Dear Mr. President,
All things taken into account, we’re happy and proud that you chose to spend your week’s vacation on our small Island. Sure, it was disruptive to have South Road blocked off for a week. The gridlock that always grips Oak Bluffs on fireworks day was that much worse for your attendance. The occasional glimpse of armored vehicles and SWAT teams where we expected to see tourists in jeeps and on bikes was nothing short of chilling. And though we didn’t try, it probably was tough to get a tee time last week.
Every working person needs a vacation, and your visit reminded us just how difficult that must be for a sitting president in a post nine eleven world. Taking your family out to dinner in Edgartown required a massive logistical operation that transformed a corner of the village for a few hours into a kind of DMZ. One need only read a few of the truly hateful comments posted on various websites to imagine the magnitude of the threat you are constantly under. The Clinton era, when the president could jog on West Chop or mingle with customers at Mad Martha’s with a minimum of visible security, seems almost quaint by comparison.
The Vineyard economy depends on tourism, and even if we don’t always like the way we are portrayed in the international media (“exclusive enclave,” “posh resort,” “playground of the liberal elite”), you have at least burnished our reputation as a desirable destination. If you passed over a few of our best shops, restaurants and activities in eight short days here, you at least got to most parts of the Island for a meal, a bike ride or a round of golf.
Yes, you certainly deserved a vacation. And yet.
Yet even some of your most ardent Island defenders, and you have many, feel you missed an opportunity to portray the Island — and in the process, yourself — in a different light.
There is a great deal of seasonal wealth here, but the Vineyard is far more complex. Many of the problems that bedevil everyday Americans — lack of jobs, reliable medical care and affordable housing, for example — exist for the sixteen thousand people who live here year-round and make it possible for others to enjoy their vacations. The Island is not immune to the effects of sequestration, which has forced cutbacks, for example, in the Head Start program that provides preschool services for low-income families. You might have stopped briefly before you left Sunday at the Chicken Alley art show, an annual fundraiser for Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.
Or a savvy advisor might have suggested you take another bike ride Sunday with Bite Back for a Cure, the national campaign against tick-borne illnesses. Just a day after you left, the Centers for Disease Control made news with the announcement that Lyme Disease, a huge problem here on the Vineyard, may be ten times more prevalent than previously reported.
The Vineyard is also a logical place to focus attention on national crises involving declining fisheries, sea level rise and the need for alternative energy sources like wind and solar. Perhaps you could have taken a look at East Chop Drive in Oak Bluffs, where local officials are hoping to get twelve million dollars in FEMA aid to fortify an eroding scenic highway.
And what better place for the first lady to take her nutrition initiative than an Island undergoing a renaissance in agriculture? We wish she and your daughters could have taken an afternoon to visit one of our many local farms or learn more about Island Grown Schools, a innovative program that could serve as a nationwide model.
Martha’s Vineyard is a wonderful place for a vacation, but it is also a fascinating and diverse American community that can offer insight into problems and some ideas for solutions to a variety of issues that we know are important to you.
Please come back next year. We loved having you and your family. No doubt our readers will come up with other suggested ways to enhance your next visit.