Islander's Blog

A different kind of chill

The weather shifted and all of a sudden it was late autumn, complete with high wind and low temperatures. It was cold enough at the Whaler field hockey game that layers of sweaters and jackets were required and gloves were optional.

Maybe the chilly weather and the dwindling evenings were just waiting for the Red Sox to fall a couple of runs short of a World Series bid. Terry Francona said it best in the Boston Globe. You win or you begin picking out your Halloween costume.

We sat at the kitchen table with a note pad, deciding which windows and doors needed to be weather-proofed and whether we should begin pricing a new furnace. And then we talked about dead-bolts and whether the cops needed a budget increase so they could hire a few more patrolmen.

There is a different kind of chill in the air this October. Word that a serial rapist might be on the loose is all anybody can talk about. So we get dead-bolts installed on our doors. We keep an eye out for anything unusual, ready to call the cops. We keep our cell phones and a baseball bat handy. We add this to the list of changes to life on this island.

More than a few people have told me how upset they are that they have to lock their doors. I always thought that was a sort of throw-away line taken from the gauzy memories of a golden small-town past. But all week people kept using the fact that they have to lock their doors as a sure sign things have changed here.

I have never lived any place where you would let the door go unlocked. I have lived in apartments where you have two locks on the door and when people visit they say, “Only two?” I understand the peace of mind of a good dead-bolt.

The other chill in the air is the whispered talk that the cretin behind these attacks is one of “them.” You know, them. The other. In days past, the role of “the other” was played on this island by, well, us. Unless you were born here, you were once “the other.”

Those days when “the others” were merely Hippie kids now take on the air of nostalgia, although it was seen as enough of a problem that a set of “anti-hippie” bylaws were quickly enacted.

These days you don’t hardly qualify as “the other” if you were born in this country. These days people talk about immigration laws and I.C.E. agents when they talk about “the other.”

But these people are our neighbors. Irish, Jamaicans, El Salvadorans and Bulgarians are our neighbors now. They are not the reason you need to lock your doors. They are our neighbors even if one of them did this. Crime is caused by criminals, and heinous crimes like rape are caused by sick criminals. Crime is a problem, but it is not an immigrant problem.

The problem is that most of us do not know these neighbors. There is the obvious language problem. There is the instinct of people from someplace else to stay with their own and create little underground communities.

“The other” have always been hard to know. But somehow we should try. Not because we are afraid. Small-town life does not lose its luster when we have to lock our doors. The center of small-town life is knowing our neighbors. A locked door should be a habit we teach our kids, even after the cops catch this creep.

– John Stanton

2 Responses to “A different kind of chill”

  1. Vincent Savage Says:

    You could not be more wrong: small town life DOES lose its luster when you have to begin locking your doors. You broadly dismiss any decade comparison as simple nostalgia. It runs much deeper than that. Nantucket did not merely represent an ideal to most who were there in the 1970′s. It was as real in it’s trust as it is now in its distrust. If you think that the character and habits of newcomers makes no difference, you are much confused: as confused as a Democrat Catholic who finds himself in a lockdown with young Republicans at the Heritage Foundation.
    As to natives vis-a-vis summer visitors, I came to Nantucket in 1970 as a college student looking for an exciting summer. MOST of Main street, although owned by King Walter, was lined with local businesses as well as the Water Company office, which was the first stop in my job search. The single employee, a local woman, told me gently that there were no positions available. She then asked me to wait a moment while she telephoned several friends to see if they had job or lodging. I encountered this at business after business. By 11:00 that morning the streets were full of students on the same quest as I. Joe Cahoon, who brought me in from the airport at no charge the night before also contacted his friend, Allen Holdgate, who hired me two days later and served as a great boss and a fine man. My point is at that time, locals still dominated the Island and they were nicer and kinder to me than the people in my own hometown. Nostalgia is often built upon memories slightly twisted to suit our current stage in life. I will never have to interject convenient romance into these memories. They are real. Likewise real is the fact that Nantucket has become as precious as raw meat is to the hungry masses, rich, poor, honest and criminal alike. Greed and Need run as cross currents throughout what still remains as the most beautiful place I have ever been in my life. It seems that Nantucket, like Russia, requires dictators in order to function. First Walter, now Karp. No one can really predict the future of either, but one can trully care. Nantucket will always be in my heart and in my prayers.

  2. Mary H. Michetti Says:

    Just a quick note that may be redundant, but needs repeating none-the-less. Nantucket is a beautiful, magicial place, that I am proud to call home. I am a decendant of the first white Folger/Coffin clans, those people from England, who moved in and did some good and bad deeds while making Nantucket their new home. Nantucket’s mistic is perhaps it’s worst deficit, for it has been a fact for centuries that violent crimes in family homes and the community have been as much a part of the fabric of the island as any other place in the world, and I know where of I speak.

    We are all immigrants and have our own life experiences, some more troubling than others. The issue of violence in a community is more about economics, possible mental health issues, and perhaps ignorance, than being brought by “those others” who we take little time to get to know better. We need to spend less time pointing fingers at groups of people as a whole and begin to hold individuals who commit crimes against others and have a negative impact on the community accountable at every opprotunity. There is plenty of blame to place for many named and un-named violent acts perpitrated on some of us “natives” by our very own ancestors, close family members, and white neighbors. The perpitrtors of such violence should be held accountable, not their families or ethnic group, etc.

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