppose it.
The complete silence from a community that should have been outraged was mind-boggling. When there was no public protest after two weeks, I wrote a letter to the editor. The only reason for this silence that I can fathom is fear.
Perhaps it is fear of speaking about the unspeakable, fear of being the messenger who is blamed to distract from the problem, or fear of retribution and retaliation.
Whether this fear is based in fact or imagined, the intimidation is debilitating. When I consider the possible consequences, I remember that our Constitution and Bill of Rights encourages us to question and criticize our government without fear of retribution.
I remember all of the truly courageous men and women who served, and those who died, defending this right and our democracy. To be afraid to speak up to a town supervisor or any elected official is to dishonor the memory of those who sacrificed so much for our freedoms.
Or did they fight and die for an ideal that we should ignore?
A scary time
To the Editor:
Thank you to Vincent Novak for his persistence in calling attention to Supervisor Dougherty’s offensive comments at the April League of Women Voters Luncheon with his May 4 letter and subsequent visit to the Town Board (“Dougherty apologizes for lame humor,”May 11).
As someone who has witnessed first hand the long-term pain and suffering of many women due to sexual violence, I cannot stand by silently while Mr. Novak’s concerns are dismissed as “reading too much into” a “joke.” Jokes and their underlying attitudes often have serious consequences.
Mr. Dougherty’s lame excuses in his May 11 letter (“Warming Up”) are reprehensible given the fact that violence against women has dramatically increased since such behavior was condoned during our 2016 national election.
This is not a matter of “freedom of speech” or “political correctness.” As an elected official, the supervisor has a responsibility to protect the safety of his constituents, both physical and emotional. It is a scary time to be a woman.
Thousands of women across the country are experiencing a resurgence of PTSD symptoms, given the total disregard for women’s well-being shown by the Trump administration.
Making a joke about women liking to be raped at a Suffragist luncheon is like playing a recording of bombs exploding in a gathering of Vietnam Vets, in order to “warm up” the audience. “Cruel” is the word that comes to mind.
This is no time for the supervisor to justify himself with patronizing stories about his support of women in the past. Let’s see a sincere apology — especially to the young people present at the luncheon — and real action to prove that he is the champion of women’s rights he professes to be.
Mr. Novak’s suggestions to the Town Board for ways to address social attitudes toward sexual violence on a local level are excellent, and I would like to see the board follow up on them.
JEANNE MARIE MERKEL
A plastic ocean
To the Editor:
One of my favorite things to do on the Island is walk on one of our public beaches. Over the years, I have become increasingly disturbed by the amount of plastic on the beach. I now walk with a large bag and gather all the plastic I come across to take to the Recycling Center.
The Island does make efforts to eliminate debris from our beaches. The public beaches have clearly marked trash receptacles; community associations, Boy Scouts, and the local school each have a beach cleanup day. However, these measures do not appear to be sufficient.
The omnipresence of plastic on beaches is not specific to the Island — but is a microcosm of a worldwide problem. The accumulation of plastic in rivers, lakes, bays, and oceans has reached epic proportions.
Plastic is not biodegradable, nor ingestible, and yet 8.8 million tons of plastic is dumped into the ocean every year, putting 700 marine species under threat.
Wildlife often mistake plastic for food so that plastic kills approximately 1 million sea birds and 100,000 marine animals each year. Many more animals are at risk to become entangled by plastic debris. Ninety percent of the world’s seabirds have consumed plastic. Though we take measures to provide nesting areas for piping plovers and ospreys, what about our trail of plastic that they might eat by accident?
I recently spent a weekend on Florida’s gulf coast. The beaches are pristine and I learned that the area takes protecting its beaches and wildlife very seriously.
Beaches are home not only to fish and birds, but also loggerhead turtles who migrate there to nest.
In addition to a system of receptacles and signs urging people to discard their trash, the county cleans up for those who haven’t gotten the memo. Every evening at dusk, people comb the beach for anything that doesn’t belong there.
It occurred to me that we could make similar efforts to ensure that our wildlife is not impacted by plastic. We may not have the resources to pay workers to clean the beach every evening. However, I am sure that many, including myself, would be happy to volunteer our time on a regular basis if only we were more aware of the problem.
To learn more about the issues concerning plastic, ecological systems, and wildlife, I encourage you to watch the documentary film, “A Plastic Ocean,” available on Netflix.