Chris Perry Column: Sock It To Me

Chris Perry •

Air Force One on Nantucket. Photo by Kit Noble

I think the dust has finally settled.

Air Force One roared off the island. The State Troopers and their motorcycles are back on the mainland. The Secret Service has returned to Washington and Joe and Jill are back in D.C.

In between Thanksgiving ending and Christmas Stroll starting, it seems like the island has taken a deep breath as it pumps itself up for one last hurrah in 2023.

The movers and shakers who pushed the extended Thanksgiving holiday and Stroll Weekend together are marketing geniuses. I haven’t found a single local merchant who doesn’t mind the 10-day bump in foot traffic to end their season, especially with the added buzz of the Biden family in town last week.

But as we say goodbye to Joe and hello to Santa, it seems there is a growing number of people on-island who aren’t too thrilled with President Biden’s annual Thanksgiving holiday on Nantucket.

Before offering my two cents worth and a slightly different take on this matter, today’s column is not meant to be a political debate. I will leave that discussion for another time and another place. Being fiscally conservative, socially liberal, and in the minority as a registered Republican on Nantucket, it is no secret that I am not a big fan of President Biden.

But what I am a big fan of is the Office of the President. And, sadly, too many of us have lost respect for that institution.

Maybe, it’s a generational thing. Maybe, it’s a sign of the times. Or maybe, Joe Biden is the present Presidential punching bag. But whatever the reason, the Office of the President deserved better from some of us this past week.

The bitching and moaning hasn’t stopped. Over the last few days, there has been as much discord and strife about the President’s recent Thanksgiving holiday on Nantucket as there has been about Mac Jones playing quarterback for the Patriots.

What’s the big problem?

Now, before you start lining up to yelp about the President’s massive entourage and support staff, the traffic detours, or the security lines at the annual tree lighting ceremony on Main Street, I agree.

You are right.

The President’s armada of support staff and the associated security detail was way over the top. The cost to the taxpayers was enormous and it was borderline ridiculous.

The road closings and detours were as frustrating as a Yates Gas truck stopped in the middle of India Street on a Saturday morning in August.

The security gates for the tree lighting ceremony looked more like a visual stunt as just about anyone could slip through any back door of a Main Street shop or restaurant.

But, were we born yesterday?

We all knew this was coming and if you thought the long security lines “compromised” your enjoyment of the tree lighting ceremony, then leave your house early or don’t come at all. Let’s be honest, you can’t tell me you haven’t waited in line for over an hour for a table at Nautilus or 90 minutes for an ice cream at The Juice Bar.

Personally, I opted not to go. Been there, done that.

But I did arrive immediately after the ceremony and Main Street was packed. It felt like a combination of a sunny start to a Daffodil Weekend, a cheerful Saturday afternoon of Christmas Stroll, and a Taylor Swift concert at Fenway. The overwhelming number of people appeared happy - families were singing together on Main Street - and it seemed to me that everyone was enjoying the terrific weather and the festive atmosphere.

At that moment - and regardless of my political affiliation - I was proud to be a member of the Nantucket community and respectful of the fact that the President of the United States selected our island home as a place to celebrate his Thanksgiving.

However, there was a dark side.

For example: I felt the inappropriate signs and banners directed at President Biden while in town attempted to steal the spotlight and it ruined the enjoyment for many Nantucket families.

I felt the uncomfortable and unnecessary chants chasing the First Family as they strolled down Broad, Centre, and Main streets were rude and out of place.

“Armchair murderer” and “Biden, Biden, you can’t hide. We charge you with genocide.”

Is that the best you can do?

It’s Thanksgiving for Godsake - at least let the man and his family walk down Main Street in peace and attend service at St. Mary’s.

If you have lived on Nantucket for the past 30 years, the Bidens are not strangers. OK… they flew in on a big, private jet but they ate at the Brotherhood, shopped in town, and got their turkey from Bill Puder at Faregrounds.

Again, this is not a political statement. But it is a statement about recognizing the Office of the President and cutting any President and the office a little slack. As residents of Nantucket, we should be proud of the fact that a sitting President opted to travel to Nantucket for Thanksgiving regardless of the temporary inconveniences or one’s political affiliation.

You want to protest out on Polpis Road? Knock yourself out.

You want to carry some signs around the rotary? Go for it.

But, as citizens of a country that allows such freedoms, we should draw a line in the island sand and let the man and his family enjoy a peaceful few Nantucket minutes walking in town on Main Street and not bombard them with insults.

OK…Now, it’s your turn.

If you want, you can send your letters to the editor, emails, and texts to the Current about your First Amendment rights and freedom of speech. But if you haven’t noticed, I do understand. I am especially grateful every time I pen a column. But frankly, I don’t understand when the protesters seem more concerned about being the story instead of protesting against the story.

One year from now when the Bidens return for their annual Thanksgiving holiday on Nantucket, things could be drastically different. Only time will tell. Will the island embrace a lame-duck President and soon-to-be citizen Joe Biden or will we welcome the newly, re-elected President Joe Biden?

For me, I doubt I will react much differently.

If it’s citizen Joe Biden, I hope he quietly arrives and heads out to Abram’s Point with his family to enjoy the holiday.

Why not? It’s a hell of a view.

If it’s President Joe Biden, I will look to the skies in quiet frustration as the military planes start to arrive. And later, maybe I’ll catch of glimpse of him as he’s leaving the Brotherhood.

Why not? I bet he loves the curly fries too.

But more importantly, I will give the man a tip of my Boston Bruins hat acknowledging the fact that a sitting President has returned to Nantucket to enjoy Thanksgiving with his family even though I have a drastically different view of the world.

Throughout history, only 46 individuals can speak for the Office of the President. Regardless of their political backgrounds, I bet they would all agree on one thing.

Aretha Franklin was right: “All I’m askin’ for is just a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T …"

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