And so another summer begins to draw to a close. Kids are back at school and off our beaches. The weather’s feeling cooler. This was our first summer under the Insanity Administration and we appear to have survived it.
Sometimes with difficulty. All you have to do, really, is peruse Provincetown Community Space on Facebook to know that all is not perfect. Dogs are locked in cars at the Stop & Shop on hot days. People have died, Betty Villari in particular; who will be able to go to the Methodist thrift shop now and not miss her? There’s controversy over how decisions are made in town (that new logo—seriously?) and over the size of yachts that anchor at the pier.
But the thing is, they’re our difficulties. They’re not the effects of Camp Runamuck in Washington. They’re the normal summer blues of a resort town that’s had summer blues ever since the first big yacht anchored here and wrote a compact in the harbor.
I’m happy to be able to write that. I don’t know how long it’s going to last, though, because even our safe haven here at land’s end is vulnerable to the sweeping changes in the country as a whole. Already we’re seeing the Cape Cod National Seashore struggling with a budget that ain’t going to go anywhere but down, and the administration requesting financial cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (you know, the people who tell us when storms are coming). Hurricane Harvey has to be a harbinger of things to come, not just in Texas and Louisiana but all up the Atlantic coast as weather patterns become wilder and more unpredictable, not sometime in the future, but now.
It’s hard to imagine what will happen to Provincetown when something similar hits here—and we all know that it’s not a question of if, but when. Wellfleet lost an entire beach only a few weeks ago, and that wasn’t even due to a hurricane, just a “normal” storm passing through.
Except that normal storms are becoming less and less normal, too.
The lessons of Katrina and Sandy and Harvey and other storms are myriad, but one of them strikes me as being critical: the people who are hurt the most are the people who can afford it the least. The people who are most affected by disasters are the most vulnerable: the poor, the disabled, the elderly. Disasters do discriminate, not because of any celestial Grand Design but because communities discriminate and (ironically) offer fewer resources to those who already have little.
I think it’s adorable that we have time right now to argue about the town’s new logo. But maybe it’s also time for more of us—and I include myself here—to understand what disaster plans are in place for the Outer Cape, and especially what plans are in place for evacuating those who don’t have the means to do it for themselves. Because those plans are what answer the question, Are we a community that cares for its most vulnerable members?
No one wants to talk about disaster planning. No one wants to talk about what will happen when Commercial Street is three feet under the storm surge. But if we don’t plan, then we’ll just engage America’s default position: the wealthy will collect their insurance and move on, and the vulnerable—won’t.
I heard one meteorologist say that if Superstorm Sandy had hit the Cape instead of the Jersey shore, there simply wouldn’t be a Cape anymore. I don’t know if that’s true. I just wonder if it continues to make sense for us to act as though it could never happen.
We’ve all chosen to live here for one reason or another, and I suspect that most of us are pretty stubborn about considering future plans that don’t involve living here. But do you know what you’ll do if your home disappears? Do you have another place you can go? Do you have a way to make a living if the restaurants or inns or shops you work at were to close?
This obviously isn’t news. Disaster planning is part of every town and community’s responsibility, and Provincetown has a plan in place—right? Have you seen it? Do you know what it entails? I think that we need to pay special attention right now to our plans, to being sure that we’re as prepared as we can be, and most especially to looking to how we can care for each other.
Because you can be sure that Camp Runamuck isn’t going to. Recently I heard someone say that it would be great if Provincetown just got cut off from the rest of the Cape and floated away, taking all its perverts with it. That is no doubt the thought of many who are currently making decisions in Washington, decisions that will affect us in myriad ways. We cannot assume that the aid we need will necessarily be available, or easily accessed, or given wholeheartedly.
It’s the end of summer, and we’re all exhausted. This is our time: this is when we get to breathe, to enjoy the natural beauty around us, to catch up with friends and read books and even—miracle of miracles!—drive down Commercial Street. It’s a magical time, and I’m not suggesting that we don’t enjoy every single second of it.
But as the popular TV show warns us, winter is coming. Let’s think, this year, about what’s going to happen if that winter is worse than imagined. At the end of the day, everyone is vulnerable, and the best plans are the ones that take care of every single one of us.