The Trump Factor: Warding Against Hate Across the Border

It’s been kind of a crazy week.  To put it mildly.

In my last post, I implored the American people to kick Trump and his hateful rhetoric to the curb.  So sure was I, that they would do the right thing, and do it decisively that I never even bothered to think what would happen if I was wrong.

And I was sooo wrong.  I watched stunned, as so many across North America did, as Donald Trump became President of the United States.  President.  Of the United States.

Now, some Americans might wonder why Canadians care so much about the outcome of their election.  It’s simple for all the reasons I stated in my previous post.  What happens in the U.S. almost certainly will have impacts on the lives of Canadians, in direct and indirect ways.

Some people are calling Trump’s win Whitelash, or white supremacy’s last stand in America.  And when I see how women and minorities are being targeted and assaulted post election, it’s hard to disagree with that.  It’s like every hateful thought anyone has ever had has been validated and normalized.  I’m afraid these behaviours will seep across our border, into our neck of the woods. We’ve fought so hard to become a more accepting and inclusive society, we must not step backwards.  My Canada includes all races and cultures. My Canada is kind.  My Canada supports all its citizens.

Sometimes it feels like Canada is an island of hope in a sea of hate and ignorance.  Not that we don’t have racism and discrimination in this country, we most certainly do.  But we decided during our last federal election what kind of country we wanted to be; one in which the persecuted of the world could escape to and be safe.  We must be vigilant in protecting these ideals.

Experts say that white America feels threatened, like they are losing their country.  And I’m sure there are people who feel that way here.  But where did this idea come from?  A place cannot be owned by any one group of people.  It can’t be owned by anyone.

We belong to this place, this place doesn’t belong to us.

We are its stewards; its caretakers only.  Canada doesn’t belong to us, and it never did.

As if Trump’s win this week wasn’t enough to send you over the edge, Leonard Cohen passed away, at the age of 82.  The Canadian singer/songwriter/poet extraordinaire, who gave us such iconic classics as the much-covered Hallelujah, among so many others.

It’s a melancholy song that perfectly matches many of our feelings this past week.  So much so, that SNL decided to have Kate MacKinnon open with it, in character as Hillary Clinton.  It was a powerful and cathartic moment.

We can take some comfort from the last verse of the song, with its themes of resilience and hope for the future:

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

 

 

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There’s Nothing New Under the Sun (Except Absolutely Everything)

Earlier today I posted this photo and caption on Instagram:

It got me thinking about this concept.  If there really is nothing new under the sun and we’re all destined to repeat the same tedious and mind-numbing cycles over and over again, why do we even bother?

Why do we get up in the morning?  Why even step outside the door?

Why do we bother to travel and explore the world, if it’s all been seen before?

And that got me thinking about that Barenaked Ladies song, “It’s All Been Done”.  Here it is, because I know you’re all singing it in your heads now:

I understand it can be frustrating, when you’re trying to be original and create something truly unique, only to find that it’s been done already.  So, what’s a gal to do?

I say, do it anyway.

Whatever it is, it hasn’t been done by you.  That story hasn’t been told by you.  And so really, it hasn’t been told at all.

This is not permission to plagiarize someone else’s work, please do not misunderstand me.  But we have to give ourselves permission to be creative, even in this exceedingly ‘it’s all been done’ time we live in.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a great book about living a creative life, called Big Magic.  In it, she discusses the difference between originality and authenticity.  She says, “These days, I’m far more moved by authenticity.  Attempts at originality can often feel forced and precious, but authenticity has quiet resonance that never fails to stir me.  Just say what you want to say, then, and say it will all your heart.  Share whatever you are driven to share.  If it’s authentic enough, believe me – it will feel original“.  Smart lady.

The same concept applies when exploring the world.  If it’s the first time you’ve been somewhere, explore it like you’re the first to set foot there.  Because, to you, it is the first time and it feels the same anyway.  I can tell you that the sense of wonder I feel when I hike a new forest path or visit a new-to-me place is not in the least diminished by the knowledge that thousands of people have been there before me.

So, let’s take the sage advice of the folks at The North Face and Never Stop Exploring.  

never stop exploring

Because yes, there is nothing new under the sun.

Except absolutely everything.

 

 

Share Your Maritime Love: Wes Booth

Feeling frustrated with the situation in his province and the lack of support available for youth, Wes Booth and a friend took matters into their own hands last summer and founded the group We Are NS. Wes immediately hit the road for a hitchhiking tour of the province to meet Nova Scotians and share stories of positivity.  You may have seen him on the side of the highway, or had him paint your nose blue as part of his grassroots social media campaign, #bluenoserbychoice.

His passion project, while at times overwhelming, has garnered him lots of attention and social media followers.  He understands the challenges facing youth in our region and he’s committed to helping to create solutions and that’s why he is the perfect person to launch our Share Your Maritime Love project.

Do you live in the Maritimes?  If so, where do you call home?

Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

What do you love most about life in the Maritimes?

The people.  We have a safe and beautiful environment but our people make the biggest difference and they are our greatest asset.

What do you find most challenging about living/doing business here?

The conservative nature and narrow-minded thinking.  People are constantly being told, “times are tough, resources are limited”.  We are resistant to change, anything new is considered a risk.  We don’t listen to each other.  We need to learn to communicate, to respect each other, to collaborate.  We need to support people in trying things.  I think a lot of it stems from fear.  We need to see competition as healthy.  I think we can learn a lot from America’s example in the way they always strive to improve and get better.

But I do think there is more opportunity here than other parts of the country where the markets are saturated.  If you are a risk taker with passion and you work hard, you can make it happen here.

What is your favourite place(s) in the Maritimes?  Why?

Cape Breton, NS – When I was there I really felt their struggle and I could relate to that used, abused, forgotten feeling.  The place is beautiful, the people are awesome and welcoming. They have resiliency.  They’re survivors.

White Point, NS – This is a special place that my family goes to a lot.

What do you think we can do to build a better Maritimes?

Make youth feel valued.  We have no future if we don’t value youth.  And it’s not just about retaining youth, but attracting youth too.  Unless you prove yourself or get lucky or persevere you can’t get anywhere.  Youth and seniors are the two groups that have the most free time – we can use them.  We need to invest in youth programs, invest in people. We need to attract new people who can sustainably live here, attract people with like-minded values and build around that.

Thanks so much to Wes for participating!  You can follow Wes on social media @wesleybooth as well as his group We Are NS @wearenovascotia.

If you would like to take part in our Share Your Maritime Love project, I’d love to hear from you!

 

Making Sense of Insensible Acts

I think we’re all still reeling from the horrific events that took place in Paris last night.  I know that I am.  Images and sounds that we can’t get out of our heads.  Innocent people enjoying their Friday evening, only to discover the worst of humanity.

Much like the stages of grief, I believe there is a natural process that we go through as we watch traumatic events like this unfold (which are becoming far too frequent):

 1.  The first stage is disbelief – what did that last tweet just say?  Bombings in the heart of Paris?  This can’t possibly be true!  We scour the internet for any morsel of information that we can glean, in an attempt to disprove our worst fears.

2.  When it’s been confirmed that this is indeed happening, there is an immediate coming together in solidarity.  Social media feeds were filled with messages of love and support for the people of Paris, even as events were still unfolding.  And with our advanced level of connectivity, we are easily able to follow events in real time, which is both a blessing a curse.  It provides us with the most up-to-the-minute information but can also lead to a lot of misinformation and increased anxiety on the part of people who can’t seem to disconnect themselves from the story.

lights on for paris
The World lights up for Paris

3.  We get really angry – there are a lot of emotions involved in seeing your fellow world citizens being gunned down in public and fleeing for their lives.  The most intense of these can be anger.  And that anger wants to be directed somewhere, which leads into the next stage…

4.  We look for someone to blame – this is completely natural.  In order to make sense of something that really makes no sense at all, we need to find someone or something to blame.  Somewhere to place our anger and disgust, our sorrow and grief.  The problem is when we start to place blame where it doesn’t belong.  When we condemn a group of people based on the acts of a very few.  Don’t get me wrong, the people who commit these acts are heinous people and worthy of appropriate punishment but let us place the blame where it properly belongs.  We don’t want to look back on this time in history and feel shame at how we conducted ourselves.  Let’s be on the right side of this history that’s unfolding.

IMG_1298
This was trending the morning after the attacks

5.  We get depressed and feel the world is going to crap – this also is natural.  Some very bad things are indeed happening in the world, and not just in Paris.  It can be overwhelming when we try to take it all in.  But we must resist the urge to give up on the world.  We must look for those helpers that Mister Rogers told us to look for, because in them, we will find our salvation.  When you realize how many more people were willing to open their doors to strangers, rush headlong into danger and work around the clock to assist the injured than the few who perpetrated this evil, you realize that darkness can never win.  Because evil is desperately outnumbered.  And this is how we must fight terrorism, with undying light and hope.  And what better place to lead the charge than the City of Light?

look for the helpers

Stepping Up For My City

“Ask not what your city can do for you, but what you can do for your city”.

That, of course, is a paraphrased version of the very famous quote by JFK about patriotic duty. Or, in this case, civic responsibility.

This past week, Mayor Mel Norton published a post on his website (previously in the Telegraph-Journal) entitled Our Spirit of Resiliency, where he outlined where Saint John has been, where we are now and how we’re going to get to where we want to be. He called on the citizens of Saint John to pitch in, stating:

“We need you to ask yourself what you can do to foster this city’s ongoing renaissance.  Look around you: others have obviously asked themselves that question and found inspiring ways to answer it.  If you’ll forgive the pun, the ‘burning’ question now is: Have you?”.

Now, I know there has been some argument about whether Saint John really is a ‘Renaissance City’ and whether we should be using the term to describe our city.  I don’t give a shit about all that.  To me, it’s just semantics.  What truly matters is: how do we make our community better?  How do we improve quality of life for Maritimer’s and make this region a place where people want to live and investors want to do business.  I can tell you this: we don’t make our communities better by sitting on our hands.

I know some of you out there are thinking: “Damn it!  I pay my taxes and I vote, isn’t that enough?  What more do you want from me, woman!”

And I think the answer to the question is no.  No, it is not enough to simply live here, pay your taxes and go about the business of life.  Don’t get me wrong, these things are very important!  But in this economic climate, if we want more for our communities than struggling to keep their metaphorical heads-above-water, we need to do more.

I’m as guilty as the next person.  I could do more, I know that I could.  But it’s finding out how best to use your personal skills to help your community that is the real challenge. There are a multitude of ways to contribute to the health of our Maritime communities: from volunteering with non-profit organizations to supporting local businesses to participating in community clean-up days, just to name a few.

There are some people doing incredible things in Saint John that I draw inspiration from: People like Judith Mackin, Michelle Hooton, James Mullinger, the folks at Acre Architects and Third Space Gallery and more.  These people are using their substantial creative talents to build something special in our city.  I think if you look around your community, you will find similar, civic-minded individuals who love their community and want to see it succeed.  And if you don’t, then why not be that person?  Imagine what we could accomplish if we simply stopped our complaining and just got to work?  We would see a very different Maritimes.

So in the future, I will be on the look-out for ways to contribute to the growth and success of my city.  I hope you will too.  And together we’ll build a better Maritimes.