Monday, August 24, 2009

Acting White: Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard

So what’s the big deal with Martha’s Vineyard (MV) anyway? Sure, the first family deserves a vacation, but going to the up-scale Massachusetts island seems to have more significance than, say, Disneyworld, or Yosemite. As a former Bay State resident and serial MV visitor, it took me a few years to figure out why all the hoopla over the 57th largest island in the US, but here goes.

Some people will tell you MV is about the late Jackie O, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Oprah Winfrey, Spike Lee, et al, but this is just the show-people side. The island is really about a nice place where mostly rich men and fewer rich women, white and black, have historically sent their spouses/scions in the late summer, while they (themselves) continue to toil away at making goo-gobs of money in places like New York, DC, Philadelphia, and Boston, until they scoot in the last week of August. This is not what makes the island special.

On closer inspection, MV ‘islanders’ have a similar, albeit more staid, ‘hang loose’, attitude to that which pervades the way-west, native Hawaiians and how they look at things, especially people. Mainlanders are people with hang-ups about status, race, money, sex, age, you name it. Islanders, on the other hand, just go with the flow (or pretend to), even if it’s just for that short time between their arriving and departing boat.

At Disneyworld, rude Americans or Europeans, will cut lines, yell at the help, or complain about how miserable someone or something is making them. True islanders, everybody’s dream, have a relaxed attitude that is unflappable. Of course, the pretenders (and they are everywhere) do just that, pretend to go with the flow, feeling small swatches of what it is like to do the full-time Rodney King shuffle, called ‘getting along’.

There are two-tiers of Vineyarders, the first level is easy and includes anyone thoughtful enough to repeatedly show up to enjoy the place, in the first place. The second tier is the far more select group, not including the stinking rich, with the emotional and financial commitment to buy a home, or hang onto one given them, that they will likely use only a few weeks/months out of the year. I respect these true islanders because they like what they like and they are not afraid to sacrifice the piggy-bank to get it.

Finally, it is easiest to spot the truest Vineyarders on MV by when and whether you see them at all, as they arrive and depart the Woods Hole, Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven ferry docks with SUV's loaded from Costco and on schedules nearly opposite our favorite Gulf-Stream driving celebrities, especially politicians.

James C. Collier


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Michael in LA said...

James - I grew up in LA and my family is from Louisana, so I only know of Martha’s Vineyard from the movies and books. How true was the movie "The Inkwell" to the real Black experience in MV?

James C. Collier said...

Michael in LA, if I remember correctly, the movie is a bit heavy-handed in stereotypes, accurate at times, but exaggerated. The experiences of the protagonist (the boy) are of an outsider thrust into the bowels, rather than the peeling of an onion (the history of blacks in Oak Bluffs). My time at the Inkwell was more pedestrian with crowds of black beach-goers acting no different than anyone else, when backed by education and financial means.

She Draws said...

I've never seen the movie...but now I want