The Gazette turns back the page in this week’s edition as it revisits the Harris Poll, a first-of-its-kind scientific public opinion survey the results of which were published by this newspaper twenty-five years ago. What follows is an editorial from July 4, 1987, the year the Harris Poll survey was taken.
It is proper that the nation’s independence is celebrated on the Fourth of July, early in this special month of summer. It is proper not only for what is written in the early historic documents of the country, but because everything about the month of July appeals to a sense of independence. The reminders of what we are celebrating, the freedom that independence brings, are everywhere to be seen, if we will only pause long enough to see them.
On the Vineyard the record will show the Island community recognized Independence Day with an official parade through the downtown streets of Edgartown. The festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow. Thousands will come from across the Island, from every township. And they will represent what the Vineyard is in summer, in July, an Island community of year-round citizens, seasonal residents, casual visitors, tourists from near and far, friends and strangers, members of every generation, from grandchildren to grandparents.
July and independence go together. The summer has burst upon us and this season of abundance will march forward independent of any thoughts we may have about altering its course. It has been said that the further we get away from the land and the soil, the less we understand about our way of life, our way of thinking, about this chemistry that underlies our independence. To protect our freedom, we need to live and to work within the natural world around us.
It is good to remember on this Fourth of July that the Vineyard reinforces a sense of independence. Many people come to the Island in July to be free of the mainland, distant from urban centers that so stifle life in America today. They are here to get away, here to slow down, to allow the Vineyard to return some balance to life. And the Island will do this if only her residents and visitors will stand aside long enough to accept the treasures of the Vineyard. The tide at ebb or flood; the shell along the beach at water’s edge; the lichen hidden in the crevice of an old stone wall up-Island; the goldfinch in flight to Island moor and woodland.
But July also is a month to be wary of, because now the pace quickens. It is a time to guard one’s independence, to decide what is important and what is not. Hal Borland, the naturalist and essayist, once said this of July and the rush of summer: “Weather and weeds are more important than ideologies.” That is the natural balance we seek, not the pace of July that now seems so furious in its urgency.
Be wary; the time is short, for vacationers and for all who wish to hold on to July and to summer. Time will not stretch, making the pace we travel even more critical. In his Concord journal of the last century Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote this noble line: “For a few summer weeks it is good to live as if this world were heaven.”
Remember the word “few” in the Hawthorne line, and then make the best of it. For those who do, the Vineyard will return a freedom on this Independence Day that is rarely found in other American communities on the Fourth of July, on any day in July.
The Vineyard is a gift and needs to be treated accordingly by all who cross her shores.