Big­ots abound

The Labradorian - - EDITORIAL -

Brad Ca­bana made a good point the other day. Ca­bana, a Saskatchewan na­tive, was talk­ing to Open Line host Bill Rowe re­cently about his failed one-man court chal­lenge of the Muskrat Falls hy­dro pro­ject. (He plans to ap­peal the de­ci­sion.)

Near the end of the con­ver­sa­tion, Ca­bana brought up all the per­sonal at­tacks against him that were show­ing up on the VOCM web­site and other me­dia.

“I find it ironic when one id­iot in Al­berta writes a let­ter to the edi­tor about New­found­land, that he ob­vi­ously has no clue (about), and ev­ery­one gets in a fuss, but I have 30 or 40 or 50 peo­ple on any given day … say­ing that I have no place here, that I should shut up and I should go back where I came from.” Touché! The “id­iot” to which he refers is one Shawn Mitchell, a hereto­fore lit­tle-known Al­ber­tan who wrote a let­ter to the Calgary Sun lament­ing that Calgary has sup­pos­edly been in­vaded by lazy, loutish East Coast­ers who are steal­ing Al­ber­tans’ jobs. The let­ter was re­plete with crass in­sults and stereo­types about peo­ple from “da rock,” but came with an edi­tor’s note at the end: “Hey. Back off the New­found­lan­ders. They are amaz­ing peo­ple.”

Pre­dictably, a Tele­gram story on the let­ter set off a firestorm of comment, most con­demn­ing Mitchell’s opin­ion in no un­cer­tain terms. Even the Sun’s opin­ion edi­tor ad­mit­ted he re­grets run­ning it.

It’s de­bat­able whether such a let­ter should see the light of day. But it’s also in­ter­est­ing to note how in­su­lar and blind peo­ple can be in both say­ing such things and in re­spond­ing to them.

It’s one thing when high-pro­file per­son­al­i­ties make re­gional slurs. The Globe and Mail’s Mar­garet Wente had no ex­cuse for por­tray­ing New­found­land as a “vast and scenic wel­fare ghetto” some years back. The late Ralph Klein, when he was mayor of Calgary in 1982, gave a speech to the Calgary New­com­ers’ Club in which he com­plained about “creeps” and “bums” who came from Eastern Canada “with­out jobs, with­out ac­com­mo­da­tion and with­out money to take care of them­selves.”

Klein later tried to wa­ter down the com­ments, say­ing he wasn’t talk­ing specif­i­cally about Eastern Cana­di­ans.

It’s an­other thing, how­ever, when some or­di­nary Joe starts blast­ing his fel­low Cana­di­ans. It’s dif­fer­ent, be­cause such trolls will al­ways be among us, lurk­ing in the shad­ows, lash­ing out when­ever they see fit.

It’s dif­fer­ent, as well, be­cause the phe­nom­e­non is not ex­clu­sive to any one prov­ince or re­gion. New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans are ba­si­cally friendly peo­ple. But so are Saskatchewa­ni­ans, and Al­ber­tans, and Prince Ed­ward Is­landers. None of us has a monopoly on kind­ness.

Per­haps it’s im­por­tant to oc­ca­sion­ally out the big­ots and the racists. They de­serve our scorn and de­ri­sion. But that’s re­ally all they de­serve.

As Bill Rowe said to Ca­bana: “You don’t pay any at­ten­tion to that, do you?”

— Reprinted from The Tele­gram

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