How long have you been here? Does it really matter?

John Devitt

Spend any time in Revelstoke and you’ll be treated with the “local” versus “live here” conversation.  Perhaps it will be at a community meeting of some sort, where before each person speaks their view, they will grace the audience with the length of time they have lived in Revelstoke, and if it applies, which generation of their family was born here. “I’m so and so I’ve been here 11 years and this is my opinion.”  Then the next person strives to one up the first, “Well I’m so and so and I’ve been here 26 years and this is my more informed opinion.”  Finally there’s Grandmaster Flash with his or her black belt in localism, “My grandparents were born here and I’ve lived here all my life and here’s my infallible and incontrovertible opinion and this is the way it will be done if you know what’s good for you.”

On the flip side is when you’re out for a night on the town and start a conversation with a stranger.  “Where are you from?” you ask.  “Oh, I’m a local, I moved here in October.” It’s mind numbing, as most “isms” are.

This attitude of extremes embraced by “locals” ultimately alienates the people in the middle.  They’re the ones who when asked will say, “No, I’m not local, I’ve just lived here for six years.”  Unfortunately, despite often being the ones contributing the most to the community, they are also made to feel the most unwelcome and have their efforts denigrated.  These are the folks creating new events, enhancing the arts and culture scene or creating unique and interesting new businesses.  They’re the ones who are bringing a richness of experience to Revelstoke and helping rejuvenate this vibrant community.

I had a great example of localism thrust at me while I was out just the other night.  I was enjoying a pint and watching a snow video when a “local” asked me where I was from.  I told him I’d lived here for a number of years, but that wasn’t what he meant.  Growing more and more confused to his pressing questions I finally replied, “Um, Canada?” This still didn’t satisfy him, “No, I mean where are you from?  Look at your arms, look at that arm hair, you must have some spic or wop in you.”  I always thought I was the only one who noticed that I’ve got some pretty furry and stick-like arms.  Apparently not.

It was at this time that a series of random events ended the conversation and sent this racist young local out the door.  I turned to my friend who was working behind the bar and we had a good laugh and a chat about localism.  The fact was between us we’d done more and contributed more in the past couple of years to better the community than that guy probably had his entire life.  Unfortunately, if you weren’t born here, often times your contributions mean nothing.  Another “non-local” friend of mine once said that you shouldn’t consider yourself a local until you’ve lived here 10 years.  Well I say bullshit to that.

With the amount of transition we see in this town, I propose a new definition for local.  If you’ve attended a fundraising event in Revelstoke that supports a community group, you’re a local.  If you’ve waved and said hello to a stranger on the street, then you’re a local.  If you’ve helped someone push his or her car out of the snow after a big dump, then you’re a local.  If you’ve been sun burnt sitting on a patio watching beach volleyball all day, then you’re a local.  If you’ve been part of a committee or group that has attempted to do anything in the community, you’re a local.  If you’ve donated a can of food to the Revelstoke Food Bank, then you’re a local.  What should we add to this new, improved definition Revelstoke?

I propose that instead of dwelling on the differences we focus on similarities.  Hey, do you like snow?  I like snow too.  I love the way it looks when it’s falling past the streetlights at night.  I love the way it swooshes up into my face when I’m shredding at RMR.  I love the way it goes “fwoomp” when I fall into it to bust a mad snow angel.  Hey, do you hate snow?  I hate snow too.  I hate how it gets brown and crunchy when it’s dirty.  I hate how I have to shovel it 3 times a day.  I hate how the plow pushes it all onto my lawn so it doesn’t melt until July.  I hate how it sometimes blocks the reception on my satellite dish.  Jeez, see how much we have in common?!