Opinion | Columnist
May 24, 2021 | 4 minute read
I am prompted to write this piece because of the recent column written by editor-in-chief René J. Roy, which was printed in the May 3, 2021, edition of the Wreckhouse Weekly, titled “Stir the Pot.” He expressed some frustration when folks who want to tell a story refuse to let their name stand alongside it, even when they bring it to the attention of the newspaper. Too often the situation unfolds like this: “Go ahead and please check out my problem or complaint, but just don’t use my name.” I can relate to this as I can fall in to that trap too. Often when I am thinking about writing something, for an instant I wonder if I want to be personally associated with the issue I am raising. I am hardly a big opinion writer, but just putting your face out there in public on something that you feel is important can be a little intimidating. Many letters to the editor in the past used to be anonymous or have the name withheld because of a person’s fear of being associated with a story. Roy is frustrated with this and I don’t blame him. This situation reminded me of the late U.S. Congressman John Lewis. Lewis was a member of the House of Representatives in the U.S. for 33 years. He died last year at the age of 80. Mr. Lewis was a well known activist and orator. He could stir the minds and hearts of many. As a young man he accompanied Martin Luther King Jr. on that famous civil rights march. Here is how Lewis’ life is described from a newspaper account at the time of his death: “John Lewis was at the front of the Civil Rights movement, the Voter’s Rights Movement and was a founder of the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee. He was by the side of Martin Luther King Jr. as they marched across the Edmund Petiss Bridge on the day that became known as Bloody Sunday. During Bloody Sunday he was beaten by police and jailed yet he continued his belief in nonviolence. He truly did his best to get in ‘good trouble, necessary trouble, to return the soul of America”’. It was only in recent years that I became aware of John Lewis. Like many of his peers he was a moving speaker and he thought that defending his people was a noble cause, as was his advocacy of non-violence in making his argument. It is a little pathetic on my part, then, to place my discomfort with presenting my case on some small matter against a man who was a part of a civil rights movement, and suffered mistreatment and violence to help state his cause. As we know even to this day, race relations are far from settled in the lives of the many people of colour in the United States of America. The above example proves that for many around the world standing up for something, at whatever level, is no small thing. It can mean being free to vote, being free to join a political party, being free to attend a church of one’s choice or to voice an opinion. All of these decisions are free to us and we take it for granted. Making a case for some issue or other on the local scene pales in comparison to that suffered by those like Congressman Lewis, who suffered unlawful arrest and physical abuse. So to rephrase Roy’s plea, please, there are few issues that we feel strongly about that we should be afraid to express in a public space. The more voices that are heard on things that matter, the better our community will be. We don’t need to leave it to the Weekly or big-mouths like me to give attention to something we feel strongly about. Just get your facts straight and be civil in expressing yourself. Not too much to ask, is it? Speak up and let your voice be heard when you think it is the right thing to do. The Weekly is a great place to help spread that news. So I will end with a quote from John Lewis. Although particular to his situation, it may in spirit be what we all hope for: “Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” Amen, Brother Lewis.
Larry Peckford and his wife, Dianne (née LeRiche), have lived in Ottawa for the past 10 years, but keep a seasonal residence in the Codroy Valley. Larry has worked as a NL public servant and community volunteer. An occasional blogger, he also writes other pieces of personal interest. You can e-mail him at: email@example.com