NotL Rants column, The Niagara Advance
“I know, Petunia darling, let’s go to Niagara-on-the-Lake; I hear they have lots of public toilets!” Here it is not even
April, and the fools are busy at work. Only 400-bloody-thousand-dollars for more public toilets in Old Town. I
ought to write a letter.
As should you. All of you.
Hey, wait, I got a new complaint. (Thanks, Nirvana, ye kings of grunge and sullen activism.)
Activism is productive complaining. It is simple, effective, and absolutely necessary. If none of us speaks up, if we
all sit on our hands moaning about how things should be, if we leave the letter-writing and campaigning and complaining
to that elusive ‘someone else,’ we’ll wind up with a town made up almost exclusively of public washrooms
and over-sized B&Bs, paved parks and polluted water.
We lost one of our greatest leaders recently. While I never met Margherita Howe, I was greatly affected by the
flame of her. She burned hot and bright, creating change all around her: Shedding light, generating heat, making
both comfort and discomfort as only fire can. We were all affected by her. For one, the water surrounding us is
cleaner and safer because of her courage and conviction. But that water is not entirely clean or safe yet, so there’s
lots of work left for the rest of us.
Lots of work. There’s a community centre left unloved. And a safe and imperative path to Virgil yet unapproved.
And a dream of a Vegas-style ‘condotel’ by the water still on the books. And and and. Plenty of reasons to write letters
and emails, make phone calls, ask questions, demand answers. Provoke.
The second best thing I love to hear about these occasional musings of mine is, ‘I liked your rant. Didn’t agree
with it, but I liked it.’ The best? ‘Something you said in your rant made me do something/write someone/angry
enough to act.’ The saddest sound? Silence. And that’s what I hear most, which is why I write increasingly less.
Why bother? Which proves my own weakness, really. Don’t we all do what we do because we know it’s right,
regardless of the outcome? We recycle, even though we hear it’s all a waste of time and effort. We’re polite, even
though people are rude to us. So why keep my big mouth shut just because you do? So I’ll try to keep writing.
These rants are meant to provoke action. Activism. Reaction. Anything. Poke, poke.
Write a letter. To me, about me, to anyone. Who cares if your style isn’t Pulitzer-worthy? As for the old saw about
anything you put on paper coming back to bite you, I believe more things will sink their teeth into you if you don’t
write/call/react. If absolutely necessary, make it anonymous--but I must advise against the use of glue and cut-out
letters from magazines. It really doesn’t matter whether or not you write well, or even spell correctly for that matter.
If you complain, praise or suggest, the core will be heard. To bastardise Mcluhan, the message is not always the
medium, nor the style or grammar or fancy language. The message is the message, period. Get it out there.
I believe it’s critically important for anyone and everyone to speak out against things we see as infringing on the
quality of our lives, and the sanctity of our sanity. For some reason we keep forgetting we have a voice, afraid that
we might come off as whining busybodies with nothing better to do. But if we don’t show we care, how can we
expect anyone to care about us? One of the biggest curses we have as people is the need to be liked. Imagine abandoning
that need and replacing it with truth. Imagine the peace of mind, the passion, the respect you’d have and
receive. Imagine having a little bit of Margherita in you.
Someone said, so eloquently, that Margherita Howe died with her boots on. (Someone else said all of town council
will show up at her funeral just to make sure she’s really gone.)
I urge you to put on your own boots, open your
big, truthful mouth, and make things happen. What a wonderful legacy she, and so many like her, have left us. The
worst we could do is ignore it.
Here are some starting points for you: What of that town-forsaken bandshell in Simcoe Park? Why do we not
have one single outdoor public skating rink in town? (Moot this winter, sure, but a real issue nonetheless.) Why are
there no pesticide warnings during spraying seasons? Why is the incidence of cancer so disproportionately high in
the Niagara region? What about proportional representation? And how about that Margherita?