RAMBLE ON: Fear and loathing in Penticton

The evil, twisted plastic tubes are coming to suck up trees and spit out black tar all over the beach.

 Dale Boyd is a reporter for the Penticton Western News.

 Dale Boyd is a reporter for the Penticton Western News.

The economy melts in Greece, battles over racial inequality reach heated peaks in the U.S., people fight and die for their homes, families, human rights and beliefs in Syria and the Middle East, but no, please tell me more about the waterslides.

The evil, twisted plastic tubes are coming to suck up trees and spit out black tar all over the beach, or are they going to float in on golden wings and shoot out laughing children, candy and money?

Neither are true, but you wouldn’t know it looking at city hall Monday. Hundreds, maybe even a good thousand, people descended on downtown Penticton, not to participate in the democratic process, but to participate in a Simpsons-esque and cartoonish display.

The RCMP were called in because fair and equal discourse flew out the window in what some thought was a big stand, but was really more of an embarrassing shouting match for both sides. I thought I had moved to Penticton, not Springfield to join Homer, Mr. Burns, Mayor Quimby and the gang, but hey, even Springfield allowed a monorail development after a nice song and dance.

Signs detracting the proposed Munson Mountain BMX park, knocking down council, standing up for green space and saying “yes” to watersides but “no” to being built on Skaha Lake Park were all symbolic of the jumbled mess that has been deemed a “protest.”

I’m not detracting from the right to express your distaste with council, or whatever you may please, on any issue, but there is a way to do things that doesn’t make your cause become a caricature of itself. It’s called basic human decency.

Barbed words have been exchanged both in person and especially online. These are no longer just dismissive of opinions, but of the people expressing the opinions. Personal attacks, misinformation and straight-up lies have made for some pretty hilarious conspiracy theories as to what’s really happening with the waterslides.

We the media have been accused of bias from both sides on the issue, which leads me to believe we’re doing our job.

The issue isn’t the waterslide, it isn’t Munson Mountain’s viability to grow crops, there’s something else going on here, or people have too much time on their hands. You might say I’m being dismissive of people, or of council giving up green space like Brazil for the World Cup, but I’m hoping to offer some perspective.

Council may have pushed the development through too quickly, but I’m not here to write about which side is right because at the end of the day, if this is how contentious issues get handled in this community, then you’re all wrong.

I’m fairly new to Penticton and the Okanagan and as an outsider I haven’t seen anything quite like it. The phrase “Not In My Backyard” (or NIMBY) has become part of my daily lexicon, I had never heard it prior to moving here.

There are no lives on the line here, there are no human rights being stomped on and, despite some creative narratives, council is not donning black robes and consulting the blood gods to bring the evil waterslides to town or using the souls of orphan children to build hotels. So why does it seem like every development or contentious issue in Penticton is one molotov cocktail away from becoming the Arab Spring?

If people really think that Penticton parkland is going to get sold off and turned into a desert, I’d ask them to take off the horse blinders and look around. Better yet, take a vacation in my hometown, shoved between an oil patch and a military base in Alberta. If you really want to get a handle on things, check out a slum in New Delhi where 65 million people manage to make lives in extreme poverty and would laugh at our “protest” over waterslides.

The world and this generation has some heavy issues to tackle with no easy answers, and this isn’t one of them.

What is real in this cacophony is how we all feel when somebody hiding behind the anonymity of the internet makes things personal, or do it in real life.

What occurred at city hall looked like the physical realization of an online comments section. Vicious, confusing, loud and, more often than not, factually incorrect.

It shouldn’t come down to me, new in town and young to boot, to tell some of these folks to grow up.

A rendition of This Land is Your Land broke out at the council meeting, but I’m suggesting Why Can’t We Be Friends? instead.

Dale Boyd is a reporter with the Penticton Western News.