We have met the enemy, and he is us!
Status quo, 100; Youth and a bright future, 0.
Will the last person out please close the door and turn of the lights! We have once again managed to shoot ourselves in the foot, big time..
Have I got your attention? Good!
The whole WAPA/Southern Energy proposal was about "A New Beginning" — about us as a community coming together, doing our due diligence (familiarizing ourselves with the total body of information available on this issue) and coming to a sound decision on what is best for the whole of the U.S. Virgin Islands, our people, our infrastructure, our institutions, our environment and our general short- and long-term welfare.
Our youth, who are in fact very bright, resourceful, passionate, imaginative, courageous, compassionate and forward-thinking, took a terrible beating early Saturday morning in the Legislature. But why should we be surprised — in spite of the fact that it is the culture around here to call them our "treasure" and supposedly honor, revere and respect them? During the last four days, actions spoke much louder than words; but then, this has been going on for years.
I can recall so many situations that involved the government and/or government/private sector initiatives for the benefit of our youth that have stumbled, fallen or never gotten off the ground.
The young people came to this process bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, well-informed, full of energy and hope and with a sound vision of the future — their future. They articulated this far better than the majority of their elders (probably a strategic error on their part), I suspect because of their openness, their enthusiasm for change and a fervent hope for and belief in a bright future for many of them here at home.
What did they get for their effort? Simply the usual horrendous harping, so common around here nowadays; criticism for not thinking for themselves; for knuckling under to the influence of the giant corporate marauder from Atlanta; and downright disrespect from many who should know better, but apparently do not, or just do not really care about the future of our islands – our youth.
Sen. Allie-Allison Petrus summed it up extremely well on Friday, when obviously he had had it up to his eyeballs with the bad behavior and lack of respect being demonstrated in our Legislature for the whole world to see. I quote Petrus: "We ought to be ashamed of ourselves for acting like this." It is appalling how we treat each other – total lack of regard or respect for our fellow man. Sadly it reflects on the individual dishing it out. If one does not respect oneself, it is impossible to respect another.
Having witnessed this whole scene, one would have to ask…
* Why would any rational young person, who was able to leave these shores and go off to finish their education and prepare themselves in all ways for the future, choose to come back to this rat's nest, when there are so many opportunities elsewhere?
* Why would any national, multinational, international or global entity wish to come here into this hornet's nest and take the outright abuse they must endure for the privilege or right to do business here or to partner with us to build a better Virgin Islands or to create a true "American Paradise," when there are so many opportunities elsewhere?
* Why would any person consider spending a holiday, a time of rest and relaxation, a time for getting away from it all in a "paradise" setting, a time for learning about other people and cultures, consider coming to an island whose people foul their own nest and care not how it is perceived by their visitors, when there are so many opportunities and options elsewhere?
Those of you who can see yourselves as a part of the above negative picture had best ponder your future utterances, actions and behavior — because the day of reckoning is coming.
The answers to the above may rest in several areas:
* We do not know the extent of the silent majority, but I suspect it is much larger than we think. That vote early Saturday morning may just be the wake-up-call — the call to action, to start the process of putting our house in order. The hope I saw during the these recent hearings and legislative session, is that many bright, caring, thoughtful, forward-thinking people came forward with courage and expressed their abiding love for these islands and their future, in which they would like to play a part and have a significant stake. These people all have family, friends, neighbors and associates who most likely have the same passion for our home and its well-being as do the presenters. We shall see!
* The very fact that Southern Energy and its people endured the abuse they experienced right up to the end — and they hung in to the bitter end, as did Beal Aerospace — should tell us that we have a great deal to offer across the board to those who would like to join us in building a strong, "lovely place to be" U.S. Virgin Islands. Southern Energy spelled it out for us in meticulous detail and yet many still did not really listen or choose to listen. Southern Energy is most likely gone and we cannot blame them, but we can take stock now and take the steps necessary to get us out of our negative, provincial, unproductive ways. Others will follow, but it will take much more work, due diligence and significant cleaning up of our collective act to be ready to receive the next wave of newcomers.
* God created the most beautiful, precious venue in his universe — which is our home. It just so happens to be only three to five hours from most major gateways in the United States, seven to nine hours from major European gateways and the same holds true for Central and South America. Many Asians will come here in large numbers in spite of the cost if we have something of real value to share with them — this treasure of ours. This place can be a paradise, for us and for those we wish to share it with — what are we willing to do in concert with each other to maximize the goodness of our God given situation — first for ourselves and then for those who may wish to come here and be with us?
Gov. Charles Turnbull convinced a number of us to vote for him not because he was some Houdini who would solve all of our problems and instantly pull us out of the mire that we have created for ourselves over the past 25 years or so that I have lived here, but because he said that he did not have all of the answers and would therefore reach out to the best and the brightest and those with expertise who are living here, no matter who they might be, to roll up their shirt sleeves and put their shoulder to the task.
He also was able briefly to articulate a "Grander Vision," an intriguing concept which obviously takes a tremendous effort to bring to life and to nurture, especially in a place like the Virgin Islands. Are we up to it? We shall see!
It has not happened yet. We are not happy with much of what he has either done or not done, decisions he has either made or not made in these first two years of his administration. That is the reality of how the system works, but I see a glimmer of hope in his leadership, particularly of late. His position concerning "The Partnership" — if anything, he could have pushed harder. But, he is right in his position on Southern Energy and showing the first real signs of strong, positive leadership and statesmanship in what has to be the world's most difficult venue to govern.
One has only to listen briefly to the daily talk shows to get a very quick notion of what a difficult, if not almost impossible place the U.S. Virgin Islands is to govern. There are almost as many agendas and opinions as there are people who talk on these shows; many people who do talk, but do not listen or do their due diligence before jumping in, just wing it or mouth off and then raise the octave level when challenged. The question is, do they represent a vocal minority or a silent majority? We shall see!
The governor, I a
m sure, will press on. We hope he will immediately start to reach out to that wealth of expertise living here, who can and will step up to the plate and, in many cases, willingly volunteer their expertise to help us resolve a number of pressing problems, issues and situations facing us every day, if only asked.
There is no question in my mind that if we all shift into a positive, concerned, caring mode and put our personal agendas and programs aside; harness our petty egos and practice a lot of civility and respect in our interactions with each other, that we will be amazed at all we can accomplish together in a very short time. This is not rocket science, but it will require a lot of work, patience, compromise and understanding of our fellow man to prevail. You may say "this can never happen in the Virgin Islands"; I say it can if we all calm down and really apply ourselves to the situations at hand.
I also say that, in my humble opinion, we have no option but to start and move down the path to "A New Beginning." Governor, we await your pleasure.
I will close the way I began: The time is here for " A New Beginning." If you are not registered to vote, please get this done as soon as possible. There has never been a more important time in our history than now to exercise your right as a concerned, caring citizen and vote. Make your wishes known for a better tomorrow in our home.
We have a lot of work to do and not much time to do it in. We must sort out who we really want to represent us during the next two years and how. I am vitally interested in knowing if, in fact, there is a silent majority in the U.S. Virgin Islands that detests the mentality of "status quo" and "business as usual" that has plagued us for so many years, and is willing to stand up to it.
If you are truly concerned about our current situation and would like to join a grassroots effort to confront and change what we have today, please write, call, fax or e-mail me and express your interest and commitment to making an extraordinary move to change what ails our lovely Islands. Do not underestimate the gravity or the enormity of this task: It will take hard work, a great deal of time and effort and a major commitment of everyone involved between now and the November election. I feel it's a given and worthy of our best effort.
This may be our last chance!
Rik Van Rensselaer is a longtime charter yacht owner-operator and a founding member of the V.I. Marine Industry Association.
WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY, AND HE IS US
We have met the enemy, and he is us!
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