Opinion Column

Let’s bare our scars

Let’s bare our scars

Let’s bare our scars

The grim history of the centuries’ old city bore the scars of conflict and strife. Though masked by the warmth of its people and the bustling pace of a City that welcomes more than twelve million visitors annually, there is an immediate sense that Dublin, Ireland has many stories to share.
Sure, you can find the cobblestone streets which wind through the narrow streets between buildings which fall into our pre-conceived notions of the Irish – a breed always at the ready for a hearty laugh while raising a pint. But there’s a more sobering tale etched into the ornate architecture which connects us tangibly to a time in our past which pre-dates the memory of anyone alive to tell the tale firsthand.
I was surprised this summer when, moments into a sightseeing tour of Dublin, that our tour guide drew attention to a landmark which seemed to be a popular gathering place for transients. The driver pointed out the significance of the Central Post Office which was at the heart of the nation’s strife a century earlier. In fact, all that remains of the original building are the sturdy columns outfront.
“You can still see the bullet holes in those,” he said of the cylindrical towers.
In our efforts to attract new investment to rural Manitoba – both through immigration and tourism, we often seek to portray our setting as idyllic – a modern day Eden with quiet streets, low crime and a slate of services that provide “all you really need”. But we leave out the pieces of the story – both present and past – which might paint a different picture of our prairie towns.
We mask the blemishes and omit the details that conflict with the image we aspire to create. We forget that our story is much more compelling when we share war stories about our battle scars – such tales that reveal a much deeper character. In fact, we may just find that our acknowledgment of the past and how we have evolved since then, might create and added layer of depth that inspires curiosity.
Think about it: We are more drawn to the rags to riches stories of self-made success than we are to the rise of an entitled millionaire that was born into money. We celebrate those who defied what many would have believed to be a pre-determined fate to create their own path. As a community, those tales are equally compelling. When we peel back the curtain and allow ourselves to re-visit our conflicts, our defeats, and yes – even the shameful details we wish we could forget, our story becomes one that others will love to hear and re-tell again and again.
There were few places that I visited in Ireland where there was not a reference or a reminder about the impacts of the potato famine which devastated the lives of countless families. The “Great Hunger” as it was known took place during a five-year period from 1845 to 1849 and was a period of massive starvation and disease and led to massive emigration out of the country. It is an event that is forever imprinted on the nation and there are numerous museums, historic sites, memorials and cemeteries dedicated to telling the story of this dark time. That period which was an economic crisis for so many, has now become an economic driver, generating visitor traffic and tourist revenues to learn more and pay solemn tribute to the fallen.
I wonder: is there a dark spot in our history that we are pleased to have moved beyond, but yet can’t erase? I suspect that there would be interest in the history that some have only read in books, to visit us and step foot on land where history occurred. Maybe that includes a century-old edict of Council to “rid themselves” of the indigenous population on what is now Koko Platz. Could the former residential school at the west end of Crescent Lake be re-developed as a museum and historic site that tells the tale not aligned with our license plate claim of “Friendly Manitoba”?
Our scars remind us that the past is real, and that is a history which could create economic opportunity today and into the future.
Opportunity is knocking in the Portage region so let’s answer the door. You can find me in the office at 800 Saskatchewan Avenue West, reach me by e-mail at vmay@plprecd.ca, call me at 204-856-5000. Be sure to keep up with me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PLPRED.

By Vern May
 



Featured Businesses

Go to the Marketplace »