Eliminating ‘us’ and ‘them’ | Guest column

by Brad Brown

I live on Orcas. I moved here six years ago. I have a vacation rental and I am worried that I will have to move again because I cannot afford the mortgage on my home without the income I receive from that VR cottage.

I am 71 years old and have moved more than 30 times in my life. I don’t want to again.

I understand the motive behind the effort to ban vacation rentals – but don’t be fooled, those in opposition to VRs want to eventually remove them all, even though some of these opposers, themselves are making their own accommodations available to strangers “off the books” and illegally. The issue for them is the nuisance factor: sight, sound, movement. Too many people. And that is why their effort is so appealing.

Who among us who live on the islands haven’t had to wait a little longer at a stop sign, look longingly for parking, stand in the grocery store line for more time than normal, join the hoards outside our favorite restaurant? Just the scene of so many people on “our” streets; and those damn bicyclists? These “others” are a pain in the butt, if you ask the opposition. Let’s get back to some time in our idyllic past before all of “them” … but just after the opposers arrived here.

This is the classic us-them mind.

We don’t want them because. They’re a nuisance. They don’t look right or think the same or act appropriately. They are not from our tribe.

I am a Christian and the parable of the Good Samaritan is important to me. I try to live my life in love and acceptance. I have worked with, for and in assistance to service programs for more than 40 years: rape crisis; sexual assault prevention; child assault prevention; suicide prevention; homeless shelters; drug rehab; immigrant assistance; citizenship training; adult education recovery.

These “others” are often not who we are – on the outside. They are foreign and unsavory in some way. We move to the other side of the street.

This is when I move toward them — while others turn their backs. These are not nuisances, these are people. And, from what I have seen from those who stay at my cottage, these are wonderful people.

Newlyweds who are celebrating their marriage, old-timers cherishing time together after 50+ years of partnership, same-gender couples who feel comfortable staying here, a man and woman who want to get married on the property in from of the little cottage. A young man, who lost his treasured wife to cancer, who travels for some months recreating the holidays that they once shared. A mother and father who are distributing ashes of their son at the local airport because he loved flying in here.

Then there are the guests who bring their doggies. They are so happy the pooch can stay with them on vacation. A couple working at ICU who just needed a break from the Covid madness. The list goes on. But do you recognize any of these folks?

We all should recognize these folks. They are US, not a THEM.

When we talk about reducing or eliminating “tourists” we are talking about diminishing the people they are and we are refusing to acknowledge our fellow travelers on this planet and in this life.

Lighten up, people. Really, enlighten up.