I am encouraged by how many people, on both sides of Putnam County, engaged in efforts to feed the hungry, the needy or just those without companionship on Thanksgiving. These were genuine, serious and needed efforts amidst the pandemic. At a time when so many other things are fraught, it was refreshing. ~ One of my father’s mostused, go-to expressions was, “It can’t get any worse.” He intended that this convey a level of very serious alarm about world affairs, the military situation, the trade imbalance, or the deficit, that kind of thing. Of course, whatever sad state of affairs he was talking about promptly got worse, sometimes by a lot.
Today, in fact, I think multiple things might be getting worse simultaneously. To wit:
*If Russia isn’t going to invade Ukraine, it’s doing a phenomenal job of signaling the opposite.
*Gas prices are significantly higher than a year ago. According to the AAA index for Dutchess and Putnam County, in fact, the average price today is $3.591, up from an average of $2.302 a year ago. That’s a steep hike.
*New COVID-19 cases are persistently high. New cases as of Nov. 26 averaged 87,195 a day, according to the New York Times tracker, and new deaths averaged 1,013, per day. That’s five jetliner crashes, every single day. One 9/11 scale tragedy every three days. I think this is crazy and damned alarming.
*Omicron, a new, highly mutated variant of the coronavirus, was discovered in South Africa. Research continues, but there are significant fears it will be more contagious or more virulent. In other words, it might reinfect people more easily, or it might overcome vaccines more easily. Worse than Delta by a good measure. Here in Putnam, we are at 101 dead. Two charter buses of people, gone. How many more people will die, here and around the nation, while we fritter away time and resources debating — fighting, really — about masks and vaccines?
*Meanwhile, details of the Jan. 6 insurrection continue to unspool. And wouldn’t you know it, but two people from Kent are among those arrested this month, and a third person who lives nearby. Our Putnam County. One of them, Gregory Purdy, even ran for the Carmel School Board. Our Carmel School Board. Imagine. ~ I have read through the entire 45-page criminal complaint against Gregory Purdy and his brother Matthew. It is extremely thorough, relying on Gregory Purdy’s own social media posts, tips from the public, police officer body cam video, surveillance cameras inside the Capitol, and photographs. I know some of you have been critical of me for using the word “insurrection,” that somehow I don’t know what it means or am overstating the case. Friends, as a trained wordsmith, I know what it means. I believe the Purdy brothers know what it means. They rode a charter bus down to Washington, DC. Greg Purdy certainly knows what “rebellion” means, he spoke about it on the trip, about “doing a f…… rebellion.”
And this man was running to be on the Carmel School Board.
On Jan. 6, many, many of these charter buses left from the Monroe Park and Ride in nearby Orange County where, in pre-pandemic times, hundreds of riders parked every single weekday and hopped onto a Shortline bus in the early morning. It was, in fact, the busiest park and ride in all of Orange before the pandemic. Serious, hard-core commuters. Except for Jan. 6, that is, when a number of the “commuters” made the long drive from Putnam County to end up at Monroe, hard by Route 17. ~ I am recalling today that another thing that happened early in the morning of Jan. 6 is that Assemblyman Colin Schmitt was in that very same Park & Ride lot in Monroe. There, at 4:30 am, he spoke before some 90 local people affiliated with the righttolife movement. As I noted in April, he ostensibly railed against the dangers of one-party rule in the Assembly and urged them to have a safe trip. His office later said these two buses involved arrived late and did not actually approach the Capitol, in any case. And Schmitt, in fact, was early among Republicans to criticize the insurrection, posting that afternoon on Facebook, as the rioting continued: “I am deeply disturbed by the assault on the United States Capitol today. There is absolutely no justification for any form of violence against the pillars of our democracy.”
But still, I wonder, as I did in April: What did Schmitt think all of these protesters were going to do in Washington? What does he think of the insurrection today? Was it concern for how his appearance before the bus group would look later, in the light of day, that prompted him to condemn the rioting so rapidly? As a leader in the National Guard, what does he think now of the rioters and their effort to overthrow the government that he has sworn to defend? And what does he make of the far-right extremists and white supremacists who were prepared to find then-Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and “give them the rope”? In other words, kill them by hanging, the preferred method of execution in the racist book The Turner Diaries.
Schmitt is running for Congress now, against U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. Schmitt is a Republican, Maloney a Democrat. It is unclear if they will even end up in the same district; it’s possible Schmitt, from Orange County, will end up elsewhere after statewide redistricting. In any case, if you see Schmitt, you might ask him about this misadventure at the Park and Ride.
We know, of course, where Maloney was. He was on the House floor, about 20 feet from the center doors, which staff and security officials had barricaded. It’s where one of the iconic photos of the day was taken, of a security officer pointing his handgun at the window in the door, a serious semi-automatic, ready to fire. Meanwhile, the last release I have from Colin Schmitt in my email is decrying violent crime and a spate of gunfire and demanding action in the City of Newburgh. “Our federal representative has failed in his responsibility to bring federal departments and agencies together to work for our communities in a multi-faceted approach to respond to and prevent violent crime and address key areas of community need along with local organizations, houses of worship, and law enforcement,” Schmitt wrote Nov. 23.
I rather suspect that Maloney already has a keen understanding of the situation in Newburgh, with his district office sitting as it does directly across from the Newburgh Free Library on Grand Street, just up from the Hudson River and the waterfront. This is in the East End of Newburgh, the predominantly minority section of the city, and the place that outsiders like Schmitt love to say is a hotbed of crime.
If Schmitt’s grasp of reality in Newburgh is akin to his grasp of reality in Monroe and Washington, he’s not especially well-informed. I worked in downtown Newburgh for a couple of years, from 1989 to 1991. So I have seen conditions on the streets there when things really were bad. Our office manager used to sweep up the crack vials in the morning. Concertina wire commonly topped fencing.
I think Newburgh can handle itself just fine without Schmitt’s direction. Schmitt, meanwhile, still hasn’t explained what he was doing on Jan. 6 encouraging those traveling to the Capitol for what was to become, in a matter of a few hours, an insurrection.
Until next week. I’m Douglas Cunningham and I’m the editor of the Courier and the Putnam County News and Recorder in Cold Spring. Reach me at email@example.com, or 845.265.2468.