“VINEYARD HYPOCRITES!” announced a banner towed by a light aircraft for about 45 minutes earlier this week over the Martha’s Vineyard hamlet of Aquinnah, which until 1997 was known as “Gay Head.”
The demonstration was just one of many hard knocks Vineyard residents have endured since 48 mostly Venezuelan migrants were removed from the “sanctuary” island by the National Guard last Friday. After receiving basic support, but no invitations to stay on an island where 63 percent of homes are vacant in the offseason, the migrants now reside at Joint Base Cape Cod (JBCC), a military installation in mainland Massachusetts.
Critics have been relentless in calling out Vineyard hypocrisy. As a “sanctuary” jurisdiction in a self-proclaimed “sanctuary” state, Martha’s Vineyard joined other such places, which promise never to inform on migrants to immigration authorities. Yet it did precisely that the second even a small number of them appeared in their midst.
The Vineyard community allowed the migrants to sleep in a church hall and gave them basic meals before the military took them away in the presence of cheering crowds of well-off locals who sincerely believe they did a good and honorable deed.
From the moment their “humanitarian crisis” began, Vineyard residents congratulated themselves and lectured an incredulous world on their monumental virtue and inexhaustible compassion. The church where the migrants stayed, now styling itself “St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and Sanctuary,” has advertised a service of “prayer, reflection, gratitude, and visioning” to celebrate the Vineyard’s resident “angels,” but not the “Venezuelan friends” they sent away a week earlier.
It was unclear if any migrants would attend, but they are now so far away it is hard to imagine how they could. The Vineyard’s status as an affluent resort island, where nearly 80 percent of residents voted for Joe Biden, and where signs purportedly welcoming immigrants, refugees, and indigenous peoples abound, enhanced the delicious irony.
Unsurprisingly, no major publication has ventured any feature-length defense of the islanders. Only their local rag, the Martha’s Vineyard Times, has denounced the widespread “‘Vineyard hypocrites’ line” as a “false narrative,” the standard term of dismissal now used for any assertion that contradicts leftist values and claims. The paper also questions the use of the word “deported” on the curious grounds that the military base to which the migrants were removed offers “access to bathrooms, showers, and food.” How humane. What generosity.
While some commentators have criticized Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for sending the migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, a social media search of every major platform now reveals much larger numbers blasting away at Vineyard shamelessness. Despite the best efforts of leading Democrats, it is simply too hard to convince any sane person that being sent by private plane to a beautiful New England hideaway resort is “cruel,” “sick,” “wrong,” “criminal,” or “un-American.” This is especially true when the well known alternative is homelessness and despair in impoverished border towns already overwhelmed by millions of other migrants who have been allowed in under policies advocated by those same Democrats.
The migrants haven’t helped the leftist narrative by praising the Vineyard’s beauty, suggesting that they would like to go back to the island, and—as reported by MSNBC—some even thanking DeSantis for sending them there. A “class action” lawsuit filed by only three of them against DeSantis and Florida transportation officials has offered the spectacle of people who entered our country illegally suing American public officials within days of their arrival under constitutional and civil rights laws that do not apply to them as noncitizens or residents. Media sources were quick to point out that an advocacy organization sponsoring the lawsuit received nearly $1.4 million from George Soros, the most hypocritical do-gooder of them all.
As the reenergized American Right peals with laughter, anti-Vineyard memes abound. One mocks a smiling and stylish Vineyard beauty watching the migrants leave. Another features an old Ku Klux Klan group photo featuring “Women of the Democrat Party” standing beneath a superimposed “Martha’s Vineyard” banner. Still another shows an island sign decorated with colorful diversity symbols proclaiming “Hate Has No Home Here,” with an asterisked note reading “and neither do migrants.” Several other memes transpose photos of Trump’s border wall construction to Vineyard vistas. The hip-hop artist Bryson Gray quickly released a single mocking Vineyard residents, with lyrics including “Let ’em stay at Obama’s house. No child left behind” and “They say they want open borders, but that’s really a lie.”
The Wall Street Journal flip-flopped from dismissing DeSantis’s airlift as a “stunt” to publishing a sober op-ed by Republican strategist Karl Rove observing the disparity between the massive number of illegal immigrants apprehended at the border and the comparatively few sent to Democratic-governed “sanctuaries.”
The comedic Onion, which mostly mocks ideas and public figures on the Right, could not resist satirizing Vineyard residents as spoiled, pompous, overprivileged fools suffering from an embarrassing lack of self-awareness.
In a rare moment of integrity, even the humorless New York Times admitted that the “progressive reaction was beyond parody.” The former paper of record conceded that DeSantis’ airlift “succeeded politically,” perhaps enough that it might persuade the Biden Administration to do better on border and immigration policy.
After many years of inattention, numerous political and civic leaders have publicly called for comprehensive reform in those areas, which are now at the center of national discussion, thanks in significant part to clueless Vineyard liberals uninterested in being the change they wish to see in the world.
The story won’t die. “Martha’s Vineyard remains in national spotlight,” announced a chagrined Martha’s Vineyard Times in a headline. Escalation of the war in Ukraine, Queen Elizabeth II’s era-ending funeral, Biden’s frightening gaffe over Taiwan, a hurricane in Puerto Rico, persistent inflation, a looming global energy crisis, and seemingly unavoidable economic disaster have all failed to eclipse a relatively minor event involving four dozen strangers who spent less than 48 hours among people very different from themselves on an 87-square mile island.
And it’s still hilarious!
When the “Vineyard Hypocrites!” banner appeared over Aquinnah, island residents melted down all over again. “I was so upset, understandably so,” Aquinnah denizen Sarah Melkonian presumptuously told the Boston Globe. Her neighbor Liz Whitman denounced the plane banner as “absolute idiocy,” observing that the land below is owned by the Wampanoag Tribe, a Native American community graciously permitted to remain on the island, which is about 90 percent white but hosts some sort of “Native American” festival to look like it embraces diversity.
In an online residential discussion group that was initially “closed” but has since been security-upgraded to “private,” Melkonian denounced the “continuing harassment” inherent in having to see an upsetting airplane banner for less than an hour, which she comically called a “national disgrace.”
“[I’m] horrified by the ugly targeting you are experiencing there,” wrote seasonal resident Mary Williams Montague, who had already left her now presumably vacant Vineyard property but wasn’t sufficiently “horrified” to offer it to the migrants or rush back to take any other role.
“We did not simply ship them off the island,” Melkonian insisted days after the migrants were simply shipped off the island. “If you believe the hatred and lies in your lying news,” she admonished imaginary antagonists, “you know nothing about our island or our people.”
Melkonian also insisted that her critics know nothing of the “plight” of the migrants, who had to endure nearly two days of life in one of America’s wealthiest communities due to the actions of what she described as “right winged Republicans.” She might have asked how much fun it is to be around people with her apparent neuroses.
Judging from other comments in the online island discussion groups, whose posts have been published by the maverick New England journalist Aidan Kearney, and elsewhere, it could be that we know all too much about the Vineyard and its people.
In the finest tradition of American liberalism, irate Vineyard residents immediately set about trying to discover who was behind the airplane incident, who authorized the plane’s flight, and even who manufactured the banner. An inquiry that islanders apparently placed with the Federal Aviation Administration revealed that the offending plane is too small to require federal tracking information.
This sat poorly with Joe Hill, who wondered in a hyperbolic media comment, “What would stop this pilot from bombing the area?” and called for the Department of Homeland Security to “track down and arrest those involved” in exercising free speech in Vineyard skies.
According to Geoff Freeman, director of the island’s only airport, numerous residents phoned him demanding to know where the flight had originated. He claimed “no knowledge,” though he could deduce that it had not taken off from the Vineyard’s airport due to its lack of clearance for banner-towing aircraft. Perhaps the islanders foresaw such grave consequences and adopted an ounce of prevention.
Like any group of beleaguered radicals, aggrieved Vineyard people soon began a hunt for traitors in their midst.
Beth McElhiney observed that “in the past few days there have been [sic] a bunch of people [in the online discussion group] who have no connection to the island.” She also wanted to uncover how Kearney, who had posted the cringe screenshots, “got into MV groups.” Ironically, McElhiney herself appears to have moved off the Vineyard some years ago, after her craft design business failed there.
Speaking for the island’s many Karens, avid birdwatcher and Black Lives Matter supporter Karen Swift-Shannon suspected Kearney uses an alias to infiltrate their embarrassing, but not very private, discussions. Mitch Klingensmith, an “author” of no readily accessible published work who seems to have even less commitment to openness and transparency, replied, “I don’t know but this could be bad for everyone.”
When Boston Globe reporter Britt Bowker asked Melkonian for permission to use her photographs of the airplane banner, she received an emphatic, “NO! Unless I review and approve the story.” Just who’s trying to control the narrative now?
More idealistic Vineyard residents wondered why anyone would do something so terrible as to point out the yawning chasm between their words and actions on an issue of national importance. “It’s because we made them look bad,” imagined Sascha Wlodyka, subscribing to the mistaken impression that the situation has harmed DeSantis’ prospects in November.
Chilmark resident Robert Skydell, a retiree who writes the occasional ornery piece for the Vineyard Gazette, a dull island magazine, thought it would be productive to invite “right-wing media pundits” for “a tour and show them what a safe, diverse, and multicultural community actually looks like.” I’m already in Palm Beach, but the Vineyard might not be as safe as he imagines. In 2014, his town’s police department arrested none other than Sascha Wlodyka on three counts of larceny and one count of forgery after she stole cash from an organic farm. She admitted guilt, paid $2,100 in restitution, and served no jail time, but what else would happen to a privileged white Vineyard woman with an uncertain grasp of ethics.
The last word should go to Wes Nagy, a Vineyard church music director and reported “believer in karma,” who estimated that the cost of the airplane banner “could’ve fed the immigrants for a month.” It did not occur to him that they might have been fed for an even longer time by the $43,000 raised via GoFundMe under the call “Urgent plea to help Martha’s Vineyard migrants.” Astonishingly, that collection was not forwarded to cover their further needs. According to the GoFundMe page, it has instead gone to the Martha’s Vineyard Community Foundation, a self-described “$16-million organization,” for use in ”building up a reserve to assist situations like this” the next time DeSantis sends migrants to the island.
Now that the Vineyard is ready, let’s hope DeSantis sends more soon and often. Whether he does or not, it will be a very long time before many Americans can pronounce the words “Martha’s Vineyard” without the pained eye roll once reserved for the now funereal adjacent island of Chappaquiddick.