Letter from the Vineyard

Written July 9th

The past is not the present…

Photo courtesy of Paul Doherty

The morning has broken, Vineyard beautiful, a soft wind blowing, sun licking the waters at Oak Bluffs, where I wait for the first ferry of the day, going off island to attend a memorial service for Bill McCormick, the youngest of the McCormick siblings, with whom I grew up in Minneapolis, whose lives have threaded with mine for all the many years since then.

         Of late, I have found myself wrapping the beauty of the island around me as a protective cloak, as if it were my Cloak of Invisibility, not making me invisible but making the world outside invisible.

         One day, as I was prepping to leave for the bookstore, I was opening the windows to let in the day’s fresh air.  A doe was in my yard, she looked up and for some minutes we stared into each other’s eyes, as if seeking to understand the other.  Her dark brown eyes, luminescent in the morning light, will not be forgotten.

         Returning from errands in Vineyard Haven one day, I stopped at State Beach, spent a few minutes, watching the waves, the ocean immutable.

         Waking one morning in the pre-dawn hours, I lay in my bed and watched the black silhouettes of trees sway in the light wind against a pearl grey sky, until I drifted back into the arms of Morpheus.

The 4th of July parade in Edgartown was the longest and the loudest in my memory, albeit I have only seen a few. It was pure, unabashed Americana, bringing laughter to my lips.  Omar, who is working in the store, a Moroccan studying at the American University of Bulgaria, first time in America, stood on our porch, mouth agape at the small-town pageantry of fire trucks, marching bands, homemade floats, beautiful young people tossing candy at the crowd.

Tears edged my eyes as the special needs campers of Jabberwocky were pushed up Main Street in their wheelchairs. 

Tom Dresser, Vineyard historian, in his antique Jeep rolled by the store, two delighted youngsters in the back seat, waving madly at the crowds.  It was a day made for a Disney movie, bright, warm but not too warm, sun kissed, wind blessed.

         All this beauty has been my comfort as I view the world off island, seeming to grow in darkness by the day, punctuated by dire events, both natural and unnatural.

         The west is a tinderbox, forest fires have consumed New Mexico, wildfires and earthquakes beleaguer Afghanistan, beautiful Sydney drowns, Europe swelters, Spain burns, Ukraine’s war rages.  The list goes on – and on.

         A young man [so many young men] walked into a school in Uvalde, Texas, snuffed out the lives of 21 human beings, 19 children just beginning, while the police hesitated.

         Since then, there have been more mass shootings; last count I remember there have been over 250 this year, more than one a day.  

         Roe v Wade, has fallen, slain by the conservative Supreme Court.

         Every woman I know [and I admit I do not know anyone who is celebrating the fall of abortion] is in a kind of mourning, not just that abortion is gone as a legal right across the land but feeling gender equality has been more diminished. 

         In the weeks since I have last written, words feeling stopped since the horror of the Ukrainian war began, we have seen our last president, if not actively plotting a coup, attempting to disrupt the peaceful transition of power that has been a hallmark of our democracy, refusing to concede an election he clearly lost, to this day declaring it “the big lie.” 

         It is profoundly disturbing.  Trump’s mendacity is spectacular.

         The degree to which Republicans have embraced “the big lie” is beyond disturbing.  As a registered Republican, [something I did when I registered here as a voter, a socially liberal, fiscally conservative voter, a pre-Reagan kind of Republican, which is a very small minority within the Republican party] I watch with dismay at what is happening.  

Anyone who doesn’t support Trump and his “big lie” is a RINO, a Republican in Name Only whereas I, from my minority seat, think anyone who supports Trump is a RINO, having abandoned the principles of the Republican Party.

         This drift began with Reagan, as Republicans cozied up to Evangelical Christians to win elections.  Now it’s a party more than flirting with white/Christian nationalism, making brazen attempts to subvert elections.

         These things have made me fearful.  They have also made me more engaged.  

         It took forty years for the right to subvert the Republican party; it may take forty years to restore it.  

         Every journey begins with a first step.

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