Editorial: We remember liberty’s tune

The glorious national birthday we celebrate invites us to hoist our flags and drop our guard against the off-Island world and to consider the marvelous connections we have with the vast palette of Americans, quite a few of whom have chosen to celebrate their independence here with us.

The Fourth is a grand, old-time celebration, and in keeping with the Vineyard’s stubborn adherence in most things to revered past practice, whether for good or ill, we shall celebrate it in the ways we always have.

There will be barbecues and fireworks and beach picnics and relatives, and there will be the parade in Edgartown — little changed over the years, wonderfully down to earth — expressive not just of the town which is the county seat, but of the Vineyard as a whole.

And visitors, as well as residents, will line the route to smile at the simplicity of it — unusual in this modern age; the silliness of it – charming, not manic; and the unspectacular, authentic character of a community that knows what it means to be free. We, most of us anyway, value independence above all.

Abraham Lincoln, on March 4, 1861, his country sundered, its future darkly clouded, delivered his First Inaugural Address. He set out to embrace both sides of the family struggle, to use that unrelenting embrace, and a call to the founding inspiration of the nation, to preserve the Union. Lincoln’s goal was unity, not division, and his clear understanding of the moment led him always to the right words.

“We are not enemies, but friends,” he ended his address. “We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

The first celebration of Independence Day occurred in Philadelphia in July 1777, a year after the “Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America” was adopted by the Second Continental Congress. It became, after the end of the War of 1812, the nation’s greatest secular holiday, the moment’s pause in a careering American life, when we hear those “mystic chords of memory” and join our happy voices in the chorus.

It is noisy, happy, lively, unrestrained, a moment at early summer when Islanders drop their customary seasonal, keep-your-distance attitude and instead say to our neighbors, if you’re with us, you’re welcome.

Trading away a wild place

If you are one of those who favor a clean, plentiful, growing, cheap supply of energy to support the growth of the American economy — and, naturally enough, its many sub-parts, including this tiny, remote (but not remote enough) outpost we call home — you cannot but despair.

The state of Massachusetts, in its loopy devotion to industrial wind-powered generating plants deployed, in cooperation with the federal government, in a strangling circle around the Vineyard, does not feel your pain. The illusion of cheap, plentiful electric power from wind has captured the political imagination, and wild places such as Horseshoe Shoal, Nantucket Sound, and the ocean south and west of Martha’s Vineyard will pay the price for this folly.

And, we learn this week that the the Martha’s Vineyard/Dukes County Fishermen’s Association (MVDCFA) does not feel your pain either. The fishermen are also willing to see these wild places trashed. MVDCFA and Cape Wind Associates have made a deal under which the fishermen will sell their support for the Cape Wind project in exchange for a promised, but unspecified, benefit for the fishermen members of the association. The deal was based upon the fishermen’s willingness to end a federal lawsuit they had filed in opposition to Cape Wind.

“The Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen have agreed to support the Cape Wind project as a sustainable source of clean energy for the future, and Cape Wind and the Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen together support a vibrant and sustainable local commercial fishing community on Martha’s Vineyard,” according to a press statement.

State government, the Cape Wind developers, and now Island fishermen are co-conspirators in efforts to advance the project and to elbow aside valid economic and environmental concerns expressed by Islanders over wind factories to the east, west, and north of us. It’s a plan whose benefits are immeasurably small compared with its drawbacks.

Among the drawbacks, and the Cape Wind deal with National Grid draws this out plainly, are the state’s policy determinations to allow the expansion of wind generation, no matter what the cost to residential and commercial customers and no matter whether the local targets agree to the intrusion. Wind-driven power will be significantly more expensive than energy produced by any other source, but the state and now Island fishermen endorse it, and would protect its higher costs by attempting to block energy suppliers from buying less expensive power — even power from renewables — created out of state.

The argument here is that the energy future of our economy will be built on electricity and transportation fuels. Oil, whether produced here or abroad, does not figure significantly in electricity generation now and will certainly figure only marginally in the equation as we move forward.

The Cape Wind deal to sell the electric power that the planned Nantucket Sound wind farm may one day produce will cost electricity end-users billions more than conventionally produced power. That’s not because wind-driven electricity is better electricity, or more dependable, or more easily scaled up to meet growing demand, or less demanding of the natural environment — consider the undisturbed land and water acreage to be consumed — but it’s because the political climate insists on it, no matter the costs.

It’s a very high price for a low-quality idea.