05 November 2013

A symbol of failure. A reason to change. #nlpoli

A couple of weeks ago, the St. John’s media devoted huge amounts of of the reporting space to the death of a woman who spent most of her time beating the streets of St.  John’s.

The word the news writers settled on to describe her was “iconic”.  People started a Facebook group about her and talked of making a collection to build a statue or do something else to mark her life.

There was a real sense to the reporting that suggested people didn't understand the meaning of the word “icon” any more than they knew the woman’s name.  She went by “Trixie” but one of the fascinating trends inside the story itself was the way the news outlets had to edit their stories as people came forward to tell them what her real name was. And then others came forward to tell them that the real name was not the real name they’d been reporting but another one.

Few people knew who she really was, as it turned out. 

They talked about her in glowing terms on the Facebook page.  Some people remembered seeing her eating at a local restaurant where the owner fed her free of charge.  A wonderful story, to be sure, but it was one about the integrity of the restaurant owner, not about the woman in the dresses and boots. 

That’s what most people seemed to remember, by the way:  the outrageous way she dressed.

Few mentioned the darker reality.  This were the stories that took a while for people to mentioned.  Like Trixie chasing two young women out of a downtown church, accusing them of being demons and, as it seemed, hell bent on beating them senseless. 

Or the story related by Simon Lono in a letter to the Telegram about his young daughter.  Lono’s letter is worth reading because it laid out the truth of the woman and what she really means for the rest of us.  He did it as plainly as anyone ever could. 

In the months and years since, I saw Trixie many times in the neighbourhood.  Sometimes she was lucid but most other times, it seems she was lost in a nasty and hostile world of her own.

It was clear to me, and anyone around, that this was a lady tormented by demons beyond her control.

I can’t tell you what kind of medical assistance she was receiving. But I can say with absolute certainty that she was not receiving the medical assistance that she deserved.

So when the media decides to take notice of the passing of such a “colourful iconic character” in such a superficial way, they trivialize her daily struggle just to be part of the same world as the rest of us.

The measure of the people in any society is how it treats the poorest and weakest among them.  None are weaker than those with a debilitating sickness without family and friends to help them.  And among those, none are poorer than those with the sort of mental illness that is difficult or impossible to treat.

The woman who died a couple of weeks ago was one of those people.  Her death showed many things, but the one thing it showed us more starkly was that for all the political talk of being about being a have province, and all the talk these days of a prosperity plan, the one thing those people ignored was what really mattered.

We need to look at how well we look after those among us who struggle each day to be part of the same world as the rest of us physically and mentally.

We need a humanity plan.