I am heartbroken and angry today after the destruction and violence of last night. Like many Vancouverites, I am embarrassed and ashamed of our city but it goes beyond that. This has really, really hit me deep and I think I have finally come to the heart of why.
Kudos to the organizers and participants of the volunteer clean-up efforts downtown today. Good for them for taking their energy and doing something productive with it, creating something positive for their fellow citizens. I found myself thinking, what can I do along those lines? What could I enlist my friends in that would turn this negative situation into something positive? And then I started to feel really, really angry. I didn't understand at first but then suddenly I realized why. Because I already do that. Every day. And so do the majority of people I know.
My community is made up of artists, organizers, parents, volunteers, teachers...people who take every single day as an opportunity to create something positive for our fellow citizens, to try to make the world a better place.
The arts community alone has spent at least as much time lobbying and fighting to hold on to financial and public support for the arts as actually creating art these past couple of years. These are not people in it for the money (ha!), these are people who truly believe that what they do makes their communities and their world a better place for their fellow human beings.
We also do this work in a city that often seems hell bent on proving that annoying nickname "No Fun City" is appropriate. How many times have you visited another city and marveled at their thriving cultural scene? Enjoyed not feeling like you were being babysat? Wished Vancouver would loosen up its by-laws and its archaic attitudes towards what is safe and fun for the public? Now how many times have you come back home and worked on doing something to make Vancouver "more fun"? If you are someone I know, your answer is probably "all the time"!
So when I sat watching a bunch of idiots deftly dismantle the efforts of people who work so hard to make this city a culturally vibrant place to be, my heart sank. And then it started to pound. I thought about the fireworks. I'm not personally a fan but I love anything that provides free, outdoor, family-friendly entertainment.
You don't think that event's already tenuous support will be affected? I thought about the Rio Theatre. Many of us wrote letters and signed petitions in support of the Rio obtaining a liquor license so that they can bring in more revenue and expand the great entertainment programming they provide. You don't think new liquor license applications are going to be considered in a different light?
As if they weren't ridiculously hard to get as it is! And, okay, if you don't care about the arts or family-friendly entertainment, what do you think is going to happen the next time a large scale sporting event is being considered for approval? Even if such public events do get approved, you can bet a requirement will be increased insurance, security, police presence.
Who do you think pays for that? The hockey players who make millions of dollars? The advertisers and merchandisers who are rich off of our event-related purchasing? Fairies and fucking pixies? No! We do! Our tax dollars do! Tax dollars that could be spent on--stay with me here--EVENTS AND SUPPORT FOR OUR COMMUNITY! So, I feel nothing short of enraged that the jobs of people I love, who are already working their asses off, just got much harder because a bunch of idiots thought it would be fun to get drunk and fuck shit up.
Thanks. Thanks so very much, assholes.
People keep saying that the people responsible for the destruction and violence do not represent Vancouver. Well, guess what? They do now. Next time someone wants to hold a big outdoor celebration--they'll represent us. Next time someone applies for a liquor license--they'll represent us. Next time those of us who have viable ideas about how to make this No Fun City a city to be proud of--the jerks taking pictures of themselves in front of burning cars and looting stores will be speaking for us. And I for one really, really resent that.
Hey, hooligans! When was the last time one of you applied for a grant to support your arts festival? When was the last time one of you volunteered time equivalent to that of a second job to raise money for organization you care about? You have no idea, no clue whatsoever what goes into organizing even a small event at a local restaurant, let alone a giant event on the scale of something like what was put on FOR YOU yesterday.
Fuck you. Fuck you for your selfishness, your short-sightedness and your immaturity. But most of all, fuck you for spitting in the faces of all of us who love Vancouver and work so hard to make it a place we all--including you--want to be. And before anyone says, "Those were jerks from Surrey! They weren't Vancouverites!", it doesn't matter. This isn't about geography, this is about participating in humanity. Nihilism fueled by privilege is stupid. When you get offered great things by people working extremely hard to provide them to you--for free!--if you don't want them, stay home and punch yourself in the face if you hate yourself so much. Let those of us who care about someone other than ourselves enjoy the fruits of community participation. You certainly don't deserve it.
Am I being self-righteous? You bet your ass I am. As a caring, participating, hard-working citizen I am furious. Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I am always about getting to the root of a problem and trying to fix it, that I abhor criticism for the sake of criticism instead of discussion aimed at a more positive outcome.
Not today. Today I am angry and heart-broken and exhausted. Today I am pointing fingers without solutions. Today I can't even wrap my head around how to come to some kind of positive next steps when last night my fellow citizens caused unjustifiable destruction or (just as horrifying in my opinion) stood by and cheered or just watched. As far as I'm concerned, if you didn't remove yourself from downtown when things turned ugly, let alone hours later, you are complicit.
I know that I'll move past this place and get back to helping build the community and the world I want to live in because that's what I am about at the core of my person. But I am well aware that, when I do, that work will be harder. Not because I care less, but because some ingrates made it so. I have lots of questions about what makes someone act that way, what is underneath behaviour like that and what can I do in my life to create a world where people don't feel compelled to act that way? But not today. Today I only have one question for those involved in the riots:
How dare you? Oh, and fuck you.