Late last week this ABC video, posted by the viral video site Upworthy, popped up in my social network feeds a lot. It’s not hard to see why. It’s a great story of regular folks stepping up – and stepping in – to tell off a bully with a strong moral streak.
Its appealing because it seems to upend the stereotypes we hold of small town Texas. The set-up’s premise is predicated on our assumption that Texans are anti-gay and that no one in that coffee shop will defend the right of the gay couple and their little kids to eat in peace. In fact, a lot of people stand up – far more than when the hidden camera moves to a restaurant in New York City. There, patrons watch in silence and when asked why, remark it wasn’t any of their business.
These reactions surprise us but they shouldn’t, especially for Maritimers or other residents of smaller communities. Small cities and towns have one very valuable trait that large metropolises simply can’t replicate: strong social ties.
Researchers call it social capital, which is the power of our relationships to drive us to act. We step up and act for two reasons: one, we believe it is expected of us by the rest of the community – that sense of shared responsibility – and also because we trust that when we do, others will join us. We are not alone.
I believe it is that shared responsibility and trust in each other that is going to save the Maritimes. As we said in an earlier story, this region is in a pickle. Our region’s problems are complicated and rooted in deeply intrenched models, and the solution is unclear.
The stereotype of this region as poor and dependent dominates the way the rest of Canada views the Maritimes and it is reflected in the way we are depicted in national news coverage (largely limited to regional natural disasters, UI debates and local weirdos) and in the national conversation (again the UI debate and more recently how the West will save the East with a pipeline).
We’ve got to break those stereotypes and we can, if we work together. Trust me, we’re not alone.
Time to step up and speak out for the new Maritimes. Who’s in?