Monday, September 5, 2016

Go Away

This past weekend, in Lunenburg, we witnessed an act of ugliness, cowardliness and stupidity. Someone spray painted the words 'Go Away' outside of dis.cord gallery.   The gallery is owned by Farley Blackman, an American entrepreneur that has invested heavily in the town. He has a passion for restoring heritage buildings and is presently most known for his magnificent restoration of The Lunenburg Opera House.
He posted this photo on Facebook and has received a lot of support from both people that have lived here their whole lives and from people that have recently chosen to live in Lunenburg. By and large, people are good and at the very least, well mannered.  Spray painting 'go away' is not well mannered and there are not many, regardless of their deeper feelings, that would condone this behaviour.  But there are many that share this sentiment.

As I watched the comments roll in on Facebook, I began to see the predictable response to any act of discrimination.  Denial.  This is not a real problem. There is no discrimination against CFAs in Lunenburg.  This must have been one rogue individual.  Some of my best friends are Jewish/Black/Gay/CFAs.   I have never experienced this problem, therefore the problem does not exist.

The problem exists and this is not one rogue individual. This is a very real undercurrent in all of Nova Scotia.  It is an undercurrent in Lunenburg.  This person that wrote these ugly words, wrote them with the support of many and is being congratulated in quiet circles of sympathetic ignorance.  Understanding, means standing under experience.   Very few newcomers to Nova Scotia have had, or will ever have Farley's experience, so very few people can relate to Farley Blackman's insistence that this is a real problem that needs to be strongly addressed by our municipal government.  I had this experience.  I understand what he is talking about. I did not understand for many years, but I do now.

When I moved to Nova Scotia, I opened my business and was welcomed with open arms by the community.  Old timers and new comers alike were nothing but kind.  Why wouldn't they be?  I make hats.  I'm a mom. My husband's a woodworker and all we wanted to do was live a quiet life.  Easy peezy lemon squeezy.  Keep your head down and do your work, no problems at all.  Pop your head up and challenge your local government.  Different story.  Come to Nova Scotia and buy a building, fix it up and live in it or run a business...No problem.  Come to Nova Scotia and buy up many properties.....  different story, different experience.  Now you are a threat to the way things have always been in Lunenburg.   So, if you are a CFA, but have never experienced any problems or if you are born and bred 7th generation and have never felt any animosity towards a newcomer, well, that's super, but now would be a good time to stop talking about your experience and start listening.... to Farley and his experience.  Because it's bloody real.  This is not the first hateful experience that has been directed at Farley.  This is just one of many.

Farley made a plea in his public statement.  You can read it at the end of this article in Lighthouse Now.  He asked that the leaders of the town take a stance on this issue.  I'm going to take you back in time a bit, so that I can suggest what this sort of leadership might look like.  As I have mentioned way too often, in 2012  I was one of three businesses featured in this wonderful promotional video for the Town of Lunenburg.  It was a successful venture.  Many people have chosen to live in Lunenburg because of this video.  It also brought a lot of happy attention and accolades my way. But sometimes silence is the loudest noise in the room.  At that point, I had had no interactions with the mayor or councillors, but it did strike me as odd that having brought a creative industry to a small town and having been featured in this video, that no one from my local government ever bothered to stop by and say hello or thanks for coming to Lunenburg or thanks for your involvement with the video.  Nothing.  Not a word. This silence got a lot louder when I was told by administration that I could not open my studio.  For one year I kept this problem to myself and felt more than a little hurt that after offering my time to promote Lunenburg , not one of my six councillors, the mayor or any administrator ever felt the need to help me. It was not malicious it was just disinterested.

So, now let's look at Farley's case. Farley took a historic building that was on its way to becoming land fill and poured millions and millions of dollars into it and has restored it to its original glory. Farley opened a wonderful gallery and out of his own pocket brings in world class, local musicians to play for free.  Farley has restored many houses and commercial buildings.  He never skimps.  Every restoration is done with the utmost of care and integrity.  Farley has provided well paid employment to a factory's worth of local contractors.   In thirteen years, Farley has never been thanked by The Town of Lunenburg for his contributions.  Not once. Think about that.

He has never been thanked because he is resented. There are people who would rather have seen the opera house fall into the sea than to watch it be restored by an outsider.  It's about pride.  Lunenburg should be owned by Lunenburgers.  This is the sentiment behind that despicable and cowardly graffiti.  It is not shared by all, it is not shared by most, but it is shared by many.  Lunenburg does have a proud and glorious past, but now is not the time for false pride.  Now is the time for humility.  Now is the time for Lunenburg to recognize that without people like Farley Blackman and every other entrepreneur that has chosen this glorious town as their own, Lunenburg would watch its most treasured heritage buildings crumble and rot.  Now is the time for The Town of Lunenburg to acknowledge that without people like Farley Blackman the economy of Lunenburg would be in peril.  Now is the time for our Municipal leaders to say, Thank you and thanks for coming.  Publicly, Loudly and in writing.  Set an example.  Show leadership.


7 comments:

  1. Amen. Trust me, Town council will not act. They will hide and try to confuse the issue with all types of rhetoric. Only if there is sufficient public (and social) pressure, will any action be taken.

    As one who has been here a bit longer than Farley, those biased under currents do still exist and are just under the surface of many locals.

    Step forward and face such issues head on rather than closing your eyes hoping they might disappear!

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  2. I don't disagree with you, Anna, but would you entertain another explanation - one that focusses on other CFAs whose agenda/ turf is being threatened by the Blackman's invovement with heritage protection, retail, music and art and his ability to make things happen because he does not need to rely on fundraising / government grants? That graffiti smacked of envy.

    As for the leaders of this town - many, if not most of them, are also CFAs & they are not behaving any better than the native Lunenburgers. Emphasizing the split in the town doesn't make things any better. You have spoken against how you have been labelled a trouble-maker because you spoke out and saw an obvious injustice through to resolution. Perhaps it would be more effective if we all, as you did, just carried on working on those visions/issues/dreams that are meaningful to us and recognize that other individuals are doing the same thing & occasionally conflicts will occur. How these conflicts are handled will separate the righteous from the self-aggrandizers, the empire builders & those with any other agenda that purports to be, but really is not, in the best inerests of the town.

    One further comment - I have seen an unattractive trend among many "mover & shaker" CFAs to adopt he smug attitude that they are saving Lunenbur from the inevitable extinction that the "Locals" have bought upon themselves through years of indifference and neglect. I think this attitude is every bit as repulsive to native Lunenburgers as the CFA perjorative is to us. Both camps need to start trying to understand where the other is coming from. I've always believed that while I cannot control another's behaviour, I can control my own. I can't sit around waiting for someone else o change - you didn't, the Blackman's haven't; consequently, Lunenburg is changing. Bravo! Carry on! But let's do so recognizing individuals who agree/disagree with us rather than labelling groups and stting up warring camps.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, I can certainly entertain other possibilities. I'm not interested in setting up camps, however, no matter who the perpetrator is, I think that there is a roll for our government to play here. Lead by example. Set the stage. Thank Farley for his contributions. It's time.

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    2. and yes, as to the last part of your comment, I also agree. I don't like that smug attitude either and I have seen it myself.

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  3. The issue in the Blackman case is the message sent to him and how town leadership will deal with such ignorance. Let's deal with that and not use what some CFA said about a Lunenburger once to divert the conversation. Nor should we allow the issue of never having had graffiti in town before divert us from the more important issue of ignorance. By the way, as best I know, there is only one CFA on Council but, again, it's not where they came from that matters - it's how they deal with the issue that counts.

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    1. Right on, Ron! I thought about this last night after responding to the last comment. How some locals behave is a whole other discussion and does not justify this behaviour. It's another topic.

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  4. This action was deplorable and I do not believe the actions of more than one person. No defending these type of actions.
    I like FB, he has contributed to the vibrancy of our town.

    The use of the term CFA in my mind is passez. Regardless of our heritage, places of birth, I believe that people who choose to live here are Lunenburgers. There is no citizenship test of residency test. We are here by choice.

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