Letters to the Editor
A promise redeemed
To the Editor:
November 19 came and went without any notice, which is extraordinary, given recent events. On that day, 145 years ago, Abraham Lincoln gave a brief speech at a ceremony in a small town in Pennsylvania to commemorate the establishment of a national cemetery for victims of the battle of Gettysburg. He was actually not the primary speaker at the event; that role was reserved for one of the great orators of the time, Edward Everett. In fact, despite the fact that he was president, Lincoln's words were hardly accorded prominent space in most publications reporting on the event. While Republican publications were complimentary, Democratic papers reviled the president and his simple speech for taking advantage of a solemn moment to make what they considered essentially a campaign appearance in connection with the upcoming election of 1864. And this in an era when candidates were far less active in presidential campaigns than is true today.
It is worth remembering Lincoln's speech for two reasons. First, the Gettysburg Address reinforced the dedication of the United States to the elimination of slavery. Although it did not reference the evil of slavery, as did Secretary of State William Seward and Edward Everett in their remarks at the time, it reminded Lincoln's listeners that their country had been dedicated originally to the proposition that all men were created equal - even if most black men and women were denied equality from the time of the revolution until the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln was not just consecrating a memorial to the slain, he was rededicating America to a fundamental value, one to which it had not been true: human freedom.
Given America's sorry history of racial bigotry and suppression of African Americans subsequent to the Civil War, it is always worthwhile to remember what Lincoln said and why. Like the holocaust in the twentieth century, no matter how long ago some of these events took place, we must never forget.
The second reason to note the anniversary of Lincoln's remarks is perhaps more timely and more joyful, because only a few short weeks ago, America elected our first African-American president. One wonders whether Lincoln ever imagined the day when an American of African descent would follow his footsteps into the White House, but one can hardly doubt that he would have celebrated the event, especially given the nature of the man in question. Barack Obama is a superb orator in the tradition of Lincoln. Edward Everett's oratory may have overshadowed Lincoln's at the time, but only scholars now read a speech that took hours to present in 1863. By contrast, Lincoln's timeless words aspire to a simple greatness and have inspired since the day he spoke them.
So too with Obama. He shares Lincoln's gift for humor that speaks to the common man, and his speeches soar, not because of elaborate rhetoric, but with simple images that speak to our common humanity, as he confronts a period of uncommon crisis. If Lincoln was unable to lead our country to a promised land of true freedom for all, his deceptively simple address at Gettysburg consecrated that ground - and all of America - to "a new birth of freedom," the promise of which has finally been realized only one hundred and forty five years later.
Brian T. Bristol
West Chop and New York City
Call for EMTs
To the Editor:
A beautiful summer is gone past, and we're heading into winter. The Martha's Vineyard community of emergency medical technicians (EMTs) is getting ready to welcome new people to our ranks. If you've ever been in need of an ambulance in your town, or any other, you may wonder where those people came from that showed up to help you, whether it's been a fire, car accident, bicycle accident, sudden illness, or any other kind of emergency.
For Tri-Town ambulance (West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah), that would be volunteers who are giving back in their own way. They are people just like you that wanted to make a difference, to help a neighbor or a stranger, and are able to put their training to good use.
In Tri-Town we have the largest area to cover on Martha's Vineyard, so we are always looking to fill our ranks. You have to be 18 years old at the time of the state test, but if you are able-bodied and willing to put in the time for the winter class, we could sure use your help.
The 2009 class starts in January and runs through May. The classes are every Tuesday and Thursday and every other Saturday. You may call the office of Tri-Town Ambulance to ask about the class (508-693-4992) or better yet, come by the Open House on Saturday, Dec. 6, from 9 am until noon at the West Tisbury Public Safety Building (across from Up-Island Cronig's).
You'll find lots of folks that will be happy to answer any questions, and also representatives from the down-Island squads to help with questions specific to their towns. I think you'll find the class is a great way to meet new people and make new friends; get on the phone and call a friend, ask them to take the class with you.
That's what I did when I called Fran Bradley, and she jumped at the chance. We had a great time in class and haven't looked back! And as some of you may know, we're not exactly teenagers. I'm a grandmother.
So join us, give something back, you may surprise yourself and wish you'd done it a lot sooner.
Legal not right
To the Editor:
For years I have wondered how the town of Tisbury can discount residential property taxes (to which I confine what I write here) for year-round residents, while requiring seasonal residents to pay more on the same assessed valuation. Janet Hefler's story published on November 20 ("Tisbury selectmen continue to shift tax burden to businesses, summer property owners"), demystifies the basis for this practice, but that does not make it seem any the less questionable, though, for now, it is "legal."
Property taxes are ad valorem. That means they are determined by the (assessed) value of the property. They have nothing to do with the owner's income, nor, in almost every other municipality, with the owner's legal residence.
While there are many good reasons for income taxes to be progressive (the more earned, the more taxed), there are no good reasons for property taxes to be apportioned among owners other than by the sole determinant of assessed valuation (another potential quagmire to be sure, but one beyond the purview of this letter).
Indeed, discounting property taxes assessed year-round residents, who require more local, state, and municipal services (most importantly for many, the services of the school system) makes no logical or equitable sense.
I concede that I may be missing something basic about this practice, but it seems the two-tiered residential property tax of Tisbury discriminates against a class of property owners (or, if you desire to put the best possible face on it, to prefer one class over another). It is, therefore, a constitutional question, ripe for challenge.
Nicholas W. Puner
Thief, come forward
To the Editor:
I would like to continue the story which Harold Chapdelaine shared with your readers in his letter to the editor ("Consequences needed") published last week. His detailed account of the neighborhood mayhem that resulted from a teenage drinking party on the night of Friday, Nov. 14, is serious reason for concern.
My house lies just a short distance away from his. Early Saturday morning, we discovered that our motorcycle was stolen right out of our garage sometime Friday night. When my husband went to the police station to fill out a stolen property report, he learned something interesting.
It seems that when the police approached the teenage bobcat drivers near the Chapdelaines' house, several boys ran off in the direction of our house. Could it be that one or more of them ducked into our garage to avoid getting caught and then stole our motorcycle?
The motorcycle is a 1992 red Suzuki GN 125 with a Massachusetts plate that reads CX4449. Clearly nothing special, but a small luxury to my husband in the summer, as he commutes off-Island daily and the motorcycle affords him many conveniences. I am asking anyone who has information regarding this theft to please contact the Tisbury police. If you are a teen and are afraid, confide in a trusted adult to help you.
When a teenage party becomes the catalyst for trespassing, terrorizing neighbors, destruction of property, and thievery, it should serve as a wake-up call to both youngsters and parents. Please don't let this happen again.
Following our path
To the Editor:
It is with pleasure, enthusiasm, and inspiration that I respond to Harold Chapdelaine's letter of last week. First and foremost, it's nice to be reminded that there are such wonderful, intelligent, sensitive, conscientious, and forward-thinking parents on this Island. I feel blessed that my only child was born and largely raised here. With regard to all of the circumstances, attitudes, occurrences that you alluded to Harold, if I may: I know how you feel. Thank the powers that be that no one got hurt. Not too much property hopefully was damaged. And bear in mind, after all, that there is that cowboy mentality in part of the American psyche that boys will be boys and the rest will be toys. So we take a chance on how we play, where we play, and who and with what we play. And then pray.
What we can do with our children is simply this: try to set good examples for them as we move through the world day today; be honest and open, and open to discussion about things that become confusing; but always let them know as often as possible how much we love them. There's a good life ahead. Be patient with the children. They're only following the path that we've cleared.
To the Editor:
Thank you for your coverage of "Including Samuel," the video presentation on stigma and disability that kicked off this year's Martha's Vineyard Community Services' (MVCS) fall conference, Different Like ME: Learning from the Experts, that was held on October 24 and 25. The struggle of people with disabilities to overcome stigma and find a place of opportunity and meaning in the community takes a step forward with each conversation, each news story on the topic.
The committee for the MVCS fall conference, while pleased to see the topic covered in The Martha's Vineyard Times issue of Nov. 6, thought that the choice of the headline, "The Right to Belong: Concerns of the Disabled," could perpetuate the stigma that the film and conference sought to address.
We completely agree that there is a right to belong; however, that is not just the concern of the disabled, but the entire community. All individuals, including those with disabilities, deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. The community deserves the benefits derived by the contributions of individuals with disabilities.
These themes were forcefully delivered in the film. Samuel was shown as cute, fun loving, and precocious as any other child. And his mother and father articulated his contributions. "The capacity to love and endure," said his mother of her experience. "He has taught me patience," said his father.
In addition, one of the purposes of the conference and pre-conference was to help people understand that words matter. People have disabilities; they are not disabled people. In fact, we are all only temporarily able; each of us at any moment may be subject to an accident, illness, or age that could leave us with a disability.
The members of the conference committee serve and advocate for people with disabilities. We hope that "Including Samuel" marked the opening of an important conversation about inclusion and its benefits for the community as a whole.
MVCS Conference Committee:
Thomas S. Bennett
Mary Jean Connelly
A helping connection
To the Editor:
Even over here on the Cape, when we hear of Vineyarders in need of help, we're ready to offer our assistance. Some of us had to leave Martha's Vineyard for jobs, schooling, etc. - and sometimes it's hard to still feel connected to Martha's Vineyard. When an opportunity arises, however, we are there.
A few weeks ago, I read the great thank-you letter from Barbara Prada for all the help the Islanders have given Ursula Prada and her family. Such a special family deserves all the help that can be given. When I first heard, I left a message for Barbara, offering any help I could give over on the Cape, such as housing, etc.
I was thrilled a few days later to have Barb call and ask if she and her sister, Chris, could stay at my home, since Ursula was going to an acute rehab on the Cape. As would anyone, my doors were wide open for them. I loaned Chris my car, since she was carless. The first month of rehab, it is suggested that the family be there every day for emotional support for the patient. I had Barb bring her two dogs over when she came, so that McGoo and Noodle could get some Auntie Gina time, playtime with all the other dogs, and runs through the woods and in the park.
While Ursula was at this rehab, it was wonderful being able to help Vineyarders in need. Even though we have left Martha's Vineyard, we will always be connected to that special place. And a thought for the holiday season - helping others helps us. Have a great holiday season.
Plenty to do
To the Editor:
On behalf of the Martha's Vineyard Women's Network (MVWN) I would like to express our sincere gratitude to Lynn Ditchfield and school superintendent James Weiss for their efforts in presenting the first semester of the newly revamped Adult Continuing Education of Martha's Vineyard (ACE of MV) program held at the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School.
As a representative of the MVWN, I was just one of many that worked on the committee with Lynn to address the various educational needs and interests of the Vineyard community. The MVWN is dedicated to providing continuing business education for the purpose of promoting economic development on Martha's Vineyard. Our membership told us that Excel and other computer classes were most important to their future success. We are so pleased that the Excel class was developed and has turned out to be one of the largest classes offered this semester.
As a student enrolled in one of the classes, I was impressed with the positive atmosphere Lynn created when registering and greeting all students. My teacher, Brian Ditchfield, was also professional, well prepared, and perfectly suited to handle a roomful of inquiring minds.
As a member of the Vineyard community, it has also pleased me to see the high school parking lot full of cars every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night. We are so quick to criticize the lack of stimulation in the off-season, but now Lynn, superintendent Weiss, and the ACE of MV program have added a significant opportunity for us to engage in something positive - whether we're learning to improve our businesses or for the sheer pleasure of learning something new!
The MVWN would like to add its full support for the ACE of MV program and ask that it be given all the encouragement and support possible by the public school system for its continuation.
Vineyard Women's Network
To the Editor:
I wish to compliment Abigail Higgins for her piece in the November 6 issue, "No lovelier time on earth." Not only did she capture the feeling and visual beauty of this particular fall on the Vineyard, her prose was lyrical and precise. I read her with great appreciation.
To the Editor:
Last week's paper told about the financial difficulties that retirees (and almost everyone) are having because of the economic downturn.
Please offer your readers more encouraging thoughts and strategies. Tell them how beneficial it is to plug air leaks, heat fewer rooms, add insulation, tune heating systems, reduce their auto use, open shades on south-facing windows, hang laundry outside, shorten showers, turn off unneeded lights, and unplug TVs, computers, etc., when not used.
By doing these things, we'll spend less money on heat, gasoline, and electricity, stimulate the national economy, create local jobs, reduce pollution, slow global warming, and raise our spirits.
For more energy-saving tips, contact the Cape Light Compact at 800-797-6699.
To the Editor:
This is a copy of a letter to the Edgartown community preservation committee (CPC) dated Nov. 13, 2008.
As requested at the meeting on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2008, we put together a business plan to support the application by the Edgartown Old School Building Re-use Committee to turn the building into an arts center, which includes a multipurpose theater.
We propose to create a non-profit called Studio Creations to renovate the old Edgartown School into a place for Island arts organizations.
This attached business plan for Studio Creations is an overview. In the coming weeks, we will put together a more detailed business plan to submit for your consideration.
We are confident that the vision of Studio Creations to turn the old brick building into a thriving artistic center to enrich the lives of the people of Martha's Vineyard is the best use of the town's historic treasure.
If you have any questions or require any other information, please feel free to contact me.
To the Editor:
I have lived in and traveled to countries with repressive military dictatorships and seen the fear that these governments generate in the minds of their citizens. I was sharply reminded of this on the eve of Barack Obama's election.
A group of us were gathered in West Tisbury watching the results with great excitement as our candidate's numbers approached the critical point. Our dreams were realized when it was announced as breaking news that Obama had won. Within 5 seconds, CNN suddenly went black.
We hurriedly scanned the other channels, and to our surprise, every single national news channel had gone off the air. We still got the shopping channel and a few local feeds, so we knew the set was working, but it was clear that all live national TV was not available.
For several moments, the irrational fears that came from living in places where the police were young soldiers patrolling with automatic weapons and acting with little regard for any laws felt very real. Our collective anxiety quickly calmed down, though we were quick to remember how Bush stole the first election, and I have to admit to moments of wondering if something truly sinister had happened.
Of course, this sounds absurd in the retelling, but as we hoped for the channels to come back on (they didn't all night), we spoke of our gratitude and how proud we were that the simple, democratic process we sometimes take for granted had seemingly worked again. As we observed Veteran's Day shortly afterwards, we were reminded once more that the price of our freedom is very dear indeed.
On January 20, we plan to celebrate the final step in the election process with joy. We also plan to take a moment to remind ourselves that America continues to set an example for the world, that democracy can work, and that the people's voice can be heard.
President-elect Obama tells us that we all need to work together to get out of the mess this country is in; as importantly, we all must remember that, as our veterans know so well, democracy can never survive as a spectator sport.
For many in the world, a blackout like the one we experienced could have been the signal of a military coup or violent assault on the government; for us it was simply an annoying Comcast malfunction. How lucky we are. What a great opportunity for change we have in our hands. Please consider this on Inauguration day, and be glad as you walk into the streets in the morning that you face a friendly policeman instead of an angry youth dressed in camouflage pointing an automatic weapon in your face, demanding to see your identity card.