Thoughts on what divides Nantucket and what brings us together

Nantucket is often a peculiar place. There is an imaginary, yet obvious, divide here among several kinds of people. 

The most often talked about is the division between people who were born on Nantucket (the natives) and those who were born somewhere else (the washashores). But it goes even deeper than that. There are some people who claim a higher level of local legitimacy because their island lineage goes back further than those who only have one or two generations hanging from their Nantucket family tree (as if they had anything to do with the choices their great, great, great, great grandparents made). 

There is a division between homeowners as well. Are you a summer person or year-round? Even year-rounders divide into groups. Do you disappear to Belize or Costa Rica in the bleak winter months? Or do you tough it out with the rest of us? 

Of course, there is the long-standing division between the wealthy and the poor here, but even that schism has gradients of distinction: the struggling, the working poor, the house poor, the middle class, the well-off, the millionaires and the billionaires. And there’s a line drawn among the Hispanic community, the Jamaican community, and the eastern European community.

Another distinction: do you have stable housing or do you have to do the shuffle every six or eight months? There are parents who send their kids to one of the two island private schools and those who prefer the public school system. There’s a division between those who work in construction, hospitality, real estate, or the non-profit sector. And there’s a split between the people who are involved in the town government and those who vote occasionally or not at all. 

And sometimes the divisions are hard to get your head around, like the pro-Nantucket-license-plate faction and the anti-Nantucket-license-plate coalition (who doesn’t approve of over $800,000 raised for island children’s charities?). 

It’s a little daunting thinking about all of the things that divide us as a community. In fact, this may be the crux of our problems and eroding quality-of-life we currently face. Our divisions harm our island in ways we can’t even quantify. 

To ACK•Now, none of the above distinctions really matter all that much. There’s only one litmus test that we care about when we look for supporters and allies and volunteers: 

Do you love Nantucket? 

Do you love the island enough to put away personal short-term gains in favor of a better, more secure future? Or do you care more about your own bottom line? Your piece of the pie? Or how you look on Instagram (you look marvelous by the way)?

Wash-ashore, native, rich, poor, nail-banger, push-raker, Bruins fan or Red Sox fan, whale pants or ripped jeans — if you love Nantucket, you’re our kind of people. And we want to hear from you. And here are a few ways you can get involved with us.

If we can all learn to put aside what divides us and concentrate on the love-of-community we have in common, we can engineer changes that will last for generations.  

Have a great Sunday.

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