It is usually warmer than this. This cold is not typical. The Oilers are poised for greatness. Our murder rate is an unfortunate anomaly. Edmonton is safe. The snow and ruts have never been this bad. All this road construction is a sign of progress. We never get this much snow. We never get this much rain. They say the mosquitoes aren’t as bad as in the past. Compared to the average (snow fall, rain fall, mosquito count, crime rate – take your pick), we are doing pretty good. Our summers are always really nice. I love having four seasons.
We are a city in denial.
Denial. It is a defense mechanism. Freud was first to ponder the theory of denial. When you don’t like the facts and the reality makes you uncomfortable, you reject it and believe it is not true, despite overwhelming evidence.
It was our CEO at Northlands, Richard Andersen; an American who wilfully and happily moved to Edmonton from San Diego, who recently pointed out our city’s state of collective denial. To be truthful, he didn’t call it denial. It was just that every time I made an excuse for the cold, the snow, the roads, the mosquitoes, the lack of sun, the rain, etc, he would respond with, “You know, everyone here says that.”
The more I thought about his comment, the more I realized that as a city, we are all singing from the same song sheet. Reciting the same lines. The script of denial. Written to make us feel better about our city and our lives here. Written to lull us into a false sense of what our city is about. Written by our politicians and media so that we don’t have a collective, municipal nervous breakdown or pick up our sticks and move south.
Our reality isn’t bad. It just isn’t that great. There are many great things in Edmonton. It is just that weather, crime, professional sports teams and roads aren’t a part of our greatness equation, no matter how much we want them to be.
So maybe living in denial is okay. Whatever gets you through the difficult times, right? Perhaps, except our denial holds us back as a city. Denial pushes the hard truth of reality away and ensures we never deal with it properly.
The reality is we get crappy winters. If someone tells you our winters aren’t that bad, they are in denial. And denial leads to poor planning. Our snow removal budgets are never large enough, even though we know it is ALWAYS going to snow like a banshee. In other cities, they know they will get snow, accept that reality and PLAN for it. Novel concept for us here in YEG where we try to get by with as little as possible, leading to season-long complaining about the state of our snowy, rutty and icy roads and sidewalks.
The reality is we haven’t had a good, hot summer in a really, really long time. Maybe since you were a kid? But really, that kid memory is a suspect one. Those weeks of 30-degree weather when we were 8 years old might just be revisionist history. It is the middle of July as I write this post and it is dark and grey outside, threatening rain yet again. Working on something like 34 days of rain out of the last 46. We can lie, but the numbers don’t.
The reality is that as our city grows, it is becoming increasingly unsafe. Sorry Mr. Mayor, but the fact that we can’t safely walk outside at night anywhere in Edmonton and the small fact that I have a drug house across the street tells me that our growing murder rate is a really big symptom of something larger that we might be choosing to ignore. It’s like thinking that mole on your back that keeps getting bigger and blacker isn’t anything to worry about because it’s on your back and no one (including you) sees it.
Denial doesn’t change the truth. Denial has a way of biting you in the ass and denial is starting to bite back here in YEG. People are getting fed up. Tired of our pretend world. Tired of lying to themselves and seeing our civic and thought leaders lying for us. People, good people, who actively make their lives in Edmonton are tired of being labelled as negative for speaking our truth. They are thinking about giving in; leaving our fair city for anyplace south, west, east (but likely not north). Our reality bites, and even more so when everyone around you tells you it doesn’t.
So Edmonton, it’s time to set aside denial, be authentic to who we are and what we have to offer. Only then can we face the world, and each other, proudly.