Thursday, August 6, 2009

Beaching and Moaning

Sour Grapes from the Vineyard

West Tisbury, MA
Having written some less than flattering things about our new president’s policies, I doubt I’ll draw an invite to his dilatory domicile down the road at Blue Heron Farm or to any of the soirees the local swells are eventing up for the Obamas. Well, that’s no peel off my sunburn. Not to be blase, but been there and done that. I was also snubbed by the Clintons back in the 90’s when they helped to transform Martha’s Vineyard from a quiet glen for the arrived to a gaudy glam for the arrivistes.
One of the nicer things about this island--introduced to me 35 years ago by my ever loving--is that it was an offshore holdout from the pelf pandemic. There were always big bucks down the dirt roads and along the private beaches, but they dressed themselves in old jeans, got around in battered pick-ups and made island-wise small talk with the locals while waiting patiently in line at Alley’s to pay for their morning Times and Wall Street Journal.
Such inconspicuousness has become far less conspicuous. Nowadays, like my former chum Bobby Zimmerman sang, money doesn’t talk, it screams. Cruise Main Street in Edgartown and you will no longer be able to see the pretty preppies at their window shopping because the roofs of the parked Escalades and Navigators rise nearly to the second stories of the cutesy boutiques that were once grocery and hardware stores.
Blue Heron Farm, on the border of Chilmark and West Tisbury, used to be actually agricultural. Then some moneyed folks bought it, yuppified it, and died in a plane crash. It’s had several developers since and some faceless corp now rents it in the $50,000 a week (yeah, week) range. It is said to be adorned with every luxury known to Joan Rivers--but in a proper New Englandy rustic mode, to be sure.
Sitting on a Vineyard porch and watching a presidential vacation extravaganza is a sure way to disabuse any sentient human of the lies we Americans like to tell ourselves about ourselves. Like the one about us being down-home, small d democratic folks with a government that cares. With our close-up seats, we note that to travel even a short distance from Washington for a short time, our leader requires a vast pomposity of toadies and toughs kissing his ass and kicking ours. It makes Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra resemble Rose the scullery maid in Upstairs Downstairs.
If Clinton’s visits to the Vineyard are any indication, the White House will be renting dozens of houses and scores of hotel rooms at top dollar. The skies will darken with the squadrons of C-130s and exec jets flying in the limos, the monstrous black Jimmies, the com gear and all the other ruck required by the royalists.
Air space will be restricted, boats diverted, roads blocked. People living or working in “sensitive” spots will be prevented from going about their daily business. For the duration, cops of various stripe will be free to exercise at least as much arbitrary power as they did in Henry Louis Gates’ living room.
There are two likely reasons for the ever escalating ambit of presidential protection, neither of them encouraging. Either, our leaders really need it, meaning we are constantly accreting new and violent enemies. Or, it’s just another appalling manifestation of “shock and awe,” designed to both exhilarate and intimidate the empire's subjects.
Of course, there’s another reason: If you take all the security stuff our government will be doing on the Vineyard in the next couple of weeks, but remove the presence of Obama and his family from the effort, what you have, fellow Americans, is little more than a mini rehersal for the imposition of fascism.