Memorial Day paradox

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It’s Memorial Day weekend, and the Vineyard is observing this national holiday which asks us to remember the deaths of fallen American soldiers. In an odd coupling, this is also the weekend when we kick off the start of our summer-long vacation season. We should be watching parades, rolling out familiar events, firing up the grill, primping rental properties, crowding the ferries, and opening up all of our seasonal businesses. Instead we’re fogbound, in the grip of a plague of unimaginable scale, that while invisible weighs on us almost unbearably. 

As Jia Tolentino wrote in the May 11 New Yorker, “The source of the danger is invisible … looking, at first, like emptiness.” We don’t see it before us in real time, and we won’t see it when it leaves the Island behind. Today, and looking forward, our challenge is to continue protecting Islanders’ health and our healthcare workers while accommodating our thriving seasonal economy. The Island’s healthcare system has served us exceedingly well, and the business community has shown cautious leadership, the best we could hope for. Town and state officials will help, but in the end, sensible Vineyarders will lead the way in this case. Though Governor Baker will ease restrictions when the data suggest the time is right, Islanders will decide when we’re ready to come back to life, and how best to protect our neighbors and visitors. 

As we protect public health, and then our summer season, we shouldn’t forget this: The greatest virtues of the Vineyard, the life qualities which matter the most to us, are the year-round and seasonal personal connections, the web of friendships and interdependence we’ve come to count on. Again from Tolentino: “Everything circles a bewildering paradox: Other people are both a threat and a lifeline. Physical connection could kill us, but civic connection is the only way to survive.”