Wednesday, May 16, 2018

What are we at, B'ys?

Oh, Newfoundland, you sure are beautiful aesthetically.

Your rugged coastlines, vibrant and teeming waters, rolling hills that are unmatched anywhere, and colourful saltbox houses that stand out the minute one flies over your landscape - breathtaking.

It really is too bad that you are the Regina George of the world, dressed to the nines but hideous and ugly on the inside; driven only by desires to never be happy and to eat your own.

It sure has been a month. Hell, it has been an existence in this province.

It did not take long after clips of Anthony Bourdain's Newfoundland episode of Parts Unknown started to leak that the ugliness leaked out simultaneously.

"LOUD NOISES!!!11!!!1!"

(We have an unhealthy obsession with blaming everything on our French neighbours and, ironically, raging at them for claiming a distinct culture...)

Bourdain issued an apology. Of course, that also drew scorn and more rage.

We seem to thrive on being enraged.

On the heels of a month where the small town of Springdale made international news for refusing a *gasp* rainbow crosswalk to be painted in their town (on the request of high school students - CHILDREN - who simply wanted a symbol of inclusion), maybe we should tuck away our outrage and try to be grateful for a little positive exposure?

Following a month where our own legislature has been thrown into a whirlwind of controversy over bullying and harassment complaints, where our own elected representatives have continued to shoot themselves in the foot, how about we stop doing the same?

And this morning, media are all over the small town of Middle Arm where children were yanked from a class because they were being taught *gasp* acceptance of their LGBTQ+ peers and learning that maybe, just maybe, they would be accepted themselves.

If any message illustrates perfectly just how important that class is in our communities, it is a tweet from @DavidMaherNL this morning:

"I didn’t come out as gay in my rural high school.
I saw how the few openly gay kids were treated. “Fag” was the go-to insult. I saw the gay kids get bullied “why would I want to be ridiculed like that?”
I would have given anything for someone to tell me being myself was okay."


What are we at?

I wish I could say the mentality of entitlement, of outrage, of the often hatred-driven agenda is a new one.

Back in 1993 when our new high school was built, and we were all excited at the prospects of a new identity for our sports teams, we held a contest. We needed a mascot. Okay b'ys, I grew up around the bay. It was an obvious choice that the Looney Toons character who adorned the mudflaps on every second car was a choice - we picked Taz. Our new high school team would be named the DC Devils.


We had to change the name to the DC Destroyers. I'm still surprised nobody raged about "condoning destruction and violence" then.

When a friend of mine died by suicide in high school, his bandmates gathered around and sang his favourite song under their breath as their best friend went into the ground.


And this from one small town.

So, spare me if I say I find it hard to believe we are making any ground after some of the instances that have come to light recently.

You might read those examples and see a common strain of religion, but I will not dwell or debate on that. Religion is never to blame, it is the interpretation and how it becomes a crutch for hatred and agendas.

We are a culture of entitlement, of back-biting, of covetousness, and we are malicious.

Those on the outside see experiences like those portrayed on Parts Unknown and see the beauty. Broadway goers see the happy, welcoming people dancing and singing across a stage, labels of the happiest and most welcoming people on earth - and I cannot help but think we are some good at putting on a show to the outside.

Come visit!

Come in and have a cup of tea, dear, and watch the gannets diving over the clothes blowing on the line. You'd better not be gay, though, and please pronounce everything correctly - from Quirpon to Rose Blanche - lest we piss in your cup and then write an enraged Facebook post about it.

Come for the icebergs, stay for the bigotry.

And I don't know how we change it.

This embedded hatred, masked self-loathing, and inability to see outside ourselves needs a makeover, and not one to make it more aesthetically pleasing. If there's any old adage Newfoundland solidifies it's that "you can put lipstick on a pig..."

We have the unhealthiest population - ravaged with substance abuse, obesity and disease - but don't dare point that out.

Our economy is trash, young and not-so-old people alike, families, seniors, all struggle to get by, and we fight still for basic decencies like pay equity, a livable wage, respectful workplaces - but she's some pretty here.

We have the highest rates of domestic violence in the country, but we brush it under the rug still, and calls for change fall on deaf ears.

We are a culture driven on self interest and selfishness, but nobody wants to accept that.

Nobody wants to own it.

I'm still shocked that our legislature voted itself out of existence (albeit temporarily) in 1933. That might have been the last time a group of Newfoundlanders got together and said,

"B'ys, we're screwed and maybe we need to fix it."

It might not hurt if we stopped for a moment now, took a good, long look in the mirror. If we read the comments, look around, see what we are and the true problems that fester like an infection under the surface, we might not like what we see.

We might then have a desire for change.

But, until we stop feeding the trolls, until Facebook and news article comments sections stop being breeding grounds for hatred and loathing, and until we stop being in denial about it all, I'm not sure anyone is willing to take that look at themselves.

We need to be better, folks. We need to put the wheels in motion to break the cycles, and we need to say, not type or pretend, that we are better than this.

If we are going to rage and type scathing reviews over the use of the word "Newfie," maybe we need to stop the behaviours that paint us as a punchline; maybe, just maybe, we need to be more concerned with what is under the surface than looking pretty.

I love my home, but Newfoundland is an ugly place sometimes.

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