Monday, September 23, 2013

Reader's Diary #1067- William Faulkner: Dry September

It's an uneasy time in Yellowknife at the moment. I won't go as far as saying we're gripped by fear (I went on a lovely bike ride with my kids today and enjoyed the fall scenery), but there is an undercurrent of fear for sure. And mistrust, paranoia, and anger. What's brought it on? I would say it began this summer with a wave of sexual assaults that have still gone unsolved. It seemed to subside for a while and this past week or two there have been more. Some attacks have been as bold as to have happened in people's homes, while others have happened in the wee hours of the morning along a trail that most would agree isn't particularly safe at the best of times— not that anyone excuses those assaults either. It's certainly dominated the discussions in any circles I've been a part of recently. Media and police reports aren't exactly helping matters either. While some long term residents are saying that it's proof that Yellowknife is on a sad and scary decline, other reports suggest that it's no worse than it's ever been, which makes some of us question if we've been living with out heads in the sand snow or if the horrible reality has been kept from us on purpose. Reports that the assaults are not believed to be related are equally jarring. On the one hand we'd all be glad that a serial rapist is not on the loose, but on the other hand, that there are multiple people that we should be scared about is not exactly a comfort. That some Yellowknife women would feel so terrorized as to sleep with baseball bats or knives next to their beds is unacceptable. So far, I am unaware of any arrests having been made.

That this issue is never far from my mind lately, it's no wonder that William Faulkner's "Dry September" struck a chord. It begins with a scene in a barber shop where the men plan to take the law in their own hands. It is unclear what exactly happened that has them worked up so much, but there has been a rumour going around about one of the town's white women and a possible attack, possible by a black man. As people are wont to do, many fill in the blanks themselves and it becomes their truth. If you want a sense of the ugliness exposed by Faulkner, consider how far this line, "Do you claim that anything excuses a nigger attacking a white woman?" is from the line, "Do you claim that anything excuses one human being from attacking another?"

I wasn't a fan of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, the only thing I've read by him until now, but I loved the complex layers in this story. Biases and rumours: two things which are definitely bubbling under the surface in Yellowknife right now. Fear sucks, no doubt about it, but if there's anything good to come from it, let's hope it's self-reflection.

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