The secret of life is to appreciate the pleasure of being terribly, terribly deceived.
--Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900)
The controversy over the eruv in Westhampton Beach Village is a delicate issue, which has been played out over the last several months. While Rabbi Schneier, of the Hamptons Synagogue and the New York Synagogue, was unable to be reached for comment, he is professedly apolitical. In prior discussions he has been clear about his disinterest in politics and political office for himself. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there are no political implications in Westhampton Beach Village for issues that he may embrace.
What is more obvious in this Village election year is that simmering anti-Semitism is on some people’s minds. When the Southampton Press actually editorializes against the possibility of anti-Semitism in this issue, it is tantamount to the right-wing Suffolk Life proposing abortion rights and support of illegal immigrants. Most of the East End “media” has ignored the realities of racism and discrimination and the agenda of the Town of Southampton (in which Westhampton Beach exists). But, even the Southampton Press realizes that New Yorkers, Jews and other minority voices have the capacity to expose the local economy to some unwelcome shocks in the future. Money is a big issue, ergo eruv.
While the radical right press, like Suffolk Life, (Pennysaver News in disguise) is operated by a racist who panders to the political right wing while existing in a closet of unpleasant and contradictory values – the Hamptons will ultimately come of age and join responsible citizens, possibly even Liberals. The raison d’etre for “Such-is-Life” is to lie for the Republicans in order to attack their political enemies in print. That’s what brings in advertising. Wilmot Jr. was Republican “Skip” Heaney’s campaign manager and current “reporters” are routinely used to provide “news” tips by Southampton Town officials who wish to target political enemies, Jews, Gays, Blacks and Latinos in this dubious forum of one-sided puffery.
Personal misadventures by its publisher Dave Wilmot, with current and former politicians, including former D.A. Catterson, a local bar owner, are widely known and discussed among locals in the Hamptons. Tax breaks that make Suffolk Life marginally profitable were not meant to be used by private businesses but have never been fully discussed. The only reason that anyone ever sees the publication is because a court battle waged 20 years ago over free speech forced the publication into everyone’s mailbox along with the other mailer junk that everyone receives on the East End.
There is a large liberal community, however, which is disenfranchised but which carefully watches the hypocritical confabulations of these dinosaurs. Even the media war waged against immigrants and those who would treat them as human beings have been tempered by the claim by some that the very same people who are attacked and reviled, populate the Suffolk Life pressroom. The Republican Party in Southampton also used immigrants to erect campaign signs. Why does Senator Craig keep coming to mind?
The eruv has been described as a black strip of PVC (annoying environmentalists possibly) and stimulating closet anti-Semites.
The gossip was that people were going to have to give up property rights and allow “those people” to cross private property, that stakes would be planted on Village property to create a path, and that the local businesses were being pressured to close on Saturdays, the Sabbath.
One person stated that it was outrageous and that there is a separation of church and state and this is a gross violation of that principal.
Even the Southampton Press, disabused people of the notion that these black plastic strips were an invasion of public property. Verizon owns the telephone poles where these strips would be located.
And, would such reasoning require that the Village stop the practice of placing Christmas ornaments on Village poles during Christmastime? Jewish residents have not suggested such a ban.
It is also not comforting that the current Mayor Teller dispatched police officers to inquire at every business in the Village – investigating whether the owner’s had been asked to closing on Saturdays. It appears to be a politically motivated act pandering to those with, shall we say, less than neutral opinions on the matter. Those who discriminate usually have a hard time hiding their true feelings since it always seems to leak out by their actions.
Considering the fact that within the last 6 months alone, Mayor Teller, a former police chief, has been unable to solve three major robberies in the Village of Westhampton Beach business district, it would seem that his efforts would be better directed at solving a crime wave rather than investigating an anti-Semitic rumor. Even if it were true, one would have to ask, what role would the police play? Unless, of course, the message is that the Mayor wishes to “mould” public opinion by intimidation or the power of suggestion.
While the Westhampton Beach police are neutral players in this matter, a Mayor who was the police chief may be an anachronism in a more modern environment.
Teller’s platform of flipping back the calendar so that nothing but tumbleweed rolls down Main Street is reminiscent of Andy Griffith's reign. That may be attractive so some. But should the time come when residents cannot even buy a cup of coffee or a pastry on Main Street due to a lack of support for businesses or protection from a crime wave – there might be questions. It would be a pity if the Village business district were to be shuttered for all but the summer crowd.