Opinion

Enjoy these few moments in the sun

We suppose it is a black day for isolationists.

Our beloved but closely held community of Bainbridge Island and its many virtues and charms are splashed across the glossy pages of a magazine that claims a readership of 7.6 million people.

Good schools! Nice views! And homes that, while madly inflated by any reasonable standard, are still way more affordable than those in California! To the anxious mind, the article might as well say, “Move here now!”

Except, of course, for the other 99 communities on Money magazine’s list of Best Places To Live for 2005, towns that claim largely the same virtues and charms as Bainbridge. Another coastal community, Barrington, R.I. (No. 6), “retains the leisurely feel of its days as an early 20th-century summer resort. Shops are clustered along County Road, the main street that runs through Barrington, but the commercial hub is small.” Sound familiar? Or how about Middleton, Wis. (No. 7), where a three-year average of state test scores showed the town’s students ranked within the state’s top three in all subjects. “Residents occasionally gripe about the property taxes that come with that excellence, but there’s plenty of opportunity to do well here.” That may sound familiar, too.

It’s better to be recognized for what you have done than what you haven’t, and by that measure, Money’s selection of Bainbridge Island as a top-notch community doesn’t strike us as a bad thing. Being surrounded by beautiful water, and within a stone’s throw of one of the finer cities on the West Coast, that is a matter of happenstance. But we’re also a community that attracts interesting people, demands a lot of itself and usually aspires to good things. Why would we expect to go unnoticed?

We could, we suppose, hold a town meeting and resolve to begin aspiring to mediocrity instead. We could fail a few more school levies, and contribute less to those ubiquitous community fund drives. Let Helpline wither away, watch graffiti go unchecked, march our kids around the football field in tattered uniforms, stop going to community plays. Cancel the open space program. Stop volunteering. Hunker down against the world and guard your stash.

But we don’t think that’s a good strategy either. If there’s a threat to the community, it’s not from being “discovered” by the outside world. It’s from lowering our own standards, and no longer caring about the people and the environment around us. We don’t see that happening anytime soon, so get used to fame.

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Addendum: While we were contemplating the Money magazine designation, several folks we spoke with pointed out that nothing seems to sell magazines these days like lists. From “Top 10 Ways to Get In Shape For Summer” to “Five Secrets That Will Drive Him/Her Wild In Bed” to “100 Bright, Shiny Objects You Can’t Live Without,” the newsstands and online media are chockablock with bite-size wisdom that Can Change Your World. One of our writers recalls a recent “definitive” list that named Ronald Reagan the greatest figure in American history, ahead of George Washington (fourth) and Ben Franklin (fifth).

So take such lists for what they’re worth.

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