Civil dialogue is important


To the Editor:

I am provoked by your most recent letters to the editors to share what I have experienced and to do it with proper respect, honesty, and humility. Before us is an opportunity to break open the seething cauldron and allow the pot to melt.

Roberta Mendlovitz and Ed Cisek [an online commenter] have bravely and concisely expressed intelligent and heartfelt opinions in which a constructive debate can begin on the issues each has raised. The compendium of issues though, have boiled for years, and are daunting.

I agree with Mr. Cisek about the need for “identified” writers. I also agree that anonymity is important and necessary for honesty to prevail. Both have a strong presence in our history and will have an even greater influence in our global future. However, I take exception to the idea that all anonymity is like “a bathroom wall.” Many times in our history, anonymity has been recorded to have been used by our own Founding Fathers and give testimony to its power and necessity.

Where I offer my comment is at the more root issue he raises, and that is the “rude, crude and aggressive” descriptors currently in the lexicon of those commenting anonymously. In my humble opinion, this is where the “more educated” take exception to the ideas expressed by the “less educated” and thereby “exclude” their comments from consideration. Living life “excluded” is comparable to the experience that many of our Brazilian neighbors experience today on Martha’s Vineyard but also as a condition of color and wealth in their homeland. It allows the abuses to continue and perpetuates the cultural misunderstandings that provoke deep emotional responses. Exclusion is not a happy experience, and we all can relate in some way to the emotion.

The failure of the press, the government, and the people to address the issues openly, honestly and objectively is the problem in my opinion. In either venue, named or anonymous, we all should have the opportunity to comment. A more robust and dedicated press that follows up with respectable investigative inquiry upon the many issues raised would serve all those interested souls trying to find their place in our society.

Ms. Mendlovitz is indeed correct when she states “silence is not golden when a community has important issues to settle.” I do however have large differences with some of the conclusions she has made. Firstly, that “the issues at large” are “between the Brazilian community and the “old” Vineyarders.” Who exactly does she mean when she says “old” Vineyarders? I mean really, I’ve lived here a long time so that must mean I’m an “old” Vineyarder, or better yet, I’m 56 and live on M.V. so therefore I’m an “old” Vineyarder.

Here is another, I’m a 12th generation Vineyard-born human, so therefore I’m an “old” Vineyarder. Please get a grip, lady. The issue isn’t a problem between “old” Vineyarders and Brazilians, and to preface your comments with that thought only strengthens the hand that desires to keep this debate from occurring.

Open, honest, thoughtful and objective debate, which leads to solutions, is again the necessary first step to solving the issues experienced here by all the different cohorts which are involved. Equal access is very important and a principle in our civil rights. Does an individual invested in the community feel threatened when equal access is denied and equality itself is relegated to the closet? Where is equality when the government and business leaders conspire to subvert the laws and systems that are in place to protect the workers? The silence from the government is deafening. Our business leaders continue to turn a blind eye to the violations of employment law, worker rights, health insurance, etc. And that we might be “old” Vineyarders somehow has a ring to it? As a member of that group, “old” Vineyarder, I think an apology is in order.

The very clear and distinct difference between the “peaceful integration” of the Portuguese, Jewish, and Irish cohorts here was that they were here legally, sought citizenship and intended on building families of new Americans. The “Brazilian” community, (again wrongly lumping a large group with many cohorts into one entity), which seeks the liberty and justice of the American dream and to be part of the melting pot of our great nation is small in comparison. That “peaceful integration” depends on supporting a greater population of not so peaceful invaders intent on getting whatever they can and at whatever cost to enrich their lives, not here, but in Brazil. Hardly a fair comparison and does harm to the heritage and sacrifices made by those earlier pioneering immigrants she speaks of.

Discrimination is a rampant social norm in Brazil in my experience, and it’s lessons of constant need to overcome are stifling. Arriving in the United States by whatever means is only the first of many grueling struggles toward achieving the “dream” that every human shares to improve one’s situation in life. The courage and fortitude it takes on a daily basis astounds me. I am proud to know so many human souls who have taken and continue to take this voyage.

I applaud both Mr. Cisek and Ms. Mendlovitz for being brave enough to contribute. I most strongly agree that the debate must be held. Understanding by all the people who live and work here on Martha’s Vineyard is an admirable and necessary goal. Maybe solutions will come if responsible members of our community resolve to address the issues, many issues.

It is disheartening to realize the issues strike so deep. I am pessimistic but hopeful that our community leaders will respond, that our public press will work at simmering the melting pot rather than stoking the cauldron, and that our citizens will take responsibility for our government. Lofty goals indeed.

Peter L. Look