Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Giving Up the Game of Whack-A-Mole

Not that long ago I wrote that the external media interest in our region seemed to have waned a bit, but it seems the interest has begun to spark again and stories about Fort McMurray are popping up all over the place, much like those pesky moles at carnival “Whack-A-Mole” games. Two recently caught my attention, as I was interviewed for one and the other referred to a hashtag that originated in this very blog.

Earlier this year I was contacted by an Italian journalist regarding the possibility of an interview about Fort McMurray. I went through the usual things I go through about such requests: whether it was worth my time; whether it would be a negative or positive piece; if I would be misquoted, misunderstood or misled; and in the end I agreed as I always do as any opportunity to tell my narrative of my life in Fort McMurray is one I will take.
I met with Samuele Bariani at MacDonald Island Park, and we spoke while the sounds of the annual community Easter brunch held there drifted up to where we sat on the concourse above. Samuele’s English was good (my Italian is non-existent) but on occasion we struggled with phrases and idioms with which he was unfamiliar. It was a good chat, though, and while I had the distinct impression that his story would not be a positive depiction of our industry or our community I knew I had successfully managed to share with him my story of life here, and that it was a perspective he had not yet heard. He seemed surprised by my love for my community and by the fact I called it home, but I was pleased when I read the article he penned as he managed to capture my sentiments fairly well. The article, which is written in Italian, is not a positive piece, but I appreciated his willingness and interest in hearing another side, even if he was a bit dismissive of my perspective on my home. You can find the article here, although you will need a language translator to have it make sense (and even then some of the translation is a bit puzzling as some things are, quite simply, lost in translation).

The second article appears in a magazine that is actually one of my favourite publications. Outside magazine is one I have read for some time, so it was with keen interest that I read this piece on oil sands development and in particular the impact on First Nations people. I was particularly interested that the author mentioned the hashtag #myhiroshima, which originated in this blog, and ascribed its use to “industry backers and mine employees”, neither of which I am. I managed to find the author on Twitter, not to challenge him or his piece, but to explain the genesis of the hashtag, why it was developed and who used it, meaning members of this community who may be “industry backers and mine employees” but who also happen to call this place home. The discussion that evolved led me to inviting him to further discuss our community to provide another perspective to him, an offer I am hopeful he will accept.
When I first began this blog I was a very different person in many ways. I found journalists intimidating and often felt inadequate when speaking to them – after all, what did I know compared to them, as many of them lived in exotic places, had travelled the world and written stories for publications I bought at the grocery store. What could I possibly bring to them? Instead of going to them directly I would confront them in oblique ways, with posts about their work and laments about what they had written.  And then one day it hit me – I might not live in Italy and I might not write for Outside magazine and I might just be a single mom in a small city in northern Canada, but I had one thing the journalists did not: I had my story of my life in a community that is often written about but little understood. I have a perspective that is true and authentic and valid, and I have a desire to share it with others to foster a better and fuller understanding of Fort McMurray as a community. I leave discussions of industry and the environment to others, but when it came to discussing this community I did have something to offer, because I was part of it and over time it has become a fundamental part of me.

I no longer find journalists or camera crews or celebrities intimidating. If they are interested in listening and if they want to hear the narrative I have to tell I will tell them, because it is an opportunity to share the story of a place that I believe has needed storytellers for some time and that this storyteller needed in return. They may not like my story; they may dismiss it as a narrative from someone too naive or too immersed to see the reality – but it is my story and I have become very comfortable sharing it. I suppose once upon a time I viewed those journalists much like the moles, wishing for a hammer to whack them down, but now instead I welcome them in for a cup of coffee and a dialogue about my home and community. It is, quite frankly, a much more satisfying game.

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