Show and tell - Shawn Loughlin editorial
When I first started writing this column, I saw it as a huge privilege. That’s not to say I don’t any longer, but when I first was able to express my opinion on this page, pontificate about this or that and tell some of my more personal stories, it really meant a lot to me.
For nearly 13 years now (my first column in this space appeared in the Feb. 25, 2010 issue of The Citizen) I have written about 600 words or so in this space and, more often than not, I have always tried to do a new version of the same thing: take an idea (current event, local news story, etc.) and weave myself into it. That may sound self-centred, and I suppose it is, but what I mean by that is that I have always tried to tell our dear readers something new about myself in a column. It started because, as a relatively young editor of this newspaper who was not born in Huron County, most readers couldn’t trace my lineage back to the Old Country like the mafia does with Sicily. No one around here went to school with my mom or worked with my dad or watched me play hockey as a youngster. So, I did it because I wanted you all to know more about me. Now, after working here for almost 17 years, it’s safe to say that loyal readers of this column know much more about me than they did before.
It made me feel good to write about my life and then talk to readers on the street. You could relate, you couldn’t relate, you had gone through a similar experience, you had been to that same restaurant - these were all conversations I longed to have with you all.
In today’s media landscape, there is a dark side to that coin. Revealing too much about yourself, at a time when people are amped up politically and, frankly, more cruel than they’ve been in all my years of doing this job can be a risky proposition. With the rise of social media and the political polarization that is only deepening the divide between people in the last three years, people are much more comfortable being mean (often anonymously) and letting you know they disagree with you - and not in the playful banter way, in the nasty letter to the editor and key your car way.
On Boxing Day, I saw read the Toronto Star interview with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly in which she discussed the miscarriage she suffered just before the last year’s holidays. In the piece, Joly said she wanted to share her devastating experience for the same reason she had previously opened up about in vitro fertilization treatments in the hope of becoming a mother in her early 40s - to show other women that they’re not alone.
Joly is one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s top cabinet members and one of the most visible members of his Liberal Party. So, right there, she’s hated by almost half of the country. And, because she had the audacity (someone please invent a sarcastic font) not only to try to have a baby in her 40s, but to speak publicly about it, that made it worse.
Twitter and comment sections were awash with nasty comments. People did everything from ridicule her for trying to have a baby this late in life to celebrate the loss of her unborn child who, certainly, would have grown up to be a Liberal (the last thing the world needs).
These days, there is a danger in sharing. I offer an opinion in this space week after week and some are important while others are more benign. There are times I’ve gone for the throat and others that I’ve pulled back for one reason or another. When political views differ, things can get nasty, but try to remember that we’re all people and we will always have more in common than we have differences.