Friday, October 21, 2016

Stewing over MSM coverage of my childhood hometown

Considering it was founded some 200 years ago by Mennonites hoping to quietly live on their own religious terms, the town of my childhood -- Steinbach, Manitoba -- has endured a surprising amount of "outside" scrutiny.
Does this windmill make my town look fat?
That our literati have a COMPLICATED (haw!) relationship with the place is hardly news. They place the little city in a fictive locale and give it a fictive name, then slag the bejeezus out of it. Deep wounds produce deep work, is the theory, and it seems to have manifested itself in these former neighbours from my past. The unfortunate corollary is that others who experienced their fellow citizens as compassionate but imperfect nurturers who sincerely did their best generally do not go on to write books that garner international notice.

But the town also remains a staple focal point for our cultural minders at the CBC. For years our national broadcaster marveled at the town's obstinately "dry" status, until they could triumphantly report on the recent rezoning that finally brought in a liquor store and one or two charming pubs with patio/sidewalk seating.

Most recently, Steinbach hosted its first Pride Parade, amid contentious local politics. I wasn't in attendance, but friends tell me the overall vibe was stratospherically positive. Lots of folks marching in public support of their LGBTQ family and neighbours, including several congregations whose position on a hot-button topic like gay marriage might still be considered oppositional.

It's some months after the fact, but coverage on the matter continues to peeve me. I've worked in the press, I know what a story-hunter has to do to make a buck. The easiest, laziest way to frame and sell a story is to pit one party against another, and "clarify" the issue by presenting its polar extremes (it's the temptation our literati face as well, not always successfully). Writers have their biases, and they don't often favour (language warning for the link ahead) "backwards" rural white folk of a socially cautious disposition. Consequently, we heard a pile of David and Goliath stories where everybody, including the slob at the laptop, thinks they're a David.

So no links to those ink-stained wretches who made a quick buck off the perceived spectacle. If you haven't read that stuff, you can find it in a heartbeat.

Instead, here is Josiah Neufeld, writing for The Walrus, doing an exceedingly decent job of giving you the inside scoop. It gets my highest recommendation. (Tip-o-the-hat to my aunt for bringing it to my attention.)

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