The Vineyard’s better August angels


The president and his family arrive this weekend. They and we can all go to The Fair next weekend and enjoy ourselves. But, till then we’ll have to take a deep breath and carry on.

Although it’s the mid-August point of no return, when the pace of Vineyard life changes, when Islanders anticipate the fun of summer’s leftover pleasures post-Labor Day, without the tumult and frenzy that marks the three-month season, we’ve a few stressful weeks to endure.

News this week of the planning by the Secret Service for President Obama’s visit and the disruption it will cause, including annoying detours and traffic jams, reminds us that these extraordinary arrivals complicate the annual August chaos by an order of magnitude.

Imagine this: a young woman in the checkout line at Cronig’s with three things in her shopping cart. Behind her, another woman, obviously disappointed by the crowded store and long lines, asks, Do you mind if I go ahead of you. I’m in a hurry. I’m on vacation. This torn-from-real-life vignette is an everyday fact of August life. Vacationers in a swivet, relaxing at warp speed, are familiar and testing, but we’ve learned how to cope.

We’ve learned to welcome guests, to treat them respectfully, and to reserve our astonishment at the ways in which they live their lives when they’re here. When they’ve gone, we can contemplate what a drag it must be to live lives that make recreation and relaxation so difficult.

That goes double for the president. Whatever one’s political views may be, it is inescapably the case that living his outsized, over-analyzed, over-scrutinized life needs a little Vineyard time to rebalance and refresh. News of security planning for President Obama’s visit, published yesterday on and linked from the Drudge Report, caused an explosion of web visits that had our servers huffing and puffing till they couldn’t take it anymore. That was a nuisance, and astonishing. But what was more astonishing, and appalling, was the immense volume of Comment posts directed at The Times news story about the security arrangements. The posts came from everywhere, dozens and dozens of them, and nearly every one was horrifyingly, abusively vicious. We trashed them and closed the story to further Comments.

The lesson is that what the Vineyard and Vineyarders have to offer our August guests, even our most august visitors, is not votes or political sympathy but reasonableness, combined with amiability. Not every guest, not every relative, not every child behaves the way one wishes, but we don’t behave the way the most disagreeable of our visitors do, and especially not the way the vast, sociopathic digital underworld does.

Vineyarders are better than that, and anyway, September is coming.