Cornwall Ontario – Today was wear pink shirt day about anti-bullying. I think by now after a day of talking about anti bullying most of you reading this know about bullying. And yes, my pic on the left was on a site that is attempting to bully me into silence by stirring up a lot of wild and crazy stuff.
What I’d like to do is talk about the culture of bullying in Cornwall Ontario. It’s systemic. In the ten years I’ve lived in this town I’ve seen the deepest, ugliest and darkest sides and impacts of it.
While I can give you some of my experiences I won’t. I’m going to talk for a bit about Ryan Gosling. Ryan of course has become a major star in Hollywood. He still comes “home” to Cornwall; usually around the holidays to visit his family.
There are a lot of people with Ryan Gosling stories. Ryan was a bright sensitive precocious kid. He had artistic sensitivities even as a child running to Montreal to do auditions, and eventually leaving Cornwall and making it big. I get that, and although having done it in reverse, we both are probably the only Cornwallites who’ve ever had our work nominated for Oscars and yet….
Ryan was bullied. I’ve actually met people here in Cornwall that smile and talk about themselves or family members “putting the beats on the little ………” I won’t finish the quote but I’m sure many of you can figure it out.
There are some here in Cornwall that complain that Ryan doesn’t talk about Cornwall much publicly; but can you blame him? Imagine if you lived in a city as a child and you suffered name calling and abuse.
From what people have told me they did or witnessed, I can only imagine what the happy faced boy in the video above must have felt.
Cornwall isn’t a city that cherishes its history much. Many of our old buildings are long gone; just images on postcards. There’s a nasty flavor and social caste that really isn’t productive. For years the political movers and shakers, connected to the mills kept other businesses out of Cornwall or made it really hard; some say they still do; especially if you want to open a small business with some Restaurants taking 12-18 months to open while having to pay their rent or mortgages. There are over 20 empty stores in Cornwall and there aren’t that many to start with which in itself should be a warning sign for our community.
What I’ve discovered most in my years living here is that the bullies and powers that be hate it when you stand up to them; but what’s weirder than that is when you stand up to them and knock them down harder than they knocked you, they resort to lies, and some of those lies lead to people getting hurt. False criminal charges, statements patently untrue that become grist for facebook and gossip, friendships break up from stresses put on the friends of targets like what happened to me this very day.
Where does that leave a community at the end of the day? People should be judged by their deeds and actions. They should be judged on the merits of what they can do, and do in fact do. Not because they’re someone’s cousin or donated to a politician’s bag man.
For Cornwall to move forward we need to change the culture of our city from hate and bullying. We need to stop punishing the victims for speaking out like what happened in Project Truth which was nothing more than a $50M cover up or with the three whistleblowing cases in the last few years.
We need kids like Ryan Gosling to grow up and want to say nice things about Cornwall Ontario. We need to celebrate people like Ryan and make them want to come back for those celebrations. I mean why isn’t November 12th Ryan Gosling Day in Cornwall?
And we if we’re going to fight over an issue we have to call a spade a spade and realize that some of our friends and family may not be perfect, and sometimes have to be called out for their crimes and yes, bullying.
The voices silenced are always worth far more than the ones remaining.
The choice of course is all of ours. We can keep the status quo and chase more good people away like the half dozen or so that I know of in my tiny social circle here in Cornwall that are leaving, or we can choose to become a more inclusive, inviting, and a fair society and culture. Believe me word spreads and frankly our rep can use some improvement.
That change starts with each of you who reads this. And if you look deep in your hearts and minds, if you have either of those, you’ll know the answers and you’ll know what to do.
Nobody should go through what Ryan Gosling did, or I have, or a few others this weekend who tried to stand up to a small group of bullies on social media.
It’s time for change Cornwall.
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