In response to the letter by the woman who thinks the Virgin Islands is going down the tubes, I have this response:
You have lived on the Island for 22 years, Wow. In that amount of time I would have turned the place up on its ear. It would be bouncing to my rhythm; at the very least we would be doing the bump. Some people have a stronger sense of justice than others. Unfortunately, I happen to one of them. It is never a good idea to pick a fight in the newspaper unless you are willing to put your money where your mouth is. When you have conviction, invest your personal resource in a purpose or idea— I don't just mean money— I mean your time too! You as one person can change everything. I know. I am a change agent.
The crime that makes the most press on all the Islands is rape. Rape is not a crime of passion. It is about control. It is about a sense of entitlement. The laws in VI relative to statutory rape, and sexual crimes are harsher in most places. Unfortunately, the culture in the Virgin Islands supports, in subtle ways, the exploitation of younger girls.
That is for another article. What I want to address here is the idea of one person acting as a catalyst for change. It is a lonely road. That is why the status quo thrives, and after 22 years of living in the place, you have not been able to impact the world you live in. It doesn't say a lot for your beliefs. There are always 50 people standing on the sidelines of life spouting negativity and exuding the energy of the malcontent, to 3 people pulling the cart of societies best efforts and goodwill up the hill.
How many times have you been in a group, and noticed that only one or two actually do the real work associated with the success of a thing? I can tell you it happens often to me. I am usually the idiot slaving away for altruistic purpose with the Polly Anna Attitude, "if only we could get people to do it my way, then it would all be Utopia."
If you start today, the kind of change you are looking for from my experience, will take 13 years, maybe a little more, maybe a little less.
There are some things I know about closed societies, which is what you are facing in the Virgin Islands. You have heard the song, belted out by Frank Sinatra, "New York, New York, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere!" I have often felt that applies to closed small societies like the U.S. Virgin Islands and the home of my ancestors, Fowler, Colorado. My family has been a part of the fabric of the land since the 1600. As a group we can pretty well drive the bus in any direction we want to take it. If you can make it in a leadership role in a closed society, you can make it anywhere.
There are families in the Virgin Islands who are even more entrenched than in my little town; some have been in the Virgin Islands since the 1300's. I am sure "they" are the power behind most success and most failure in the Territory. That brings to mind an idea of Adam Smith, early economists, "People act in their own self interest. In turn this is good for the overall economy!" I believe this applies. It isn't likely that business will fail when people are acting in their own self -interest. By writing this letter to the editor, you have forced the powers to now seek balance, to prove that there is no corruption and that they are looking out for their own best interests, and yours. The key is to now have the courage of your convictions and follow through by using established systems to make small changes in anyway you can. That is what they are doing. They are doing the best they can with what they have to work with.
I can tell you that you will never be one on "them". But you can still affect change and claim your own spot in the sun.
I read you letter and I think that you are angry about having you vehicle towed and having to pay $150.00 to get it out of the tow drivers clutches. I have had the experience of seeing so much corruption in my community; I was ashamed to be an American. In Otero County, Colorado 1990, 25 % of the population was on welfare, 65% of the kids where in the reduced or free lunch program. There were 69 college graduates in the city limits. The rest were high school graduates, with a large percentage of dropouts. Domestic violence was as accepted as a walk in the park. Seventh Grade Girls were schooled in the same building as senior boys. Teen Pregnancy was among the highest in the country. I moved into this after living in Chicago for 12 years. I was pretty shocked by the attitude. Even more shocked, that having visited every year for a few weeks since I was born, I had never noticed the reality.
Since my family was in a leadership role, I went to them first. In power, was what I have come to call the Pseudo Christian Patriarchal Male (PCPM). These are guys that will kill you in the name of God to prove what fine Christians they are. Keep in mind, that in closed societies, it is likely you are related to everyone in one way or another; some are rich, some are poor; some are brown, some are white, very few are educated. Those that are can manipulate the situation. I went to my father, my uncles and I said, "Dad, why don't you do something?" He said, "That is the way 'they' are. That is their lot in life and they will never know anything more!" I said, "Dad, but they are little tiny kids. They deserve a chance. They deserve to live in a violent free home!" "Those people, Janie, they don't have anything, they will never have anything!" "But Dad, they have no hope!" "Exactly!" Later that semester, I learned in business school that only 2% of people ever move in or out of the social economic position they were born too. It is those 2% I set out to provide encouragement too. Polly Anna.
I don't now much about Mr. Elton Lewis, but if he is as horrible as you think he is take him on! Be prepared to be harassed if, he is bad. You might have to go to jail, often. You will not have committed any real transgression, and you will never spend more than three days in jail at a time, but you will feel humiliation. Remember, he is currently in the position to cause you trouble. So this is where courage comes in. Document everything. Eventually, you will have amassed a pretty compelling case against him. Then you can unseat him. When I made the decision to highlight the issue of Domestic Violence in Fowler, Colorado, believe me, I was shunned. I found a comrade in the effort. She was the editor of a neighboring towns newspaper. She was a victim of domestic violence. Whenever she could, she slipped one of my articles in the newspapers. Before long, people were buying newspapers like hot cakes to see what I would say next. It wasn't long before I had a weekly column, distributed in 5 states. I put signs up in the business windows. IS SOME ONE HURTING YOU? CALL 1-800-799-SAFE. The National Domestic Violence Hot Line. (http://www.ndvh.org/). For the first three months, the PCPM came behind me and pulled them down. I put them back up. I caused my father and uncles so much embarrassment. I was a pariah. They could not explain to the PCPM why I could not be controlled. I eventually took grand parental rights away from my parents, and excluded myself from my family. I could not tolerate their value system. I spent 8 years in court taking the local Police Chief and City Government to the mat. It was not only financially draining, but emotional too. Was it worth it? You bet your boots it was! Blood is thicker than water and on the bright side; my family and I are closer than ever. I call our relationship a miracle. We have come to a place of mutual respect. I have fought the lonely fight. It takes a lot more than a letter to the editor to unseat someone you think is rotten. Be prepared to suffer, or accept the status quo. When you win the fight, suddenly you will find, everyone was glad you did
it. Be sure the guy is really bad, and not just misguided. You don't want to ruin someone's life, just because he was in incompetent. If he has a good heart, he will find his own remedy.
EDUCATION. What are you doing to improve the situation? Do you tutor any kids, do you volunteer in an after school program? Do you read to pre-school children at the local library? Do you mentor teen mothers? What do you do? One of the most effective things I did was to bring a stack of Federal Financial Aid Forms to town and make them available at the local watering hole. At the same time, I published deadlines and the process you go through to fill out the paperwork. Is anyone doing that? Could you do that? First generation college students need all the help they can get! If a high school student dozen't have someone to show an interest in his or her success and act as a cheerleader, they often don't look beyond their own limited horizons.
HEALTH CARE. The previous writer wrote, "Why do so many longtime residents (20+ years) leave here, as they get older?" My answer: Boredom. It is called Island Fever. I am surprised you don't leave since you hate it so much. The previous writer wrote, "Why do so many former top-echelon government and private sector employees leave here, as they get older?" My answer: "Boredom, they have a dream. They want to do more than drive around the Island and climb the same hills, swim in the same sea." The previous writer wrote, " Why do some people who years ago bought property here thinking they would retire here decide to sell when they reach that certain age?" My answer: "Cash. Do you know how much equity is there? Great investment, as people age their perceptions change. Grand children become important. Vacations to VI are still doable. But if you live on the Islands, it is more difficult to see those first steps. The previous writer wrote, "The answer is simple. The US VI has never been able to offer a top-notch health care service compared to that which can be found on the mainland." My answer, "Most of the rural mainland, can't even buy a doctor. Bounties are paid to anyone who can get a doctor to move to rural America. Cheyenne Wells was offering $10,000 a few years ago. If a doctor will commit to working in one of these communities, his education is paid for. I have seen 2 – 5 years of service entice a doctor to a rural landscape. The previous writer wrote, "It all goes back to accountability." My answer, "That is right…your personal accountability to impact your world in the way you want to."
THE ECONOMY. The previous writer wrote, "WAPA is the biggest joke of all. The Virgin Islands consumers now pay not only the highest rate per KW under the US flag but also in the Caribbean. And the VI Government still owes WAPA about $16 MILLION but of course won't be shut off – but of course residences and small businesses will be shut off in a heartbeat! This last 20% increase is a real killer and is already resulting in higher prices island-wide in the general marketplace." Energy doesn't make the sum total of an economy. The entire planet is suffering high prices not just you.
FINALLY. The previous writer wrote, "There are many places on the US mainland which have a warm climate and a much lower cost of living than the USVI. In many parts of Florida (removed from hurricane alley) there are countless home rentals available. $1100/month average for a 3BR 2BA with garage, fenced yard, central AC and heat (rates much lower than here) sometimes a pool but all within easy reach of supermarkets where everything is much lower than here. And hospitals and clinics abounding, all top notch!"
I don't know what kind of place you could get for $1100 a month in Florida. It would not be of the caliber I would be willing to live in. Not to mention, Florida has very low wages in comparison to Washington D.C., or Denver, Colorado. I pay $700 a month plus utilities for a single bedroom in a 3 bedroom town house. I have two roommates. The ticket price is $400,000 for something livable here in Virginia, higher in the D.C. Beltway region. The wages here can support these rents. The wages in Florida could not support me in my field. I would be living in poverty.
IN SUMMATION. The previous writer wrote, "Just in my opinion and as a 22 year resident, I see it all slowly going down the tubes. Major changes have been talked about ad nausea over the years but the beat just keeps going on as the rest of the world changes and as the Virgin Islands continues to rest on a status quo of complacency which is simply out of touch." My answer, "In reality, you continue to rest on the status quo of complacency, which is simply out of touch. What have you done for the Virgin Islands lately? "One must not ask what their country can do for them, but rather, what can I do for my country?" – President Kennedy.
Jane Blake Moore
Castle Rock, Colo./ Reston, Va.
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