Let the sunshine in

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It is so easy to be down these days, isn’t it? Just when it seems Spring has sprung, along comes another bout of snow and minus temperatures. Brexit continues to raise questions about the sanity, not simply the competence, of politicians in the “Mother of Parliaments”. Donald Trump continues to lower the standards of political, moral and social life, while the resulting rise in hate crimes makes you feel stunned and pessimistic about the future of the human race. I mean, after the horrible massacre in New Zealand, you would expect people to wake up and rethink things. Instead, there is a definite rise in the number of hate crimes taking place.

It seems there is a constant battle being fought between the light and the dark. In the United Kingdom, a million people come out on the streets asking for a second referendum on Brexit: a fantastic example of popular democracy in action. Will the political class pay any attention? A petition on the UK Parliament website calling for a rethink on Brexit has now reached 5 million signatures: yet another powerful action by regular people.

But, on the other, darker, side, the woman who started that petition, 72 years old, has had to take down her own Facebook page because of the “torrent of abuse” she has received there. Even worse, she is now in fear of her life after three death threats were telephoned to her home. This has to be taken seriously after a Member of Parliament was murdered during the referendum campaign in 2016. A man shouting “Britain First” shot and stabbed Jo Cox to death on a street in broad daylight, because she was opposing Brexit.

I’m very aware that there has always been this kind of thing taking place throughout history, and it may be that we are only more aware of it today because of the 24-hour media cycle that we all live with. But, surely, the hope would have been that, the more we heard about such things, and the more quickly and efficiently we could communicate with each other and discuss our differences, the less hatred and ignorance would win out. That has not been the case, though, has it?

Even our “Sunny ways” Prime Minister has not wrapped himself in glory over the past month, showing a side of his character that undermines whatever public relations success he has achieved since his election. The Premier is busy slapping down anyone in his orbit who isn’t a good enough “team player”, and doesn’t applaud him loudly and often enough in the legislature. Yes, all in all, politics and politicians have suffered a severe blow to their reputation for integrity and honour – if they ever really had one.

But, and we have to hold on to this, the battle is not the only story. There is still so much from which we can take heart. Even the smallest things can bring some comfort, a tentative smile of happiness and warmth. For example, take a read of one of our Letters to the Editor on this page. Helen Brazier’s experience when she lost her keys at a railway station led to a series of events which has to make you feel good. Helen has so many people to thank for doing the right and good thing, not just in one place, but across the province. Excellent.

One major bright spot, in my opinion at least, has been the remarkable change that has taken place in our local political scene. Recently, residents of one section of Kemptville created quite a row in a Council meeting over a proposed affordable housing development in their neighbourhood. The debate was long and often unpleasant, and carried over on to Facebook (yes, that place again!). Then Mayor Peckford and Deputy Mayor McManaman did something quite astonishing: during the week after the meeting, they went door to door to speak to those residents and try and find answers to their questions and complaints. Other members of Council also visited the scene to see for themselves what the story was. It used to be, in this municipality, that Councils waited for people to come to them, and, if they didn’t, to assume that all was well in their fiefdom. Not so with this Council. This doesn’t mean that complaints and objections were all washed away in peace and joy; but it does mean that we have a different atmosphere in North Grenville politics now. Long may it last. Power can corrupt, so we must be on guard.

My loyal groupies will now probably have to change tactics. Normally, they accuse me of negativity, of single-handedly undermining the socio-economic fabric of society by finding fault with everything. I suppose now they’ll start to accuse me of being in the pay of the members of Council, and of taking a rose-coloured view of municipal politics. Not to worry, dear friends: I have no doubt that something will happen to balance the scales once more. As I said: it seems there’s always a struggle between light and dark. Well, it makes life more interesting, doesn’t it? “Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in….

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